Monday, June 5, 2017

Shell Game

Monday, June 5, 2017

Shortly after the men in Goose Creek Correctional Center’s (GCCC) Special Management Unit (SMU) gained access to the outdoors for occasional recreation, a new announcement was posted in the protective custody (PC) mod.  The announcement claimed that one of the other mods, or housing units,  in the facility had a large number of beds open, and inmates from the SMU were being encouraged to sign up for transfer.  The mod had special programming, and inmates were advised that it would be ‘safe’ because even though it was run like a general population (GP) mod, it had much stricter requirements for inmates to be eligible for placement there. 

Clayton agonized over the decision.  However, things had been so bad in the SMU for so long, that even the recent victory of outdoor recreation fell short of the relief the transfer seemed to promise.  After applying, the Parole Officer (PO) who interviewed Clayton claimed he was an ideal candidate, and after that point, all he could talk about in his daily visits and phone calls was his hope for transfer. 

There was a strange lull in the following weeks defined mostly by a lack of information.  Inmates who had applied were not informed of who had been accepted and who would be denied.  They also were not told when the transfer would be happening.  Guards seemed to have expectations of transfer, but then the transfer wouldn’t come and inmates were left wondering.  Then finally, at visitation one night, Clayton informed his family that he had received word just an hour before that he and several other inmates would be transferring first thing in the morning. 

Confusion

After arriving in the new mod, Clayton and the other SMU transfers were in a bit of shock.  They had previously been informed that this mod they were transferring into had additional programming and requirements that made it a different kind of environment than standard GP mods.  However, after arriving one of the guards commented to Clayton that, “Oh no.  It’s just like all the other GP mods now.  They just changed it recently.”

Clayton was also informed that the day after their transfer, there had been an announcement in the SMU that all remaining inmates were going to be transitioned out to other mods over time, and the SMU itself was being emptied out and repurposed.  For what purpose, no one knew. 

Clayton suddenly found himself in GP. 

He and his family felt tricked and vulnerable after the misinformation, but prayed that God would protect Clayton in the new environment.  He and the other transfers took comfort in their movement as a group, and the fact that the mod they were now in had a high percentage of previously PC inmates.  There were still inmates here who were obviously outright hostile against PC folks, but they didn’t have the full force of power they would have in some of the other mods. 

Over the next couple of months, it became apparent that GCCC was following through with its plans to empty out the SMU.  Groups of new transfers would periodically appear in Clayton’s new mod, and the new recreation schedule had them outside at the same time as the other mods SMU folks were being moved into.  This meant, Clayton could get word about what else was going on in his former mod, and with the inmates he had come to know so well.  That information, however, often came in bits and pieces.  The letter Clayton’s wife received from the State of Alaska Ombudsman was the first real confirmation of the bigger picture taking place at the facility. 

Freedom of Movement

In the new mod, Clayton found the amount of options he had for everyday choices were staggering. All but a few months of the last two years he’d spent at GCCC had been spent in administrative-segregation-like conditions. He suddenly had access to almost all of the items he purchased through commissary; much of which he’d been forced to distribute already to family, and could not get back without repurchasing. Instead of spending a few precious hours a day out of his 8’ x 10’ cell, he could now spend nearly the entire day out in the common area. He had access to a staggering amount of programming and vocational classes that were never accessible to the PC population. There was a library instead of a book cart, and the option to go to medical instead of begging for them to come to you.

Clayton was surprised at how exhausted he became just walking back and forth to different destinations. Even the exercise he attempted to require himself to maintain in the small space of his cell, and the brief periods he spent in the indoor gym, had not maintained the muscle strength for walking even moderate distances. In this new environment, he had to walk to the dining hall for meals instead of having them brought to him. He was allowed in the outdoor yard for recreation. Even visitation now required walking to an entirely different building.

In making this transition, Clayton and some of the other previously-PC inmates soon found that movement around the facility was disturbingly easy. The first day Clayton was called for visitation, he stood at the guard’s podium waiting for an escort until the guard looked at him and said, “What are you waiting for? You have a visit.”

“I can just go?” Clayton asked a bit stunned. He had never gone to visitation without an escort.

However, he and some of the other inmates soon learned that moving around by yourself could become dangerous quickly. Even though inmates told the guards they were leaving a mod for a specific purpose, there was not close monitoring to ensure that’s where they actually went. Some of the inmates that folks from the SMU had needed protection from now knew where they had been transferred to, and were abusing this freedom as a means of accessing and injuring them. Clayton had already heard of one inmate being jumped by someone in the yard, when that person was from a mod that shouldn’t have even been in the yard. Then Clayton witnessed it himself when someone he knew from the SMU was jumped in the gym by six men who, again, shouldn’t have been there. The previously SMU inmates within his mod quickly resolved not to travel alone whenever possible.

The Prison’s Response

To their credit, GCCC began making changes fairly quickly after that. Inmates are still not monitored terribly closely as they move from place to place, however, they have begun making it more difficult for inmates to get back into their own mods without raising question of why they had been out in the first place. It is now more obvious when inmates are accessing areas like the yard, the gym, and other common areas during times when they are not scheduled to be out in those areas. Clayton has not heard any rumors of additional incidents since the changes were implemented.

Visitation

The Change that Clayton look forward to the most with the transfer was a new level of access to visitation. For more than a year and a half, he had been limited to one contact visit a week and six nights a week of video visitation. Realistically, this boils down to eight seconds of physical contact per week, because GCCC does not allow actual physical contact throughout most of a contact visit. In this new environment, Clayton could now access contact visitation six days a week with one day a week not eligible for visitation in any form.

Visitation is one of the areas, however, where he frequently runs into a complete mixed bag of inmates from other mods. In less than a few weeks, one of the situations he worried about the most became a reality. One of the inmates who had threatened him after his initial arrival at GCCC was standing at the door waiting for a visit as well. Clayton hoped the man would not recognize him, but instead the man walked straight up to him and called him out by name. Clayton was stunned by the words of followed. The man actually apologized for his earlier behavior, and told Clayton he had “no hard feelings.”  They agreed that what was in the past was over and done. Clayton has no idea what caused the man’s change of heart, but it gave him hope for finding real success in his new location, and he thanks God for his continued protection and favor.

Learning the Ropes Again

All of these changes meant an infinite number of new things Clayton had to learn. It was a little overwhelming at first, but brought Clayton and the others a fresh sense of hope. With summer just beginning, and the promise of some special events on the horizon, Clayton set out to learn what he needed as quickly as he could. He planned to take advantage of every opportunity afforded him, and not spend any more days sitting around with nothing to do but wait.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

SMU Inmates Finally See Improvement

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Achieving victory for constitutional rights against a state agency feels a lot like suddenly realizing that you actually managed to wrestle a 500 pound gorilla into submission.  There is this distinct pause, where you’re not sure whether it’s safe to let go and accept that victory, or whether he’ll flip you onto your back and squash you.  Eventually, it sinks in that you really did win.  Now you have to figure out what on Earth is next, since it never seemed like you’d really get here. 

For this blog, we’ve been hovering in that pause for a while, unsure of whether it was safe for us to provide updates without jeopardizing the inmates involved.  However, we’ve recently received word that makes us fairly certain it is safe to begin providing those updates again.  Check out the letter to Clayton’s wife from the office of the State of Alaska Ombudsman.  In the letter, they make it clear that they too are, “relieved that the SMU [at Goose Creek Correctional Center] is no longer being managed as a giant segregation unit.” 

What brought us to this point?

Those of you who have been following our blog for some time are familiar with the battle we’ve been engaged in.  On September 16, 2015, the administration at GCCC lashed out in what we believe to be retaliation against inmates who were cooperating with the Governor’s investigation into DOC.  GCCC disbanded the housing unit (Mod) that these protective custody (PC) inmates were being held in, which afforded them a somewhat similar quality of life to the general population (GP).  They were thrown into the Special Management Unit (SMU) at the facility, and into conditions initially equivalent to solitary confinement, with no foreseeable release into better conditions in the future. 

Over the next year and a half, Clayton and another inmate became advocates for inmates in the SMU in an experimental program which allowed them to discuss their needs with staff more directly.  Conditions began to improve in tiny increments through incredible effort, but some of their basic constitutional rights were still being violated by conditions they were told would never change.  Clayton’s family took the wheel in spreading word about the violation of these rights as far and wide as they could.  The conditions were covered on public radio.  Case law clearly outlining the constitutional violation was provided to the ACLU, the Ombudsman’s office, and statewide DOC itself.  Yet, months continued to pass with no relief as family and friends watched Clayton and the other inmates suffer and deteriorate. 

On February 1, 2017, Clayton’s wife sent out a call for help to all his supporters on Facebook.  The post explained:

“Without time for a longer blog entry, Clayton could use some prayer support.  He has been showing signs of more difficulty for the last few weeks, but vocalized it yesterday during visitation when he explained, “It’s like a combination of claustrophobia and intense boredom.  Even when I am out in the big room, the walls are too close.  I eat, sleep, call CJ, go to visitation, and exercise at night.  Nothing changes, and I just sleep most of the time.”  Clayton explained that he has things he could do to occupy his time, but is losing all motivation to do them.  He has almost entirely stopped writing letters, which he feels intensely guilty about, but cannot seem to manage to do anymore.  He said, “I try to write something, and then when I re-read it I realize, this is just going to make them cry.  So, I just throw it away instead.”  … I cannot imagine what it must be like for the other inmates who do not have the support Clayton does.  Despite the reality of time and seasons we experience, Clayton has not seen snow since his trial in 2015.”
Many people responded to the news with prayer, and words of encouragement.  Then, miraculously, on February 3rd Clayton called to inform everyone that a poster had been placed in the SMU allowing a small amount of OUTDOOR recreation time for SMU inmates each week.  That time outside was a week away, but for inmates who had been waiting for nearly a year and a half for the chance to stand outside, it felt as if it was a mere blink away.  You can access the earlier February 12 blog post for more details on how that initial outdoor experience went for the inmates. 

Weeks after the inmates finally had access to the outdoors, Clayton’s wife, CJ, attended town hall meetings in Palmer and Wasilla which were designed to provide information to Mat-Su residents about the changes occurring in Alaska’s justice system due to SB 91.  This was just another part of the activism she does regularly in the state.  At the Wasilla meeting, she was shocked by the venomous nature of the public testimony.  Attendees refused to allow panelists to present their information before literally just calling out and shouting opinions from their chairs.  Many residents were upset about the rash of thefts which had been occurring in Wasilla, and were speaking as if inmates were somehow not being punished at all through the current judicial system. 

There were shouts of, “Make them all wear pink underwear!” and “Put a wall between them and anyone who wants to see them!  That’ll solve your drug problem!” and “Why do they get to have visits anyway?!”

Finally, CJ had enough. 

Throwing her own voice into the fray, she asked to speak as an individual who actually had a loved one in prison.  Addressing the group, instead of the panel, she explained that indeed, DOC DID make the inmates wear pink and purple underwear.  Inmates already faced intense difficulty accessing loved ones. Alaska is experiencing an opioid crisis, and the addiction problem so many people were referring to like it was a “personal problem” was in fact, usually exacerbated if not induced by isolation, hopelessness, and exposure to other inmates in DOC; something all of their recommendations would only make worse.  Eighty percent of these inmates, or more, would eventually be released out into their neighborhoods and their streets after serving their time.  She asked the crowd if they specifically wanted to make these individuals mentally unstable before that release, because there were numerous ones like her husband at GCCC already being held in conditions known to cause mental illness.  The crowd grew quiet, and continued their dialogue with much less venom. 

Then, before the next town hall meeting in Palmer, current DOC Commissioner Dean Williams took a brief moment to speak with CJ. 

“I want you to know that I am aware of the conditions your husband and those other men are being held in, and I’m not happy about it,” Williams said.  “I am working on it, but there’s a lot involved at DOC and it’s going to take me a little more time.”

William’s words seemed to indicate his support in the tiny victory they’d achieved in gaining access to the outdoors for the men in the SMU.  CJ tried to encourage Clayton to have hope for even better conditions in the future. 

The events that continued to progress after that were confusing, but encouraging.  We waited to update the blog until we felt like the SMU inmates were in a much safer environment, and until it seemed like we could see some kind of comprehensive picture forming from the random puzzle pieces.  Now, we finally understand that picture. 

Clayton No Longer In the SMU

The next series of posts will attempt to summarize the new conditions Clayton has been moved into at GCCC.  In short, nearly all of the inmates once housed in the SMU have been moved into other locations like a giant shell game.  Clayton went from almost no options for daily activity, to an overload of options and space.  He is very excited and his mental and physical health are improving daily.  We cannot thank you all enough for your prayers and support through the many months of torment.  Clayton can finally stand in the sunlight, and is loving every moment of it. 


Monday, February 13, 2017

Feb 12 - Like Night and Day



Clayton, and the other inmates locked within the walls of Goose Creek Correctional Center’s (GCCC) Special Management Unit (SMU), have waited for more than a year and five months for their first opportunity to stand outdoors since September 16, 2017.  They have been waiting more than a week since the announcement that they would finally be given that opportunity on Saturday, February 11, 2017.  Despite the fact that, according to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, denial of outdoor recreation is a violation of the constitutional right to not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, it has taken that long for administrators in GCCC to acknowledge those rights and act upon them.  Even the new schedule they are providing, does not afforded prisoners the standard minimum time provided across the U.S. of one hour per day, or seven hours per week.  They are instead offering four hours per week; however, the inmates are thankful for any time at all after what they have endured.  


To be clear, when the inmates were moved into the SMU, they were moved into a building attached to the visitation area.  This means that unlike those in the other housing mods, the lucky few SMU inmates who would normally have to walk across the outdoor recreation yard for contact visitation opportunities, instead walk through interior hallways.  The inmates in that unit are literally never outdoors unless they have been moved back and forth to court, in and out of other housing mods, or had other rare circumstances.  Clayton had one of these rare experiences on July 3, 2016, when he was transported to and from his mother’s funeral.  At that time, the experience had been overwhelming.  


Saturday Morning, February 11, 2017


On the morning of February 11th, the long-awaited moment finally arrived.  The new scheduled opportunities for outdoor recreation come on Saturday mornings and evenings, Sunday mornings, and Monday evenings.  The opportunities are scheduled so early in the morning, and so late at night, that inmates will not see the sun or feel it on their skin until the spring and summer months, but the experience is not just about the sunshine.  It’s about the basic experience of being outdoors.  


Clayton and the other inmates had been talking about the upcoming experience for days, completely unsure of what to expect.  Inmates had talked about everything from running in the snow, to building snowmen, to rolling around in it; however they were advised right away that snowballs are not allowed.  Making a snowball can actually be an offense worthy of a write-up because it could be considered a weapon.  


Clayton’s family and friends had spent the week praying for coats and hats, after some early confusion among the guard staff had seemed to indicate they might not be provided.  Thankfully, when Clayton lined up to participate that cold Saturday morning, there were large bins of coats and hats being handed out at the beginning, which were then collected after recreation was over.  


Truthfully, “coat” is an overly generous term.  In the photo at the top of this page, you can see the shirt Clayton is wearing.  The shirts and pants provided by the prison are made of a rough, single-layered material which is dyed yellow (for general population), orange (for protective custody), or red (for segregation) to indicate the inmate’s status.  The “coats” are a long-sleeved versions of this same material which zips up in front.  It has been a point of argument between SMU inmates and the GCCC administration since they were first placed in the SMU that they are not provided with coats as everyone in the general population is.  It seems that they have elected to use some of the yellow coats for these outdoor recreation experiences, as it is the same protection afforded to GP inmates.  


Clayton was very excited that first morning as he lined up with the 30-40 men who chose to participate at the early hour that morning.  He has a long-sleeved thermal top which he was able to obtain from his property months ago, and put it beneath his shirt for extra warmth.  Despite the fact that he already owns thermal bottoms, and that they are available for purchase through the commissary, he has been unable to get the prison to release them back into his possession from when they were originally seized and placed in his property in 2015.  Therefore, he had to go without for now.  He added an extra layer of socks to his feet beneath his tennis shoes, and a pair of socks for his hands.  Some inmates wore a towel to protect their neck and face, although Clayton did not.  


Inmates were also allowed to bring out their MP3 players, and cups of hot liquid like coffee or tea, with them.  The music players give them something to listen to while exercising and keeping their body temperature up.  The hot liquid serves the same purpose.  Two weeks ago, without knowing this opportunity would be coming up, Clayton had been inspired to buy hot chocolate from the commissary which arrived this same day.  That fact, in combination with the large beard Clayton has been growing in recent months led many of the inmates to tease him that he must have foreseen the opportunity finally arriving.  Clayton acknowledged that the beard is a big help.    


“They kept asking me, ‘How did you know?!’” Clayton laughed.  


When they stepped outside, the experience was overwhelming for many.  They were able to see snow, trees in the distance, the moon, and even a few stars beneath the glow of the overhead lights.  


“It was like shock and awe, you first few steps out the door,” he explained.  


He said that a strange aspect of the experience was the feel of the air on their faces.  They have spent more than a year in a strictly temperature-controlled environment.  In recent weeks Clayton had described the growing sense of claustrophobia, saying the walls felt too close even when out in the main room.  The simple temperature change of the outside air hitting their face was a big deal for many.  


“We were like, oh man.  Don’t cry.  The tears are freezing to our faces,” he laughed.  


Several of them ended up jammed up around the door just outside the building before the guards prompted them to keep moving to where their recreation would actually take place.  Instead of using the outdoor yard where most inmates have recreation, they were marched out to the outer ballfields.  A square of walkway had been plowed around the outside with many, many inches of snow piled up along the sides.  It was wide enough for two men to walk side-by-side during their time out.  


“I finally understand how much snow you were talking about,” Clayton said with excitement.  “I had to resist the urge to roll around in it like a dog.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I just walked past it admiringly.”  


Clayton laughed and explained that the song Do You Want to Build A Snowman from the movie Frozen was very popular that morning among the MP3 players.  Keeping constant movement was important, to keep their blood flowing. Clayton said many of the men were freezing various extremities off, but loving every minute of it.  His own legs got severely cold, and he plans to buy thermal bottoms again immediately since he can’t get access to the ones he already owns.  It will take two weeks for them to arrive.  


He noted with excitement that a special commissary opportunity will be coming up soon.  In past opportunities, they have had the option to purchase yarn and crochet hooks from that rare list, as well as other clothing you cannot buy on regular commissary.  One older man who took advantage of the yarn months ago, and who learned how to crochet without any assistance through pure trial and error, has crocheted his own gloves, socks, and hat.  He previously was using them to endure the cold in the SMU’s private indoor gym.  


Clayton said running outdoors was a big difference as well.  He had given up on running in their indoor gym when water trickling inside from melting drifted snow had caused him to slip and injure his foot.  Running outside in the arctic air had been a serious exercise experience, although he is taking his inhaler in advance to try to protect his lungs.  


“Even in our little gym here we can’t really run like that,” Clayton explained, “I’m gonna go march around some more tonight.”


Saturday Night, February, 11, 2017


The next day, Clayton’s family was shocked to learn that outdoor recreation Saturday night had been a completely different experience.  It is common at GCCC to experience entirely different types of rules and treatment depending on the shift of guards on duty at any given time, and the experience of outdoor recreation proved to be no different.  A new shift had come on mid-day, and the abusive treatment the inmates received was unbelievable.  


Clayton had been in visitation with family, describing his excitement about that morning, right up until the announcement was made to assemble.  Many, many more men participated that evening as the typical SMU schedule keeps them up late and they are hesitant to rise early for anything.  Before the men were even escorted from the mod, however, an entirely new set of restrictions were announced.  


Inmates would not be allowed to bring their MP3 players with them, or cups of warm liquid.  The guards were threatening to take away inmates thermals and personal t-shirts if they tried to wear them outside, prompting the majority of men to run back to their cells and remove the extra protection.  Clayton wore his anyway, afraid of being subjected to that kind of cold again without the extra warmth on his core.  He said less than a dozen men wore their thermals out that night, due to the threats, despite many more owning them.  


“That’s personal property,” Clayton explained with frustration.  “Why would you take that from someone going out into the cold?”


It is important to note that the contrast cannot be explained by leniency from the early morning shift.  In fact, when asked, the staff at GCCC confirmed that warm drinks, thermals, and MP3 players were all standard items allowed to any inmates participating in outdoor recreation if they owned them.  The inmates in the SMU already knew this, because some of them had recently come to the SMU after living in the general population mods.  Many were shocked and outraged that they would now be treated differently just because they were in the SMU.  


When the inmates lined up to go out for outdoor recreation, they were counted before leaving SMU.  Then they were counted again before going outside, and then marched to the ball fields as they had been that morning.  Yet, despite having been counted twice, less than 20 minutes before, the inmates were stopped outside and forced to stand still for an extended period to be counted yet again.  Fortunately, the outside temperature had warmed up enough that it was snowing slightly, but these are men who have been indoors for more than a year and are adapting to arctic temperatures.  


There were more guards assigned to them on that shift, and the atmosphere was very intense and intimidating.  There seemed to be enough guards assigned to stop all the men and check to see if people brought out any of the newly-prohibited items.  Strangely, despite the threats about thermal wear, no one was stopped for wearing them or had them taken away.  However, many of the men had stuffed a towel around their shoulders, trying to have added protection of some kind, and guards were taking towels from any men who had brought them and throwing them into a large pile on the ground.  The towels sat in a big frozen pile on the ground the next morning.  


It is important to note that if you choose to participate in outdoor recreation, you do not have the option to go back inside if you become too cold.  If you go out at all, you are outside for the full hour.  One man who was struggling with his ears being too cold, pulled up his shirt to cover the back of his neck and ears from beneath his coat.  The guards stopped him and literally took the shirt off his back, and left him that way with only the thin outer coat.  The inmates could not believe that particular turn of events.  The obvious cruelty aside, an inmate can be written up for not wearing his color-coded shirt at all times, and they were literally forcing him into that prohibited behavior.  


Inmates attempted to argue against the cruelty, citing statewide and GCCC policies.  Some of the guards responded with the all-too-familiar excuse of “security reasons,” others with the equally-familiar excuse that AS-5 (protective custody) inmates do not have to be afforded standard treatment.  At least one seemed to feel compelled to explain that they were all acting under orders, and had to do as they were instructed.  


“It had a bullying feel to it,” Clayton explained in obvious frustration.  “The rules didn’t make sense and people knew it.  We were getting picked on because of who we are.  You’re sub-human.  We can take the clothes off your body.”


Once back inside, men began filing tons of paperwork complaining about the treatment, but it is unclear whether any intervention will take place at all; especially before the next time for outdoor recreation on this particular shift on Monday night.  Many of the inmates fear that the intimidation and cruelty were meant to discourage inmates from participating in outdoor recreation after families on the outside fought so hard to demand the constitutional right.  They are afraid that they will use decreased participation to justify taking away that right once again.  


“We’re all hoping it warms up soon, so we can get more people out there,” he explained.  


Despite the events, Clayton said he and many of the others were determined to enjoy themselves all the more.  For many of them, this was their first time out after missing the morning opportunity.  


“Even with all the stupidness, people had a blast honey,” he explained to his wife with a sigh and a smile.  


He described in detail a man crawling through the deep snow on his hands and knees, with only his head visible above the fluffy snow.  People were jumping in and out of the snow, goofing off, and leaving giant leg holes behind.  He said the moon was beautiful, and they could see very fine snow drifting down onto them while lit-up from the overhead lights.  People were running and walking around the track as much as they were allowed.  Clayton exchanged memories of his previous experiences with hypothermia with other inmates as they walked.  


He was looking forward to the next opportunity for outdoor recreation the next morning, to see how much things would have changed.  


Sunday Morning, February 12, 2017


The next morning was very, VERY cold.  The guards advised the inmates before making the choice to go out that it was -8 degrees outside.  In these colder temperatures, GP inmates are offered an indoor heated gym as an alternative, but the SMU inmates have only ever been afforded their own indoor gym which maintains the same temperature as the outdoors.  After last night’s experience, the colder temperature, and the early hour, only eight people participated, but Clayton was proudly among them.  


The rules seemed to be back to how they had been the morning before.  The guards had no problem with inmates bringing their MP3 players and radios, thermals, and cups of hot liquid out.  Clayton’s cup of boiling hot tea eventually froze during his walk, but he poked a hole back through the ice on top.  The morning shift guard explained, after he passed the frozen pile of their confiscated towels, that the towels could not be allowed because of the security risk of their faces being covered as a prelude to escape.  He was even more thankful for the beard, as it grew icicles on the front of his face.  


“You could feel it in your lungs this morning,” he explained as he described the outside air.  


He said he liked his walk this morning, and the sun was coming up enough that it wasn’t quite as dark outside as it had been the night before.  


That morning he also decided to try wearing personal knee braces on both legs to see if they would afford any extra protection for his legs.  When he came back inside, Clayton said the knee braces did make a surprising amount of difference.  The skin beneath the braces was a normal skin tone, where above and below them were a bright lobster-red color.     


He noted that his cheeks were wind-burned, but he didn’t think they’d have a risk for actual frostbite as long as they weren’t stuck outside for more than an hour.  


“If it had been windy, we would have been in trouble,” he acknowledged.  

Clayton’s family and friends can only hope and pray that the night shift is educated quickly about the inappropriate nature of the abusive treatment they forced on the inmates Saturday night, and that it is not repeated again in the future.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Jan 25 - But… You’re Filing for Appeal, Right?

But… You’re Filing for Appeal, Right?


Clayton Allison was wrongfully convicted on February 13, 2015.  That means that in exactly three weeks, Clayton will have served two full years of a wrongful sentence.  More people than we could possibly count over the last two years, who have learned of our story, have led with the question, “But… you’re filing for appeal, right?”


There is nothing wrong with this question.  In fact, it is completely logical.  This is the only “solution” our system of government affords us in situations like these.  However, that solution falls woefully short of justice; as the wrongfully convicted waste away for years, waiting to prove their trials were a farce with evidence they could have presented immediately.  


Initial Automatic Delays of the Appeals Process


After Clayton’s conviction, he was not allowed to notify the court of his intent to appeal until after his sentencing hearing five months later.  That notice is basically a glorified memo with a bullet list of items you intend to appeal on at that point in time; which only serves to preserve your right to do so.  


Then, in Alaska you are assigned to a set of public defenders who specialize in appeals and are grossly overworked; unless of course you are independently wealthy and can afford private appeal representation.  These professionals handle cases on a first-noticed-first-served basis, the only way they have decided they can make it fair for their clients.  This means that their first order of business in Clayton’s case was to file for an automatic 460+ day extension before being required to file the appeal itself.  The court grants this extension without blinking because they know how desperately backlogged the appeals system is.  You are not even officially assigned to an attorney until closer to the time that your appeal will actually be filed.  In Clayton’s case, an extension was granted until this Friday, January 27, 2017, and his attorney was assigned in the fourth quarter of last year.  


This is what happens when you ARE in the ACTIVE process of appeal in Alaska.  Years and years go by.


Current Status


At this point in time, Clayton has had an opportunity to speak with his attorney on two occasions.  He feels very confident in their knowledge, experience, and strategy.  The attorney feels very positive about the chances of successful appeal due to the severity of issues that presented at trial.  However, this is where the law and justice diverge once again.  


In learning about the appeals process itself, we have learned that the way the courts operate - not necessarily the law itself - hinder the opportunity for true justice to be served simply by the expectations of the players involved.  To put forth your best effort to win an appeal, actually requires you to sacrifice some of your rights.  This is similar to how you must waive your right to a speedy trial immediately if you do not want to go to prison simply because your lawyer doesn’t even know who you are, much less the details of your case.


In the appeals example, it boils down to how much judges want to, or expect to, read.  An appeal is a one-shot process.  You cannot submit appeals over and over on separate subjects, trying to find the right one to convince the court to overturn the conviction.  Everything that you want to preserve your right to appeal on, must be included in the original appeal brief.  If any appeal-worthy subject has not been included, and sufficiently argued, in the original document, it is considered waived indefinitely at all levels - even in moving to higher courts.  Yes, you read that right.  Waived.  Indefinitely.  Permanently.  


Also, an appeal cannot include all subject matter related to the case.  Things like new exculpatory evidence, misbehavior that can be proven through further investigation, and errors discovered after trial, cannot be addressed except through a process called Post-Conviction Relief (PCR).  An appeal can only address issues in the official appeals record from your trial.  


The complete hundreds or thousands of pages of discovery evidence in your case are NOT automatically part of the appeals record.  Instead, the specific document highlighting the problem would have to be formally submitted in trial as an evidence exhibit.  This means that in Clayton’s case, examples of the prosecutors involved lying about case evidence and the contents of police transcripts cannot be included, because the actual physical evidence they were lying about was never logged in the “official record.”  Transcripts especially, are not submitted unless challenged on a specific issue during the process.  Other misconduct or mistakes like these from your trial can only be addressed through the PCR, which normally comes after appeal because it is also a one-shot process.


This is why, during your trial - the literal battle for your life - your will find your attorneys obsessed with “preserving” issues.  They not only have to battle the arguments in front of them.  They have to catch and remember each screw-up, and try to find a way to preserve the fact that it occurred within the official record.  In Clayton’s case, this was even more difficult than it should have been due to interference from Judge Vanessa White.  


White was supposed to be the unbiased guardian of the process, but instead served to block attempts to preserve multiple issues on the record through inappropriate rulings.  For example, disallowing Clayton’s wife from “testifying about the demeanor of the police interrogating her” without allowing her to provide her honest responses on record, outside the presence of the jury, prevents the appeals court from considering the clearly false inferences within the unfair questioning she was being subjected to.  The questioning was implying to jurors that she was being asked questions and had not been providing information, as if she was now fabricating facts, when in fact, she was being tortured by police and they were not accepting any information she attempted to provide.  Judges are not supposed to manipulate the appeals record, but unfortunately have the seemingly unchecked power to do so.  


So, now we know there are numerous issues of misconduct or flat-out provably incorrect facts that simply cannot be considered part of the appeal.  We also know that there are still numerous elements that are appeal eligible within Clayton’s case.  However, the nature of the process means he will not be able to appeal them all.  


An appeal brief is limited by the courts in Alaska to 50 pages.  These pages must contain not only the appeal subjects, but the legal arguments and case law which show them to be valid to overturn the conviction.  It is expected by the professionals in the field that if you have a very good, very solid case for winning an appeal, there will be 3-4 appeal items included.  That’s it!  It was explained to us that in cases which did not have good grounds for appeal, and were essentially grasping at straws, you would see 10+ items listed.  However, this tradition biases the appeals court itself.  


Let’s say you had seven extreme violations of your rights occur in your trial which were all on record and eligible for appeal, and which all were worthy of reversing your conviction.  You would have to waive your right to 3-4 of them to prevent the lawyer from running out of room to argue them sufficiently, and the judges from assuming you don’t have a legal leg to stand on at first glance.  In cases like Clayton’s, where there were many, many violations of his rights and due process, things literally have to be left out and given up if you want to win.    


This is what will be happening in Clayton’s case.  


Due to the seriousness of the issues that have been chosen, the attorney is currently working on cutting back to fit within the page limitation, and still have strong legal argument included for each chosen item.  The brief is due this Friday, January 27th, and will be submitted on time.  However, Clayton will not have the opportunity to read the brief before it is filed.  I wish I could say this is unusual, but it is actually very common at all levels for things to be filed on your legal behalf without ever actually being read by you.  He will receive a copy from the court after it has been filed, and the general contents and intentions of the arguments have been discussed with him.  


What to Expect - 3 Years of More Delays


There are three typical phases to motions and briefs filed within our courts: the initial motion/brief is filed; the opposing party is given an opportunity to file a written response; and then the original author files a response to the oppositions reply.  When asking what to expect in this process, it was explained to Clayton that the State is given an automatic six month extension for filing their response to the brief, and they always use the full amount of time.  (Which of course guarantees that people remain prisoners at least a little longer, even if unjustly put there.)  By our approximation, this means the State’s reply will not be due until around July 27, 2017.  


Then Clayton’s appeals attorney will be given 1-2 weeks to respond to the State’s reply.  Therefore, their reply would be due around mid-August 2017.  


Then the oral argument takes place if requested.  Strangely, in Alaska this process involves the attorneys from both sides providing argument before the panel of three appeals judges WITHOUT the defendant present.  We were informed that Clayton could request to be connected telephonically, but is likely to be denied.  So a bunch of people are standing around in a closed courtroom, arguing about your life and future and you’re not even allowed to be there.  We have no idea when the court would decide to schedule such a closed meeting, but we could guesstimate to September 2017, and likely not be more than a year off.  


The panel of judges do not issue a ruling during this closed session, and oral arguments effectively end the active appeal process.  Then you wait around for the court to issue its decision.  Currently, the Alaska Court of Appeals is taking roughly 2.5 years to issue a ruling after the entire process described above.  Meaning we could be waiting until March 2020 or later to even hear their decision.  


When Clayton was originally convicted, we were told it was taking them as long as 2 years.  Their timeliness seems to be slipping further and further as time progresses.  They’re not taking that time to make their decision.  They’re literally stacking it on top of a pile and waiting to get around to it after they’ve finished the other cases they’re behind on; which have nothing to do with you.  The arguments will not even be fresh in their minds by the time they actually work on your case.  


What a strange perversion of the American Dream.  


What Happens When We Win?


Let’s assume we’ve made it three years down the line, and we win the appeal (again, chances VERY good).  What happens to Clayton?


First, he is not automatically released.  He would revert back to a pre-trial status, even while the district attorney is working to get a new indictment in place.  This means he will be reassigned to the local public defender’s office, and to specific attorneys.  Who you get assigned to largely has to do with whether your original trial lawyers are even still working in that office by then.  The same goes for the District Attorney’s office; so yes, Clayton could theoretically end up battling the same corrupt prosecutors.  


After being assigned representation, he would have to request a new bail hearing.  The family will have to pay whatever new bail the judge assigns (and not get it back, AGAIN), and Clayton will be placed on whatever new pre-trial restrictions they choose - up to the third party requirements he was on for years before.  However, SB 91 made many positive changes to pre-trial in Alaska, and those changes should be implemented statewide by that time.  If unable to make bail, or disallowed from release of custody, Clayton would remain in prison until the new trial takes place.  


Most shocking and disappointing of all, the trial will be reassigned to the original trial judge - Judge White; the same woman who sat by before and allowed blatant misconduct, and manipulated the original appeals record.  We can request that she recuse herself from the case, but she has to agree in order to be removed.  Otherwise, it just becomes an appeal point for the second time around.  


The new trial is not as likely to take the 6+ years it did before, however, that’s not saying much for specifics.  We will essentially be starting over at phase 1.  


In Response


Free Clayton Allison supporters have no intention of sitting by and watching this farce continue without fighting the system in any and every legal way we can find.  We have multiple avenues right now that we are pursuing to demand justice and request investigations of the officials involved.  If you want to learn more about how you can provide assistance to these efforts, please contact claytonallisoninfo@gmail.com.  


If we assume the current standard appeals process timeline will be played out to completion, Clayton will have spent 5+ years wrongfully convicted.  Before resuming a brand new trial process, this case will have already consumed 11 of his less than 40 years of life.  This is why wrongful conviction literally destroys lives, even when you win the battle.  It is also why the average exoneree spends 15 or more years wrongfully convicted before finding release.  Please educate everyone you meet about the dangers of the U.S. justice system, and the Clayton Allison case.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January 18 - Prejudice Inside and Out

Wednesday, January 18, 2016


Prejudice is something difficult to escape in daily life.  Most of us are prejudiced in one way or another, often without realizing it ourselves.  We see our own prejudice as truth or reality.  When that reality is challenged, we have a tendency to fight tooth-and-nail to prevent a perspective change that could be frightening and even painful.
 
Many prejudices in our daily lives are either accepted or shamed.  For example, much of our society has progressed to recognize that prejudice against people due to race, color, national origin, sex, and other factors is inappropriate.  However, demonstrated prejudices against people due to things like personal wealth/poverty, level of education, and criminal history are often justified in the minds of not only the prejudiced person, but many around them.  This raises the critical question – why would these categories be considered prejudice?  It is the very fact that they are categories at all. 

As human beings, we have a love of categorization.  It is one of the ways we study, and work to understand the world around us.  However, despite its usefulness in developing understanding, the second that we define the entirety of a human being by the limited boundaries of any particular category, we have the potential to demonstrate prejudice. 

When judging someone based on the fact that they are wealthy, do we naturally assume that they have no experience with poverty and therefore no perspective?  When judging someone for poverty, do we assume that they have chosen not to seize opportunity, or have simply not tried hard enough to escape its terrible grip?  When judging someone for their lack of education, do we assume they are less intelligent or less driven to succeed?  In reality, an unfathomable number of events could have occurred in that person’s life to put them in that category, no matter what their level of intelligence, wisdom, or desire to succeed may be. 

Prejudice Against Inmates and Family/Friends

Inmates and their families endure a shocking level of prejudice from much of society, which is often cheered and celebrated more often than challenged or shamed. 

For example, in the comments after a news article on the suspect of a burglary, it is not uncommon for someone to start posting things like, “It’s about time we start lining these people up and shooting them!” or “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key!” 

When family members of the innocently accused/convicted attempt to show support and expose the reality of their situation, they often become targets of the same hatred.  I myself have had individuals, in the safe anonymity of the internet, literally state that I should be raped and killed for standing in support of my innocent husband.  The irony is, that the very people who seem to be outraged that our daughter died and who believe him to be at fault simply because they read an accusation on a computer screen, have called for not only murder but grotesque sexual violation of another human being and somehow feel justified. 

These threats and dangers are not limited to the online world either; although the internet seems to heighten the level of boldness and depravity.  Indeed, my vehicle has been tampered with and I have family members who have even had guns pulled on them out in the general public; simply because we we’re recognized as a family in support.  Even official businesses regularly demonstrate prejudice with no apparent fear of accountability, or even basic understanding that their actions are inappropriate.  When I was being evaluated for insurance by a company I have used for many years, and had to explain the situation of my husband’s incarceration due to other life changes, the company called me back three separate times to ask the same singular question.  “I’m sorry mam, but I need to clarify… do you intend to divorce your husband?”  What relevance does divorce have on my insurance when my husband’s sentence is 40 years?

Prejudice against inmates, and formerly incarcerated individuals, is nothing new.  It is rarely thought of as prejudice and simply labeled as common sense.  But this form of categorization is one of the most flawed in our society today. 

As a basic example, any individual being held in our prison system in Alaska is assigned an identifying number called an Offender Number.  This basic terminology assumes that all incarcerated individuals are offenders.  In truth, at least a quarter of Alaska’s prison population is held for days, months, or often years in a pretrial status; therefore, their guilt has not even been determined. They are supposed to be presumed innocent.  In a recent case, a 19 year old man was acquitted of rape in Palmer after spending nearly two years in prison awaiting trial.  In some felony cases, it is not uncommon for someone to wait five years or more for their day in court.  For my husband, Clayton Allison, the wait was more than six years. 

Then you have the other complication of wrongful conviction; which by definition labels an innocent as an offender.  The National Registry of Exonerations has already gathered data on more than 1,900 proven cases of exoneration since 1989.  They have only been gathering this information for a couple of years, and their scope is limited to official court actions.  Clayton’s wrongful conviction will not appear on this list until he is officially exonerated by the courts.  An unknown number of individuals across the country are wrongfully convicted, sometimes without hope of exoneration because they can gather no evidence that the crime they are accused of may not have even occurred, or have actually been a crime.

More and more people across our country are waking up to the fact that just because someone is accused of a crime does not make them guilty.  Just because they are convicted does not mean there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Most importantly, just because someone is being confined within the walls of a prison, does not mean they have actually done anything wrong.  Even professionals in the field acknowledge this simple truth.  U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski, in his article Criminal Law 2.0, reflected that, “much of the so-called wisdom that has been handed down to us about the workings of the legal system, and the criminal process in particular, has been undermined by experience, legal scholarship and common sense (2015).” 

Spreading the word of this important truth is a daunting task, but challenging the resulting prejudice will be much harder. 

Prejudice Against Specific Types of Inmates

Now, you might be tempted to think that society is prejudiced towards all inmates in the same way, but you would be sorely mistaken.  Even among those experiencing the prejudice, there are further levels to our drive for categorization.  I have an African-American friend who was once told by another African-American friend that she was “not really black” because one of her parents was white; therefore, she couldn’t truly understand the suffering of black people.  Obviously this was an inaccurate and laughable accusation.  Similarly, however, individuals have a tendency to categorize inmates based on the crime they are accused or convicted of.  This includes policy makers, lawyers, corrections staff, other inmates, and the general public. 

For example, it is not uncommon for policies to be written for justice reform with a seemingly automatic rubber stamp for the exclusion of sex offenders and/or violent crimes.  There is a tendency to speak about both “sex offenses” and “violent crimes” as if they are simplified classifications which we would all consider equivalent in their level of offense.  However, these broad generalizations fall woefully short of providing real context in our decision-making processes.
 
Imagine you have four men standing in front of you, and I told you they were all sex offenders.  Most people would have the tendency to treat them all similarly.  Then imagine that I clarified that: one man was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old when he was 19; one man was convicted of forcibly raping and beating six women as a serial rapist; one man was convicted at 17 of sexual exploitation of a minor because he sexted naked photos of himself to a girl at his high school; and the fourth is a 70-year-old mentally ill man who experiences delusions and was convicted of exposing himself in public.  The facts have not changed, but do you still see all four men in exactly the same light?  Would you make the same opportunities available to them, and place them under identical restrictions? 

Even inmates exercise these prejudices as a way to justify causing harm to others within their limited reach.  Racial tensions and gangs affiliations already provide excuses for violence and the creation of a pecking order.  However, there is usually a complicated set of rules or a specific person for granting permission to inflict harm without fear of retaliation.  Categorizations and assumptions about someone’s offense can make them an easy, unprotected target for this aggression.  Therefore, many inmates are forced to enter what the Department of Corrections calls Protective Custody (PC), or an Ad Seg status, to keep themselves safe. 

Prejudice From Correctional Staff Against PC

What has been most shocking to me in recent months, is the blatant prejudice demonstrated by the corrections staff assigned to watching over these individuals.  In fact, corrections staff frequently use their Ad Seg status as an excuse to declare that they can house the individuals in any conditions they wish – even unconstitutional ones. 

In one example, my husband had an unpleasant encounter with a correctional officer who was lashing out at him, and failing at his duties in the process, for being in protective custody.  The man worked in property at the time (they rotate assignments often), and was supposed to be assisting my husband in reclaiming his property when returning from court.  Instead, the man was shouting vicious things at him, swearing, and flat out refusing to help him locate the property in question.  The man, who likely didn’t know who Clayton was or any of the details of his case, was screaming that he was a “Chester” (prison slang for child molester) simply because he was in protective custody.  Chester seems to be the default accusation against this population by both inmates and some staff; when it often clearly has no bearing on their actual cases.  Ultimately, another corrections officer intervened in removing Clayton from the verbal assault, and brought him the property personally later; apologizing for his co-workers behavior. 

In another example, Goose Creek Correctional Center administrators have demonstrated incredible levels of prejudice against this population in their decision-making for the entire facility.  On September 16, 2015, all men in PC status were moved from a housing unit, previously called K Mod, which allowed them the same general lifestyle afforded to general population (GP) inmates.  They were transferred into an area of the prison called the Special Management Unit (SMU) and forced into solitary-confinement-like conditions with no hope of being released into a less mentally traumatizing environment.  We have written extensively about the events that transpired on this blog, and encourage you to read the accounts from September 16, 17, 18, and 28, of 2015, if you have not done so already.
 
Since that time, these men have suffered under unconstitutional housing conditions for well over a year.  They are being permanently denied access to outdoor recreation, through the excuse of an indoor gym.  The inmates have attempted to fight this cruelty through official DOC paperwork, but have received no relief.  Unbelievably, Alaska DOC is maintaining the argument that the grate in the side of the wall of the indoor gym, which points at nothing but the sky, qualifies as outdoor recreation.  What is the problem with that argument?  Other than basic logic, it has already been found invalid by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  It's literally an argument they have already lost before, and are just ignoring.
  
In one 9th Circuit case it states that, "Exercise comprising a room with a roof and one wall of perforated steel, admitting sunlight only, during the top 1/3 did not meet the courts requirement for outdoor recreation." [Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090 (9th Cir. 1996)]  

Further, the court has clarified that, "Long-term deprivation of outdoor exercise is unconstitutional" in Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1042-43 (9th Cir. 2005). 

Lastly, DOC is maintaining their authority to do this to the inmates because they are classified as protective custody status.  However, the third case - Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1133 (9th Cir. 2000) - discusses two important issues. It clarifies that specific demonstrated harm is not necessary to cite in long-term cases which it measures in days, not weeks, months or years; because in long-term cases the harm is assumed.  It also clarifies that, "The courts held that it was not enough for officials to say that they kept a prisoner from the yard for his own protection.  They must justify why they did not provide some other opportunity for outdoor recreation."
  
It is also important to note that these men were forced into these conditions after the disbandment of their protective-custody-dedicated general-population-like housing unit; formerly known as K Mod.  In a recent California case, their courts determined that confining someone to indefinite solitary-like housing with an indoor gym like the current Goose Creek SMU was inappropriate, and a settlement was reached.  You can find the settlement documentation through the Huffington Post article.  I would note that section III.D. of the settlement outlines the requirement for the facility to establish the very form of housing unit Goose Creek recently abolished. 

Life Without the Outdoors

Since this issue was covered in more detail in a recent Alaska Public Media story, some have asked the question, “What is so cruel and unusual about the conditions?” 

First, I encourage you to read through some of the inmate letters on this blog and additional entries about life in the SMU.  Secondly, I encourage you to watch the video on the experience of solitary confinement from the perspective of Supermax inmates in the lower 48.  Most importantly, I ask you to consider the facts at play.

The gym available to the Goose Creek SMU inmates is completely enclosed except for the grate on the wall.  This grate points at the sky, so the inmates have not seen grass, trees, weather, accumulated snow, or any aspect of the outdoors for more than a year; an environment well-documented around the world to cause mental illness and distress.  Clayton commented to Alaska Public Media about attending his mother’s funeral last summer, and said, “I unashamedly admit that I was weeping on the ride there, not because of my mom’s death, but because of the car ride and being able to be outside,” he recalled. “I was able to see the many colors of the green on the trees and the flowers. It had been so long it was overwhelming for me.”

Additionally, this type of gym is inappropriate for use in arctic conditions.  The grate lets in not only the outdoor air, but sometimes the precipitation like rain or snow.  It’s not enough to really touch, but to affect the floors inside and make its way to the drain.  It also means that the gym temperature is a match to the temperature outside without the benefits of a view.  On days like today, when it is 20 below zero, their gym is also well below zero.  They are not afforded coats or other winter gear to use for exercise.  On days like today, GP inmates are given the option to use an indoor heated gym for exercise, because outdoor recreation would be a risk to health.  SMU inmates are not afforded this option because they “have their own gym.”  Which means, during periods of extreme cold (much of the winter here in Alaska) they have no options for recreation at all without inviting illness.  They are not allowed to exercise in the mod itself. 

Most shocking of all, Superintendent John Conant from Goose Creek freely admitted his own prejudice on the subject to the press. 

“There’s other units these guys can be in if they just have a little more courage, I guess you’d say, and just try it,” he said in the article, referring to other specialized GP mods.

This statement is not only prejudiced, but inaccurate.  First of all, his claim that there are other specialized mods they can transfer into is far from universally true.  Recent changes within the religious mod Clayton once considered have rendered him ineligible for transfer there.  The new program requires them to admit guilt for their crimes, which Clayton and anyone who is innocent and in active appeal cannot do.  There are also mods being designed for things like mental health support, but you have to need that support in the first place to qualify.  The only other option we are currently aware of, is the standard GP mods.
 
Secondly, he claims that their confinement to the SMU is related to their level of courage.  This implies that they have not “tried it” to begin with.  Most of the inmates in the SMU are there because they already have tried it, and found the conditions impossible to manage.  In GP, these inmates face not only extortion, but the constant risk of physical violence and potential death.  The risk does not only affect the inmate.  When Clayton was first placed in GP at Goose Creek, desperate to avoid PC status and potential solitary confinement, he had three groups of men threaten to knife him to death in the first 20 minutes he was placed there.  Eventually, the entire mod started to break out in riotous behavior – shouting threats, screaming, and banging their cups and other objects – and multiple guards were forced to put themselves at abnormal risk to surround him and remove him from the environment into safety.
 
Also, let’s say an inmate does “try it out” and meets with failure.  Sure, they could have a period of success, but as soon as another inmate decides they are an easy target they face injury, potential permanent disability, and even death for the sake of giving it a try.  At the least, they would end up with write-ups and potential punishment for being involved in an altercation they had no means of controlling.  Surely, the Superintendent of our largest institution realizes this.  Yet, he still allows his own prejudice about their courage to taint his decision-making. 

Extreme Prejudice From the Public

The Alaska Public Media article, while exposing the ongoing cruelty and potentially illegal nature of it, has also shed some light on the prejudice among the public against this population.  Some have stated that the SMU is full of “rapists and murderers” who have no right to humane treatment anyway. 

“Rapists and murderers” is an interesting colloquialism with no real relevance to the facts.  On one hand, yes many of the individuals that end up in PC status are there because they are sex offenders and GP inmates consider those crimes more heinous than whatever crime they have committed personally.  However, the murderers half of that flippant statement is blatantly untrue.  Yes, some of the men in the SMU, like Clayton, are convicted on murder charges.  However, many more convicted murderers walk around in GP without any need of protective custody.  It is not a crime that automatically causes the need for a PC status.
 
Secondly, use of this colloquialism is completely ignorant to the numerous other reasons an inmate might need a PC status.  Men may be in a PC status for numerous reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Being elderly, which makes an easy target for aggression and exploitation;
  • Recovering from severe injury, illness, or medical treatment;
  • Being mentally ill, and unsafe to themselves or others, or at risk from others; 
  • Being homosexual, bisexual, or transgender and at risk for sexual and non-sexual violence; 
  • Being considered a “rat” or a “snitch” for cooperating with authorities in the investigation and prosecution of their case, and winding up at risk from their co-defendants and everyone else for the simple title; 
  • Attempting to leave a gang within the prison, which can result in a ‘contract’ going out to promise a reward to anyone who injures or kills that specific person; and 
  • Being accused or convicted of a crime that is sexual in nature, or against women and children.       
This begs the most basic of questions to the general public.  Do we believe that someone should risk their life and health because they are homosexual?  Do we believe that they should be left unprotected because they cooperated with investigators and prosecutors?  Do we believe that we should leave the elderly and mentally ill defenseless?  Some of these people are literally in PC status for other reasons, after being convicted of things like check forgery.  Yet, the administrators at Goose Creek seem to believe that these are valid reasons to confine men within unconstitutional, cruel, and unusual living conditions indefinitely, with no hope for relief. 

Please Take Action

If you believe this to be unacceptable, please spread the word and demand justice from your state.  Contact your legislators and congressmen to demand corrective actions.  Contact the Lieutenant Governor and Governor’s offices to file a complaint.  Spread the word about these conditions, and educate members of the public on this form of prejudice, in your own communities.  Stand Up and Speak Out for those who cannot speak out for themselves.  We thank you all for your support.