Sunday, December 20, 2015

Clayton's Recommendations

Author's Note: This is a transcribed letter from Clayton Allison with his personal recommendations for improving the quality of living for PC inmates at Goose Creek Correctional Center (GCCC). He wrote this letter in the hopes of getting it into the hands of policy makers who are attempting to correct issues and improve conditions inside Alaska's prisons. To our faithful blog readers, we apologize for the delay in posts and appreciate your patience during this busy season. We're currently looking into options for increasing the efficiency of posts even while busy with other FCA activities. If you would be interested in receiving updates in a podcast format (only an option we are considering at this point) please leave us a comment below.

Sunday, December 20, 2015
To whom it may concern:
My name is Clayton Allison. I am a prisoner at Goose Creek Correctional Center in Wasilla, Alaska. I have been through both trial and sentencing. My mandatory release date is set for 2035. I have been a prisoner since February, 2015. Upon coming to GCCC I have been a “PC” or Protective Custody prisoner. My official designation is “AS-5” or Administrative Segregation level 5. I am actively appealing my case.
AS-5 means that I voluntarily asked for protective custody. I am not on PC or administrative segregation status because of any medical, mental health, or punitive hold. I have never had any write-ups or punitive actions. You could say I strive to be the model prisoner. I take no medications other than my inhaler for Asthma. I have no drug or alcohol abuse history. I have no interest in suicide or escape. I am absolutely no threat to the prison institution. I requested to be PC because I wanted to avoid the fighting, drugs, alcohol, extortion and constant threats that “GP” or General Population is well known for. I tell you these things to give you a little background on me. I would like to give you my recommendation for improvements to GCCC and its PC population.
First, some background history and information. For some time GCCC here operated a PC “mod” or module that was very unique. It allowed men in segregation to apply to be housed there under rules similar to GP. It was called “K” or Kilo Mod. Almost everyone in K Mod was from a PC or segregation background, and wanted somewhere to be safe from all the GP drama. Applicants were screened. This created a safer environment to house PC or segregation inmates that didn’t want any trouble. I was housed in K Mod.
Unlike segregation, K Mod allowed its members almost every privilege of GP. Everything from daily contact visits to 10+ hours out of our cells every day. If you caused trouble, you were kicked out back to segregation. K Mod just made sense in that it was a healthier environment to do long amounts of prison time. If Prisoner A has 10 years to serve and can’t do it in GP, he serves his time in segregation. Prisoner A spends 10 years locked in a tiny cell 23 hours a day. Prisoner B also has 10 years to serve, but he is lucky enough to serve it in GP or a K Mod equivalent. Which prisoner do you think we’ll have trouble adapting once released?
I do not believe that segregation should be used for long-term housing. It is proven to be detrimental to mental health, and causes problems with reentry into society. Most end up in segregation for protection, only to be punished instead. Segregation is operated on the strictest prison rules. It is referred to by prisoners as “The Hole”. Segregation is used as punishment for GP prisoners. When written up for fighting or other infractions, the prisoner is given a set amount of time to spend in segregation. Everything from 15 days to 6 months or a year. The irony being while GP prisoners are sent to segregation for punishment, PC prisoners are placed there for our “protection.” The difference being that the PC prisoner is stuck there!
We are told that we have the option to go back to GP whenever we want to sign the release of liability form. That’s so if we get assaulted or beat up, we can’t sue because we asked for the transfer to GP. So truly, those of us that are PC or AS-5 do not have a real option. Once GCCC made the decision to close K Mod and reopen it as a GP mod, all PC prisoners were moved back to segregation, signed to go to GP, or ended up in SMU.
Let me tell you about SMU. SMU stands for Special Management Unit. SMU Mod is unique in many ways. It has a mixed population of PC in orange clothing and GP in yellow clothing. SMU runs off of the segregation rules. Unlike segregation, SMU has a GP population that are given GP rights. For example, the GP guys in yellow here are allowed to watch the two TVs present in the mod. They are allowed more property rights, and a variety of other privileges. The PC population in orange are kept locked down for 22 hours a day.
Here are my recommendations for change for segregation, AS-5, SMU inmates:
Contact Visitation: Currently here in SMU we are allowed one contact our visit per week. Segregation inmates are allowed no contact visits. I feel that contact visitation is important. It allows us to give our loved ones a hug and speak with them without anything between you. Here in SMU we had to fight through the grievance process to get one hour a week. I feel this is inadequate. I know the prison is easily capable of giving us contact visits 6 days a week. The ability to have 6 1-contact-hours per week would greatly help prisoner morale and mental health.
Visitor List: Currently here at GCCC prisoners are allowed to have no more than 10 people on their visitor list. People not on the list are not allowed to visit. I feel that this severely impacts big families. This forces inmates to pick and choose between their family and friends. A visitor list is allowed to be changed by the inmate once a year in August. I feel this punishes families and the prisoner. I recommend that the limit be changed to 20 people on the visitor list, and the ability to change the list twice a year instead of once. This would allow prisoners with large families to rotate people through to see them more often. For example, I tallied my family and friends, and found that I easily have 40+ people who would like to visit me. That would take me over four years rotating once a year to see them all!
Property: Currently here in SMU and segregation, prisoner property is severely restricted. We are allowed Phase 1 Commissary items only. The prisoners being punished for fighting and other write-ups are on similar restrictions. Why punish those that are staying out of trouble? Where is the incentive to be good? Many here expressed the opinion that they might as well break the rules and go to “The Hole” because it would be no different!
The three different commissary phases 1, 2 and 3 are referred to as the prisoner incentive commissary program. The higher the phase, the better the items you can order. For example, currently here in SMU the PC population is not allowed to have: fingernail clippers, personal clothing, personal shoes, radio, MP3 player, a real toothbrush, games like chess or Uno, food like instant rice or mac & cheese and many others. If we were allowed to order phase 2 and 3, there would be ample incentive to follow the rules. Restricting our property can’t be called anything other than a punishment. Why are we being punished?
I am told by staff that this is the rules for segregation and if I don’t like it to go to GP! There is no difference in treatment between segregation for punishment of a write-up and segregation for protective custody. I contend that those PC inmates with proven history of compliance to all rules should be given better treatment and privileges than even GP mods. Phase 2 and 3 property would at least help us survive the isolation of segregation better for longer sentences.
Rec/Gym: Currently here in SMU we are given one hour in the morning for “Rec” or recreation. SMU has an attached indoor gym to the mod. The gym is an empty half-court hard floor. There is one basketball hoop and two basketballs provided. That is all. It is open to the outside air via a large square grated window with no glass. Whatever temperature it is outside, the gym is. Often, the floor is wet from rain or melting snow. Sometimes it is cold enough, the basketballs won’t bounce. There is no gym equipment available. Due to window positioning and time of day, we do not get any sunlight. This needs to be improved. Either we need to be given access to outdoor rec or given access to the real indoor gym with all the equipment. When I was in K Mod. We were given access to both outdoor rec and the use of their fine indoor gym with equipment that GP mods use. If nothing else, provide us with some equipment to work out with. Medicine balls or something! Our complete lack of sunshine can’t be healthy. No wonder so many are depressed. Prison is hard enough without adding, “SAD” or Seasonal Affective Disorder from lack of sunlight.
Programming/Classes: Currently here in SMU there are a few classes offered to inmates. My limited knowledge on this from others is that there is large demand for more classes on court ordered subjects like drug and alcohol treatment, or sexual offenses and addictions. More mental health classes and support would be popular.
Jobs/Training: There is a large demand for jobs. Many apply but few get hired. There is a prison phenomenon I have witnessed where a Prisoner A has a job. Prisoner B wants that job so he works to get Prisoner A in trouble, so he’s fired. Now Prisoner B can apply for that job. It makes jobs risky because other inmates will purposefully try to get you fired. I have applied for multiple different jobs from librarian to ITT with no success. More job availability would be a very positive thing. If no jobs are available, possibly job training classes could be offered? It would certainly help with recidivism if inmates could get job training before they were released. A resume and job interview class would also probably be hugely beneficial.
Time Free From Cell: Currently here in SMU we are locked down in our cell 22 hours a day. We are given one hour for rec, 30 minutes for phone calls, and 30 minutes for law library research. We are let out 1 ½ hours in the morning and 30 min. at night. In reality, this time is the only time we get to take a shower, get a razor to shave, get clippers for our nails, get a broom and mop to clean our cell, use the microwave, grab a book off the book cart to read, empty our trashcan, pick up needed institutional forms from the “CO” or Correctional Officer at the podium, see the barber for a haircut, pick up toilet paper, pickup clothes from laundry, socialize with others, AND use the gym, make a phone call or do legal research. There is just not enough time given. Often there is a waiting line. Any additional time given outside our cell would benefit us all mentally and physically.
SMU Mixed Population: Currently SMU has a population with both GP in yellow and PC in orange. This complicates things because they cannot be out at the same time. If all the GP men in yellow were moved to medical or another mod, all the more numerous PC men in orange could be let out easier for longer periods of time.
Video Visit Room: Currently SMU has two closet sized rooms that inmates can have a video visit in with family. The rooms have the video screen, camera, and a small blue chair in them. When seated, the camera viewing the inmate is much too high. The chair provided makes the inmate viewable from the chin or nose up. Either the camera needs to be lowered or a taller chair provided. More concerning is the fact the video visit room has no intercom button to push to get the CO’s attention on shift. This means there is often no way to get their attention to let you out of the locked room. There is no bathroom in there! I have been left in the video visit room AFTER my one hour visit for over 1 ½ hours before. Banging on the door and screaming for help does no good. What if an inmate had a medical emergency, or couldn’t hold it and needed a bathroom? This issue should be looked at.
Microwave: Currently there is one microwave available here in SMU. It is overworked, overheats and often there is not enough time for everyone to use it. It would make more sense to have two microwaves to reduce the working load. It would also reduce the line of waiting people! There are several foods like oatmeal that we can order that you need the microwave for.
Information/Documents: The “PO’s,” or Parole Officers are the people that inmates talk to for important information. Occasionally they charge you for said information at a rate of $0.15 a page. I don’t feel this practice is right at all. Prisoner A is indigent, and has no money. He wants information on drug treatment centers he can enroll in once he’s released. He can’t get it because he can’t afford the copies. I feel that prisoners that ask for important, reasonable information relating to succeeding when released should not be charged for it!

These are some of my ideas. Thank you for your time!

Clayton Allison