Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sept 16 - Upheaval

Wednesday, September 16

Friends and family of GCCC's K Mod inmates (assigned to protective custody) were surprised this afternoon with rumors and panic sweeping from person to person.

"Did you know they disbanded K Mod this morning?"

"Is it true that Clayton was put into General Population?"

"What's going on?!  Is Clayton safe?"

They sprang into action, trying to determine what had truly happened; skeptical that something so insane could have occurred without warning.

"Surely not."

"How could something like that just happen?!"

"They say the phones aren't working.  Has anyone heard word from someone inside K Mod?"

God's Guiding Hand Amidst Chaos

Clayton had woken up this morning and followed his normal early breakfast routine, expecting the day to play out much like any other.  He'd had a pleasant visit with family the night before, in which he had excitedly told them about the plans he had made to surprise his wife and do various activities with her the next day by distance.  Tomorrow (September 17th) would be their 10-year wedding anniversary; the first one they would spend apart.  He had been writing poetry which he was excited about reading to her over the phone.  They had planned to share a "prison-spread" style meal together, with his wife using similar resources on the "outside."  They had planned to play a game with family over the phone.  But none of that can now take place.

Clayton was surprised by being called out of the mod this morning for medical.  He had sudden inspiration several days ago to file a request with the prison for a tooth cleaning; after hearing that the delay in receiving one could take months.  This morning, medical staff responded to the request.  They took him out of the mod and explained the requirements before becoming qualified for tooth cleaning.  They did a full set of x-rays, and explained that he would become eligible as soon as he had been in the prison for a year beyond his sentencing date.

When he returned to the mod, it was in utter chaos.  K Mod inmates were scrambling, and guards were shouting to them to load-up and move-out.  Bags and bags of property were everywhere, with inmates trying to bag-up their commissary items, mail, books, etc.  Then, some of the men Clayton had come to know well over the last several months began shouting at him over the din.

"Clay!  Man, they were looking for you!!"

"Who?" he asked.  "What's going on?"

"They're moving us all out of K Mod!"

The men explained that they had become concerned about Clayton immediately when the announcement was made.

K Mod was being disbanded.  All K Mod inmates were being given the "choice" to be placed into one of the General Population (GP) mods, or to be placed into the Special Management Unit (SMU).  

What concerned the men, was the fact that Clayton and a handful of other inmates were being handled differently somehow.  They explained that when the guards first came in and made the announcement, they had started shouting out names.  Twenty-five inmate's names were called.  Allison was first.

"Allison!  Where is Allison?!" the guards had shouted.

"He's not here man!" someone had finally shouted in reply.  "They took him this morning!"

Clayton felt being pulled out for medical was the hand of the Lord at work.  His friends explained that they were worried because the other names that were called out by the guards were what they described as "trouble-makers;" the ones with the most write-ups and discipline issues.

"I don't know why they had you lumped in with those guys, man.  It made no sense.  I thought... Clayton shouldn't be with those guys,"

Even stranger, these were the only prisoners called out by name.  They were taken from the mod first, and no one was sure where they ended up.  They didn't appear to end up in the same place as the other men.  After the initial 25 were called out, the rest of the men were given instructions to group up in groups of 25 men, but in no particular order, and move out for processing.  However, Clayton didn't return to the mod until most of the men were packed up and already being moved out.  By the time he got his stuff together, he ended up being lumped in with the stragglers, and was nearly the last man out of the mod.

Pressure to Return to General Population

As they were being processed, each man was given the "option" to be placed into a GP mod, or be placed into the SMU.  Typically, the SMU is used as half-way placement for inmates who have been in segregation and will soon be returning to a regular mod.  SMU policies limit inmates in many ways, including: less property, fewer commissary items that can be ordered, and most distressing - no contact visits with friends and family (video only).

For most K Mod inmates, returning to a GP mod is not a realistic option; unless they are willing to risk serious physical injury or death.  They are in protective custody in the first place, because they are more likely to be assaulted by other inmates.  One man was advised by guards that he should not enter GP because he was simply too old not to be at risk.  Meanwhile, others were pressured to return to GP.

"Man... you have a 20-year sentence right?  Do you really want to be locked down that long? Maybe you should just try it out."

This was even suggested to Clayton, despite the fact that his initial placement into a GP Mod when first arriving at GCCC resulted in: 3 death threats within the first 20 minutes, initially by one man, then by 3 men, and finally by 6 men threatening to bring more; advice from the guards that he wouldn't likely make it long without being attacked; and the entire mod erupting into screaming, chanting, and calling for his death as he was escorted by a team of guards to safety.

Clayton found the idea that the guards would suggest "trying out" a GP mod after such an incident to be ludicrous. and insisted on placement in SMU.  Clayton heard some other men who were strategizing on how to survive in a GP mod together, when they couldn't afford to pay the gangs in them for 'protection.'  Others seemed resigned to paying protection money, instead of being restricted to the SMU.  Clayton's family informed him later that even inmates who had elected to try out the GP mod had gotten word out to their own families that they were frightened it would not work, and they would end up injured or back in "the hole" for fighting.

Placement in the SMU

Clayton managed to stick close with one of the members of his bible study; an elderly man he had become friends with over the last several months and watched over.  As soon as they arrived in the SMU, men appeared to be getting assigned to rooms in random pairs, and Clayton seized the opportunity to act.

He stepped up to the guard assigning cells, and began beseeching them to allow him to share a cell with his friend.  He explained that they knew each other, shared a faith, and got along well.  The guard did not initially seem inclined to agree, but another staff member who just happened to be passing through and overheard the conversation, liked the idea and spoke up for them.  Finally, the guard agreed, and Clayton was assigned to a cell with his friend.

Clayton said that in the SMU they were being prohibited from communicating with anyone other than their cellmate.  This did not seem to be true for GP inmates in SMU who were allowed to roam the mod more freely while K Mod transfers were locked into their cells.  While getting settled, a friend had been advising Clayton on forms to request, and actions to take, to access property later, but had been scolded by a guard and instructed not to communicate - even with sign language - between cells.

Property Problems

Everyone involved seemed confused about the dilemma property presented.  Property rules are different for SMU than they had been in K Mod.  Guards did not seem to have any clear understanding of: what inmates would eventually be allowed to have with them; what would be held in long-term storage; and what they may be forced to disperse to family or dispose of. Family members overheard chaotic conversations among staff that indicated that the property department had not been prepared for the sudden influx of extra property to process.

Clayton could see all of their property piled up in bags in the center of the main gym area of the mod.  Guards informed them that they were not allowed to have any of it until it had been processed, which may take 4-6 weeks.  Clayton does not have anything other than the new orange clothes he was assigned, and a roll of toilet paper.  His warmer clothes, food, hygiene items, books, letters, and other supplies are all bagged up and out of reach.

"I don't have my poetry," Clayton later told his wife in visitation.  "I wanted to read it to you over the phone.  I wanted it to be a surprise for our anniversary, but they took it from me and now I can't.  I don't have my letters either.  I was right in the middle of writing responses to people."

The Family's Side of the Chaos

On the outside, Clayton's family was frantically trying to get word on what was happening.  They had just visited him the night before.  The guards had not said anything, and Clayton had not known there would be a change. Today they were getting conflicting reports from prison staff, and had not yet received any calls from Clayton.  When contacted, one GCCC staff member acted as if the idea that the prison would just spontaneously eliminate K Mod was ridiculous - a sentiment the family shared.  But after another attempt at contact, the family was able to confirm that it was not mere rumor.

Inmates had been forced to choose their fate without warning, and without being able to communicate with their families.  To make matters worse, the phone system for inmates at the facility was reportedly down - preventing them from getting word out about where they had been moved until late afternoon.  This information was critical.  It would affect visitation because different mods have different visitation schedules and policies.

Initially, family members were being told that they may not get another opportunity for a contact visit.  If the inmate had elected placement in a GP mod, no problem; various daytime visits would be available.  However, if they had chosen SMU, they would be allowed video visitation only - the same as Clayton's family had experienced when he was initially placed in protective custody.

Families were reeling with shock.  They were losing contact visits!  Hugs!  Clayton's wife had not been at the visit the night before, because she had been ill.  She had missed her chance!  Tomorrow was their anniversary.

However, visitation staff at the facility - working desperately to relay information to panicking families - advocated to make an exception for tonight only.  They succeeded!  Families who arrived for the visit tonight at the normal time were allowed one final contact visit; even if their loved one was now assigned to SMU.  Staff went above and beyond - seemingly as surprised as everyone else at the sudden change - to help get the inmates from their various locations for one final contact visit.

When visitation finally came at 9 pm, families who showed up were a mixture of the informed and those still completely in the dark.  One mother was visibly stunned to find out that if she hadn't shown up for a visit tonight, she would not have gotten her final hug.

As the inmates came in, they looked shaken and haggard.  Many looked near tears as they caught sight of the family and friends who had made it out for a visit.  Clayton gripped each visitor in a tight hug, mumbling almost to himself, "Last hug.  It's my last hug..."  He took a seat, and his hands trembled as he relayed the day's events.  He was cold without his extra clothes, and bemoaned the fact that he had missed his opportunity for a shower before all the chaos had begun.

"I broke my cardinal rule," he said, "NEVER pass up the chance to pee.  NEVER pass up the chance to shower, or brush your teeth.  I guess I got too comfortable.  Didn't realize how good we had it until everything was gone."

Above all else, Clayton requested that his family inform everyone that he is safe.  He has a bed, a toilet, and a roommate he trusts.  He will weather this storm like he has all of those before it - with the grace of God.

Suspicion of Retaliation

Clayton's family was shocked to hear that the guards had seemed to have specific instructions to treat Clayton, and the other 24 men initially called, differently from the other inmates.  Why was he being lumped in with inmates who were considered "trouble-makers"?  Where had they intended to take him?  It felt as if the Lord had intervened, as He has done so many times before.  He let the bureaucracy 'rescue' him.

Clayton's family feared that the sudden elimination of K Mod was a form of retaliation against K Mod inmates and families.  Some inmates and their families have been communicating with state officials and others, over the last weeks and months, about events taking place in K Mod.  Some of the officials spoken to were from the Governor's staff and Ombudsman's Office, who are conducting investigations into alleged abuses and a string of deaths which recently occurred within DOC. Others were politicians and other individuals within the community.  Then there was the obvious information being relayed to the public through websites and this blog.  Although, this blog has specifically refrained from publishing several instances of inhumane or life-threatening treatment at GCCC that we were aware have been reported to these officials through formal complaints, meetings, phone calls, and letters.

Earlier today, a family member of another inmate heard from their loved one.  When asked if they knew the reason for the sudden upheaval. they replied with a message saying, "He said they are not telling anyone, but he overheard some of the guards and they are making it sound like it's due to all the complaints coming from k mod and their families."

DOC has also come under increased scrutiny in just the last few weeks in the media.  After a string of inmate deaths within facilities, the Governor's Office announced that a formal investigation would be conducted by Dean Williams, Special Assistant to the Governor.  Even more recently, a report was released by the Ombudsman criticizing DOC, and claiming violation of due process in multiple instances.  The report was highlighted by a local newspaper.  It was known that K Mod inmates and their families were assisting in these efforts, and now suddenly, the inmates find themselves cut-off from both their families, and friends within the mod.


  1. Replies
    1. Statewide officials have been tight lipped on the issue. We have had more than one individual, from both the governor's staff and DOC itself, confirm that the decision was made rather abruptly at the facility level and not the statewide level. More than one official explained that reasons for the change had been provided to them, but that they personally would not claim to agree with or understand the reasons that had been provided. When we have pressed for information on whether the mod would be restored - or equivalent living conditions - we have not gotten any form of clear answer. They will only say that the situation is under review.