THE PINK CELL

by Julian Heicklen

At the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Rockview, there are cells for solitary confinement, referred to as Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), in which the inmates spend 23 hours each day. The other hour is for exercise in the yard. For inmates that misbehave in RHU, there is another building with a cell colored pink (the Pink Cell) on the first floor and seven cells on the second floor. The seven cells on the second floor are called Deputy Warden RHU (DWRHU) or the death watch. This is where prisoners on death row are housed, along with some disciplinary problems.

The Pink Cell is used as a psychological torture chamber. I have no reports that anyone has been abused physically in this cell. I know of three inmates that have been housed there. The first is Edward Singletary. He was housed there for 39 hours from October 4­6, 1996. He left the Pink Cell dead by strangulation, so I cannot report his story. The coroner reported that there was no evidence of physical violence, other than the strangulation, to the body.

The second report of life in the Pink Cell is from Shaikh Muhammad BB­6231, who was housed there from April 28, 1997, at 2:30 PM until May 2, 1997, at 9:30 AM when he was transferred to the infirmary. He states that because he was on a hunger strike for 4 days, they ordered him to go to the Pink Cell, but he refused to go. As a result several guards dressed in riot gear ran into his cell with sticks, stun guns, and shields. They beat Mr. Muhammad to the floor and ran electricity in him. He was sent to the Pink Cell because he organized the hunger strike. His four days in the Pink Cell was the worst experience of his life. He didn't see the doctor until 7 days later. He was urinating blood and no test was run, nor did the doctor talk to him about it. He was placed back in RHU D­3 on May 5, 1997, to finish serving solitary confinement for refusing to obey an order.

Correctional Officer (CO) Rothrock packed Muhammad's cell when he was moved to the Pink Cell. Inmates Bruce Rodgers (CC­9661) and Michael Redding (AY-8999) witnessed this act. However CO Rothrock did not follow the procedure of filing an inmate personal property inventory sheet. As a result, half of Muhammad's property was lost.

When Muhammad was transferred to the Pink Cell by force from RHU DÐ3, witnesses included: Michael Redding AY­8999 of D-2 cell, Bruce Rodgers CC­9661 of D­4 cell, James Rodgers BM­3819 of D­7 cell, Michael Walker BH­6488 of D-8 cell, Gregory Wilson AS­3367 of D­9 cell, Donald Glover AP­8684 of D­11 cell, Claude Kistner BJ­0785 of D­15 cell. The officers involved were Captain Hammond, Lieutenant Knauff, Sergeant Wisor, Sergeant Torsell, Sergeant Patterson, CO Bell, CO Hockenberry, CO Probst, and CO Rothrock. They entered Mr. Muhammad's cell in RHU between 2:15 and 2:30 PM on April 28, 1997. CO Hockenberry recorded everything on video camera.

In the Pink Cell, Muhammad was stark naked from 2:30 PM until 8:00 PM. They gave him underwear and socks at 8:00 PM. He did not drink the water because it was hot water. They turned up the heat, making it hard to breathe. The light was on at all times. There was a toilet, but no toilet paper. You do not wash while in the Pink Cell. The only thing that he was allowed to have was mail. He was transferred to the infirmary after a shower on May 2, 1997, at 9:00 AM by Lieutenant Faces. While in the Pink Cell, he had no bedclothes. The sleeping conditions were terrible. The guards kept teasing and tormenting him. There was a bed and mattress, but no sheets or blankets. He could not sleep, because he was on display. Everyone passed him and could see him. He did not eat while in the Pink Cell, because 1) He was on a hunger strike, 2) The same guards that were tormenting him said that once he starts eating, they have a special tray of spiked food for him. He reported this conversation to his psychologist, Miss Hericko, when she came to see him.

According to Muhammad, it is impossible to commit suicide in that cell. You can be observed at all time in the Pink Cell, because the guard station is right in front of the cell. There is a guard posted in front of the Pink Cell to prevent suicide. The guards passed the cell every 10­15 minutes. On Sunday, May 4, 1997, he noticed blood in his urine while he was in the infirmary. He called the nurse. She provided him with a bottle. He had to urinate in it in front of her and a guard. He does not know their names, but the nurse wrote in his file at 3:00 AM. She ran a test and confirmed that there was blood in the urine. She said that he would see the doctor that day. It never happened. He never received medical attention after the beating. The day that he was supposed to see the doctor, the guards moved him back to RHU at 3:00 PM. The guards were Lieutenant Custerd, CO Stodart, and CO Rothrock. As of June 1, 1997, he had not heard from a doctor regarding the blood in his urine. Nothing was done.

Corroboration of Mr. Muhammad's story comes from inmate Michael Redding, who wrote that there were five of them into the 7th day of the hunger strike. The only fluids that they took were water from their cells. They did not accept fluids or food from the guards. He was talking to Shaikh Muhammad on April 28, 1997, when 10 correctional officers, 5 in full riot gear armed with a stun shield, batons, gas masks, and pepper spray, forcibly removed Shaikh Muhammad from his cell and took him to the Pink Cell. Captain Hammond and Lieutenant Knauff told Muhammad that they were sent by Major Yancey to take him to the Pink Cell. Muhammad replied that he was not going anywhere. All we are doing is not eating. We are not bothering anyone. Redding wrote that we already knew that this was not an order from Major Yancey. This was the same ploy that they used to get Edward Singletary over to the Pink Cell. So we asked if they would call Major Yancey, which they refused to do.

Further corroboration comes from inmate Greg Wilson, who wrote that Shaikh Muhammad was beaten with a stun shield, a stun gun, and sticks on April 28, 1997, at about 2 PM, because he and other inmates were on a hunger strike. He was then taken to the Pink Cell. Captain Hammond and Lt. Knauff returned and said that Wilson will be next. Wilson listed the same witnesses and correctional officers involved as reported by Muhammad.

The third report of life in the "Pink Cell" is from Darrick Clark BY­3882, who was housed in the Pink Cell from May 2 until June 12, 1997. On May 1 and 2, 1997, Clark refused to leave the exercise yard and return to RHU. He stayed in the yard for 26 hours until the extraction team took him to the Pink Cell. He was taken by van to the Pink Cell and placed on a bed frame (no mattress). Then the lieutenant and the rest of the extraction team removed the handcuffs. He had to perform a strip search. After he was naked, the COs left the cell and locked the door. Within 5 minutes another lieutenant and a CO gave him a mattress and some underwear, a jumpsuit, and something to eat.

Mr. Clark was in the Pink Cell from May 2 until June 12, 1997, when he was transferred to DWRHU. Conditions in the Pink Cell and DWRHU are about the same. There is running water. The light is on all the time. There is a toilet. He had underwear and sox. In DWRHU, he had sheets that were changed every week. He could sleep. He was fed 3 times a day. The food was satisfactory. He could not be observed at all times when he was in the Pink Cell, even though the guard station was only 10 feet away. In the DWRHU, the guard station is only 5 feet away. The guards checked him every 1/2 hour. They wrote their names, the time, if Clark was sleeping or awake, if he ate all 3 meals, and if he wanted a shower or exercise. Also the log states everything that happens, including which doctor or nurse or anyone else that came to see him. Mr. Clark was transferred to SCI Camp Hill on August 8, 1997.