Virginia Prisons Accountability Committee: SOLITARY WATCH and THE ANTAGONISM Of IDEALISTIC-JOURNALISM and ACCOUNTABILITY

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

SOLITARY WATCH and THE ANTAGONISM Of IDEALISTIC-JOURNALISM and ACCOUNTABILITY


In a recent August 4th, 2016; Solitary Watch article on  Virginia's Supermax Red Onion State Prison [ROSP], a prison one prison guard characterized to a prisoner as a place where "crooks watch over crooks" and another guard said "an investigation waiting to happen".  Was described by Solitary Watch as "one of the harshest prisons in the nation".  This descriptive expression by Solitary Watch is another example of the age-old semantic Achilles Heel plaguing progressive hearts and minds who despite the motivational intent of exposing government's behavior within the prison environment end up giving it cover and enabling it.  Because their word choice confuses and distorts the condition their efforts intend on exposing.

PRISON OFFICIALS AND LAW

Red Onion State Prison is a lawless prison where prison officials, it's rank and file guards in it's operation break every law imaginable and violate each and every aspect of their very own Virginia Department of Corrections procedures and policies. [VADOC].  Prisons by definition are legal constructs.  This simply means each and every fact of the prison condition is because of law and defined by law ROSP isn't any different.  A prisoner is in prison because of the dictates of law. The prison guard is able to physically touch a prisoner and the totality of the relationship a prisoner has with prison is because law authorizes it.  Law defines it.  The parameters, context, and extent of the contact and relationship come into existence because of law.  So the conditions at ROSP, Solitary Watch attempted to expose in it's August 4th, 2016; article are not a mere question of "harshness". But are narratives of law and in certain cases criminal violations by ROSP officials and its rank and file guards and this definitive clarity of description is what Solitary Watch, in its work should have given us.  

IDEALISTIC JOURNALISM AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The problem with works as Solitary Watch's August 4th, 2016; article on ROSP is it rehabilitates and decriminalizes governmental malfeasance by reducing it to a moral hazard ambiguity, an academic indulgence of prisons, as conventional wisdom supposes are expected to be harsh and VADOC and its ROSP operatives as a matter of fact welcome the "harshness" critique because not only does it let them off the hook, that conditions at ROSP which Solitary Watch per virtue of it's work finds offensive are a result of prison officials breaking the law, behaving with impunity above the law and violating their own VADOC procedures and policies.  But in a perverse manner endows ROSP with a notoriety mystique that governmental organized violence which prison is a foot soldier, strives to assert. The imperatives of Solitary Watch- type works present the expectation but as evidenced in it's ROSP article fail and neglect to give us the conclusion that:  Red Onion State Prison must be investigated by an independent agency, if the general public, not only is to have faith but maintain faith in government.  Because the ROSP question is quintessentially that of criminality, prison officials behaving criminally.

So when Solitary Watch cites self serving assertions by VADOC, Virginia politicos i.e State Senator Adam Ebbin, State Delegate Patrick Hope, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Southern Legislative Conference as reflective and indicative of reform of the ROSP operational model relative to Administrative-Segregation, which Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Homeland Security Brian Moran is quoted in the article as "restrictive housing".  We have to ask why Solitary Watch didn't indepthly critique the reform in question as being window dressing, chasing federal funds, which the U.S.  government provides VADOC and a charade which any first year law student would have exposed from a cursory reading of VADOC prison procedures and policies governing the purported reform, that it is all a sham---from the name change of Administrative-Segregation to restrictive housing it is all a sham and those politicos cited touting the reform who make laws and therefore know how to read the substance in policies, have to know, relatively nothing changed.

Solitary Watch omitted that the prison policy in question also known as Step Down Program is an arbitrary construct, which despite having the weight of statutory law is also susceptible as any other law to the question: Is the law constitutional.  Presently over 30 ROSP prisoners detained in Administrative-Segregation are challenging the law in Federal Court for the Western District of Virginia.

ON THE QUESTION OF REDUCTION IN PRISONERS CONFINED AT ROSP ADMINISTRATION-SEGREGATION

Solitary Watch didn't delve into the fact that the post 2011 decrease in the number of prisoners detained at ROSP Administration-Segregation had as much to do with the fact, VADOC transformed half of ROSP's four buildings back to its original quasi-general population operational model.  Had Solitary Watch factored this into it's work, it would have discovered that since opening in August and September of 1998, VADOC hasn't been able to resolve what it needs ROSP for and subsequently needs it to be, besides the obvious economic role ROSP plays in the economic depressed, rural and politically marginalized region of Southwest Virginia.  This bureaucratic vacillation by VADOC has only confirmed the fundamental objection opponents of ROSP have expressed all along that not only doesn't VADOC need ROSP but it built it against the conclusions and findings By the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission in its 1985 and 1986 reports on August 4th-5th, 1984; uprising at ROSP's  precursor, Mecklenburg Correctional Center that VADOC shouldn't confine at one place it's so-called "worst of the worst".

If as Solitary Watch writes VADOC is reducing confinement of prisoners in Administrative-Segregation [AdSeg] why didn't it obtain the current VADOC rate for placing prisoners in AdSeg. And for what in contrast with pre-2011 rates and reasons.  Also what are the figures for prisoners held in AdSeg. in other Virginia prisons i.e Wallens Ridge, River North, Green Rock, Keen Mountain, Pocahontas, Augusta, Sussex I and II to name some of the major ones.  What this would have revealed is the AdSeg. practice in Virginia is arbitrary.  Detention and confinement in Virginia's AdSeg. varies from prison to prison.  Based on an arcane calculus which falls in the all too familiar dynamic of: Vindictiveness of prison officials who have scores to settle against certain prisoners for 20 and 30 year old acts and allegations.  So VADOC due process policies are misapplied, documents are falsified, infractions are fraudulently concocted against prisoners to effect placement in AdSeg.  which are all unlawful and in some cases criminal acts by prison officials.  Other factors are: Racism, where White prisoners are not generally subjected to the extremity of AdSeg. and relative length of confinement as Black and Latino prisoners for identical acts and allegations. Also: Black, White and Latino prisoners from urban areas of Eastern, Central and Northern Virginia, bear the brunt of AdSeg. and are more likely to be transferred to the rural prisons of Red Onion and Wallens Ridge AdSeg. in contrast with prisoners from rural Virginia.  The urban bias is an unchallenged fact.  But the more implicit insidious suggestion is, the mainly Black and Latino staff of prisons in non-rural areas are incapable of managing urban prisoners.

CRIMINALITY AND A TEXT BOOK STUDY OF MALFEASANCE

Solitary Watch in its August 4th, 2016 article shy's away from calling for an independent criminal investigation into criminality and malfeasance that is the operative conduct of ROSP officials and its rank and file guards:


  • ROSP guards assaulting and battering prisoners who are handcuffed behind their backs, shackled and kneeling. See [rebuttal to petitioner response, Canada v. Methena 7:13-cv00322  also Re: Complaint of Abuse and Misuse of Restraints DOC-2013-401055].
  • Also...Asiatic Allah #1030654 on 7/15/15; punched in the face and beaten by ROSP guard upon arrival at ROSP from Augusta C.C.
  • Also...D Freeman #1108494 in 2015; assaulted and beaten up by prison guards at ROSP-B/3 Pod. 
  • Also...T James on 7/29/15; prison guards broke his hand while he was handcuffed and shackled at ROSP - B/3-31 Pod.
  • Also...Andre Goodwin #1008696 on 6/16 /15; aussalted in ROSP-C/3 Pod by unidentified guards.  

The practice and racist totem of ROSP; all white K-9 Corp sizing attack dogs on a majority Black and urban population, reminiscent of White police officers behavior during the anti-Segregation struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.

The unlawful practice of ROSP guards denying prisoners meals and criminal acts of ROSP guards tampering with prisoners meals.

The unlawful act of ROSP guards denying prisoners showers for months on end despite VADOC AdSeg. policy mandate prisoners are given showers 3 times per week.

The unlawful practice of denying AdSeg. prisoners outside exercise for months on end,8-9 months straight.

The misuse of Stripped Cells and unlawful practice of depriving prisoners property.

The unlawful practice of deploying OC Pepper gas inside the confines of a 8x10 foot cell without regard for prisoners held in windowless cells.

The unlawful practice of using food as punishment by skimping and not providing the VADOC Master Menu and Food Service Manual required portions to AdSeg. prisoners.

The unlawful practice of chaining prisoners wrists to ankles, thereby denying the prisoner the ability to stand upright for hours on end.

The unlawful and unethical treatment of Mental Health prisoners confined at ROSP AdSeg. where the are subjected to denial of showers, outside exercise, food, meals tampered with, deprived of property, taunted, insulted, provoked by ROSP guards and once they react, they are gassed with OC Pepper Gas, put on Stripped Cells for weeks on end, tied to bunks       everything is done to Mental health prisoners, save for a legitimate and professional Mental Health Care.

The unlawful practices of retaliation against prisoners who dare complain and speak out against the criminal and malfeasante actions of ROSP officials and guards.  Prisoners are accused of false infractions, mail is tampered with, outside exercise and showers denied. Meals denied. In some cases prisoners assaulted and battered by ROSP guards, AdSeg. confinement extended.

Last but not least ROSP, with tacit approval from VADOC executive leadership has effectively quashed the filing of Complaints and Grievances despite VADOC policies that speak to the filing of Complaints and Grievances.  This quashing of Complaints and Grievance filings is what allows VADOC to be quoted by Solitary Watch that "It has successfully   decreased the grievances filed by men at ROSP by 71%" and Solitary Watch just as it hasn't called for an outside independent investigation into the operation and practices at ROSP, didn't ask VADOC on how it managed to decrease complaints in any prison for that matter, let alone a Supermax one by the astounding revelation of 71%.


What the advocacy of Solitary Watch imperative needs to understand, then subsequently emphasize in its work is: The situation at ROSP as I have attempted to show isn't the colloquial "cruel and inhumane treatment" as Solitary Watch paraphrases certain ROSP prisoners as saying.  But the issue is specific. Red Onion State Prison is a lawless prison.  Each and every aspect of its operation is a text book study of malfeasance.

The attitude of ROSP official, inculcate into its rank and file, bubbling beneath the veneer of pseudo-professionalism is ROSP prisoners are convicts, the worst of the worst, so if a ROSP guard commits the criminal act of spitting in a prisoners food or committing the criminal act of assaulting and battering a prisoner in the ROSP guards mind it is not a criminal act because the victim is a prisoner.  The Irony is casually lost on the guard that he/she are breaking and violating the same law that effected and permits the imprisonment of the prisoner to begin with.  This fact isn't a simple issue of mistreatment, or harshness of conditions.  But these are crimes that have to be recognized as such and its one thing for prison officials to excise hypocrisy as the only refuge-rationale of their lawlessness and malfeasance. But its entirely another for Solitary Watch and its side of history work, in an expose' that pursues as it's imperative governmental-accountability to give cover to and enable the lawlessness and malfeasance with distortive semantics

Solitary Watch and its allies should lend their voice and talent to the cause of demanding that Red Onion State Prison is investigated by the outside independent agency and in the interim the Virginia National Guard manages its daily operations

By William Thorpe

William Thorpe is confined at ROSP Administration-Segregation since opening in 1998 and has been in AdSeg. since 1996.

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