Virginia Prisons Accountability Committee: Contra -Kristi Jacobson and She Was Exploited By Red Onion State Prison

Monday, February 20, 2017

Contra -Kristi Jacobson and She Was Exploited By Red Onion State Prison

Either Solitary Documentary Director and Producer Kristi Jacobson is a moll for the Department of Corrections [VADOC] and it's Red Onion State Prison [ROSP] practice or she is recklessly naive and in her idealistic eagerness to participate in the relatively current debate on the use of  and Solitary Confinement and state organized violence of prisons, she has allowed herself be exploited by VADOC and ROSP in their shell game of Solitary Confinement reform.

My name is William Thorpe and since 1998 I've been detained in Solitary Confinement at ROSP.  I was confined in D/6-Building during the filming of Kristi Jacobson's work, the documentary Solitary on detention at ROSP.

Let me state this: Kristi Jacobson should take every last cent gained from the documentary Solitary and establish a litigation fund that will facilitate legal challenges to the Solitary Confinement of ROSP prisoners, whom in her reckless naivete and idealistic eagerness are being doubly victimized by her help and enabling the VADOC and ROSP shell game narrative that there is cogent and authentic reform in their practice and use of Solitary Confinement.  Because what Kristi Jacobson with her Solitary Documentary has become is a manipulated moll and an outmaneuvered shill for the idealistic futility of those historic minds who have and employ the practice and use of Solitary Confinement as a conscientious governmental function in the name of taxpayers and citizens.

Despite the idealistic construct of the use of Solitary Confinement and its arbitrary imposition of its practice by ROSP officials who by their malfeasance and misconduct work hard and diligently at instructing and tutoring prisoners on how to violate with impunity Virginia and U.S. laws and VADOC procedures in spirit and in deed.  Kristi Jacobson should have enquired of VADOC and ROSP, she should have exercised  due diligence into what was ROSP's anticipation and speculatively to what end would it's prison officials go to attain it. Instead by her own admission, Kristi Jacobson revealed that her due diligence went as far as the colloquial conclusion that ROSP is one of the "worst" prisons in the nation, without understanding what that colloquial "worst" meant.  Instead, she allowed her own suppositionary bias fill in and flesh out what "worst" could mean which as her Solitary documentary exposes is that dubious mystification and mythology of prison, which prison officials have historically utilized in shrouding and diverting attention away from their law breaking and malfeasant activities-and ROSP particularly is no exception.  ROSP is first and foremost a "worst" prison because of its operational philosophy and model results in daily VADOC procedure violations and Virginia and U.S. law-breaking by its officials and guards.

The closest Kristi Jacobson came to in exposing this fact is by retaining and not editing out of the Solitary documentary what ROSP guard Jordon expresses as the satisfaction of loving it, having scored a touchdown or hitting a home run during the violence of a cell extraction.  Which simply means 4,6 and 8 ROSP guards in riot gear [helmets, Kevlar vest, shin and arm guards] after OC gassing a prisoner inside a windowless 8x10 cell, charges into the cell and whether it's 4, 6, 8 guards against one prisoner, violently subdue the prisoner.  Sometimes using handcuffs or shackles as brass knuckles to hit prisoners, which at that point becomes assault and battery and a federal civil rights violation a la Rodney King.  Had Kristi Jacobson understood what ROSP as one of the "worst" prisons meant, which as I've shown above is specifically in the context of it is a serial violator of the law and VADOC procedure, her lenses would have given us something comparatively authentic as Ava Duvernay's 13th.


The Leopard Spots of Solitary Confinement Reform at ROSP and Kristi Jacobson Exploited

Besides pockets of Northern Virginia and enclaves around some of Virginia's College campuses, Virginia is a reactionary state.  This reaction, despite Barack Obama carrying the state twice, in 2008 and 2012; is squarely entrenched in its political activity which is to mean it's Jurisprudence. Consequently, this reactionary inclination extends to its imprisonment practices. Contextually particularly in the lack of accountability of prison officials and legitimate oversight from the appropriate political overlords.  So it's to this backdrop Kristi Jacobson haplessly found herself being outmaneuvered by prison officials who always have a self-serving and adverse interest and their association with her as if heaven-sent manna falling into their laps was a moment they couldn't ignore and seized the opportunity to maximize how Kristi Jacobson would be exploited. 

ROSP has been and is a prison without purpose.  Virginia legislators determined in 1985 that never again would Virginia pursue a prison policy of having the so-called "worst of the worst" prisoners at one prison considering the fiasco one of the nation's prototypical super-maximum prisons, Mecklenburg Correctional Center turned out to be for the state.  Beginning with the 1984 first mass escape of death row prisoners in the nation and culminating in an approximate 23-hour building take over,  the hostage situation that necessitated the then Gov. Chuck Robb appearing on network T.V. Sunday Morning Shows arguing that the state had a competent Department of Corrections.

Fast forward to 1998 and the opening of ROSP doing exactly what the 1998 Virginia Legislature determined it shouldn't.  Nor is it operating as it was designed, considering its $70 + Million price tag and it's only imperative to date is the self-serving pursuits of prison officials perpetuating and maintaining their economical relevance for themselves and for the adjunct support for the diminishing returns of its Southwest Virginia locale, Coal Mining Industry.

It isn't difficult to grasp why certain VADOC elements and their ROSP functionaries would recognize that the music for the ROSP operational game of musical chairs would self-servingly play longer, hence extending their relevance by exploiting the language of Solitary Confinement Reform without actually reforming its use and practice. Which would mean affording release of prisoners who have been detained 20+ years in Solitary Confinement.

VADOC and ROSP have bandied about claims of dramatic reduction of detention in Solitary Confinement. But what has conveniently been omitted is, the rate of the reduction is historically consistent with the type of prisoners being released. It's one thing for ROSP to release prisoners who have historically it detains for no more than 3 to 5 years in Solitary Confinement. Than for it to release prisoners who have been detained in Solitary Confinement for multiple decades and those prisoners are not being released and Kristi Jacobson swallowing the bait, hook and sinker of VADOC's Reform Talk failed to recognize this and make the distinction.

Nothing about ROSP's Solitary Confinement Reform as it is presented as a Step Down Program is novel, enlightened or objective, because the fact of Solitary Confinement or Administrative Segregation in Virginia and ROSP is still arbitrary and vindictive and release from it's condition is still subject to the whims and caprices of prison officials who for their self-serving interest maintain it.

Conflating VADOC and ROSP pre-release program which is relevantly for prisoners within 2-3 years of completing prison sentences as Kristi Jacobson naively allowed prison officials to do, with Solitary Confinement Reform, reveals the insidious comprehensiveness to which Kristi Jacobson was out-maneuvered by prison officials in the quest to maintain relevance and the grace of public opinion with the narrative of reform of a Human Condition that even the 19th Century knew to be Barbaric and ahumanistic.

"Unprecedented Access"

Kristi Jacobson and HBO have made much more about her "unprecedented access" to ROSP. Unprecedented access to a prison that's a public facility and we are supposed to "applaud" prison officials for that?

Let's talk about the unprecedented access: Did it allow Kristi Jacobson to document and reveal to the public scrutiny that; ROSP Prisoners are denied meals, prisoners are assaulted, beaten while in handcuffs and shackles, Prisoners are chained in manners that inhibit and limit ability to stand upright for hours on end, even days, Prisoners are tied to bunks hours on end, denied access to the toilet, Prisoners are denied outside exercise, prisoners are denied showers, Mental Health Prisoners are mistreated, confined in cells months on end without ever let outside for exercise and showers, taunted, provoked, denied meals, meal tampered with, Prisoners are starved due to the noncompliance of food service to provide VADOC food guidelines mandated meal portion amounts, Prisoners are denied forms to file complaints and grievances and then "VADOC can claim that grievances and complaints have decreased by 70%", Prisoners mail tampered with, prisoners allegedly commit suicides, Prisoners are OC pepper gassed in windowless cells, Prisoners are lied on and given contrived and fabricated charges for the purpose of justifying detention in Solitary Confinement, Prisoners are kept in stripped cells, prisoners given loaf diet, prisoners are denied clothing, mattress, blankets, sheets.

Despite the harm, Kristi Jacobson has done and I say "Harm" because her Solitary Documentary has in no way, form or fashion been a shot in the arm of the abolish Solitary Confinement movement.  Nor did Jacobson's lenses delve into the latent impetus of malfeasance and misconduct once it discovered it along with the concurrent hint of the apparent mental and psychological health of prison guards who are obviously ill-suited by their own comments, for the professionalism required to uphold the privileges, the citizens of Virginia have given them per virtue of employment at ROSP.

However, despite Kristi Jacobson's opining to the Independent that......"there are enough portrayals in the media of one-dimensional inmates and one-dimensional guards, and I wanted there to be far more complexity than we are normally given in today's world of media and criminals and prisons "[unquote] she still ended up doing exactly that which she derided.  What would've been refreshingly complex is "instead of apologizing for ROSP guards symptomatic malfeasance with her"...."I think I began to understand if you're looking from the outside but thought those guards were incredibly brave for sharing some of their honest feelings about what it's like to work inside there" [unquote].

What Kristi Jacobson ignored was prisons exist because of law and if it was about empathy and apologies prisoners equally lay claim to both as prison guards and as such a prison guards propensity for malfeasance shouldn't be excused nor apologized away.  If the Documentary is to be made on prisons it should give us that.

By William Thorpe ~ I'm detained at ROSP Solitary Confinement

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