Tag Archives: Prison

Innocent Man Framed For Murder by LVMPD Detectives and Las Vegas Prosecutors Freed After 22 Years in Prison

Demarlo Berry Released From Prison Innocence ProjectLast week, Demarlo Berry was released from a Nevada prison after serving 22 years for a murder he didn’t commit. He had been sentenced to life without parole in prison for a 1994 robbery at a Las Vegas Carl’s Jr. and the murder of Charles Burkes, the manager.

Based on media reports of his release, you would think that the Clark County District Attorney’s Office had supported and even played a significant role in his exoneration. That’s far from the truth, though.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

For years, Berry’s legal team has asserted that incredible trial testimony, as well as a written confession from another man in 2013, proves their client was wrongly convicted.

A Clark County judge on Wednesday signed the order of dismissal that secures the release. The Clark County district attorney’s office had agreed to dismiss the case Tuesday, following a monthslong (sic) investigation by members of the office’s newly formed conviction review unit.

Prosecutors for years had fought Berry’s claims of innocence with assertions of his guilt, but on Thursday they hailed the case as the first release resulting from the review unit established in October.

“They’ve finally done what we think they should have done all along,” (lawyer Craig) Coburn said.

For years, Coburn along with the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project had been fighting to prove he had been falsely convicted. However, Las Vegas prosecutors had fought just as hard against his release. That includes even after the real killer confessed all the way back in 2013.

Steven Jackson, who has been in prison in California for a separate murder since 1996, had voluntarily confessed and in the process provided details only the person who had committed the crime could possibly know. In addition, a woman provided an independent statement that Jackson had confessed to her shortly after the murder occurred.

In fact, the reality is that district attorneys, along with police officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, manufactured witness testimony against Berry to ensure his conviction. As can be heard in the audio file embedded below (at approx. 6:30), that witness later recanted his claim that Berry had made a jailhouse confession.

In the process, Richard Iden also stated that detectives from the LVMPD coached him on what to say and provided him with details of the crime to bolster his testimony. As reward for that false testimony, Iden was given a favorable plea deal. He was also paid off with free plane tickets home to Ohio to visit his family, a free hotel room during the trial, and cash “per diem” payments.

Of course, while District Attorney Steve Wolfson is busy patting himself on the back for “causing the release of Demarlo Berry from prison after 22 years,” there’s been no mention whatsoever of any sort of accountability for the prosecutors and detectives who illegally manufactured evidence in order to put him there. Nor is there any mention of why it took four years after the real killer had admitted his own guilt before they finally decided to stop fighting that release.

And BTW, Nevada is one of eighteen states in the country that don’t provide any sort of compensation to people who have been exonerated after false convictions. So, unlike the guy the prosecutors paid off to provide false testimony at his trial, Berry will get nothing from the State of Nevada for the decades he was wrongfully imprisoned.

Five New Jersey Corrections Officers Sexually Abused Female Prisoners Over the Course of Two Years

Four New Jersey corrections officers have been indicted for sexual assault against nine women at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, NJ. Corrections Officers Jason Mays, Ahnwar Dixon, Brian Ambroise, and Thomas Seguine were all indicted by a Hunterdon grand jury for engaging in ongoing sexual abuse of inmates over the course of two years. All told, they are facing 26 charges between them.

A fifth man, Joel Herscap, previously pled guilty to official misconduct for engaging in a “sexual encounter” with an inmate. He was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison. Herscap worked as an institutional trade instructor at the prison prior to being arrested.

Via the Trentonian.com:

The rape culture at a New Jersey women’s prison has continued.

Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III announced at a press conference Monday morning that two more senior corrections officers were charged with rape at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton. That brings the tally to a total of five male employees, including four corrections officers, charged with the sex assault of nine female inmates at Edna Mahan over the past year.

Mays, 43, of Hillside, has been employed by the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) since May 2005. He was indicted on five counts of official misconduct, one count of a pattern of official misconduct and three counts of sexual assault, all second-degree crimes, and two counts of criminal coercion and criminal sexual contact, prosecutors said.

Dixon, 38, of East Orange, has been working for DOC since November 2004. He was indicted on two counts of official misconduct, one count of a pattern of official misconduct and one count of sexual assault, all second-degree crimes, and three counts of criminal sexual contact, prosecutors said.

“In these cases, the victims were particularly vulnerable as inmates,” Kearns said. “The corrections officers had complete power and control over every aspect of their lives behind bars.”

Kearns did not provide specifics of the recent arrests.

Charges were handed out starting early last year.

In February, another senior corrections officer was arrested for allegedly having sex with a female inmate. Thomas Seguine Jr., 34, of Phillipsburg, was charged with official misconduct and sexual assault.

Then three months later, a kitchen worker at the jail was arrested for reportedly exchanging cigarettes with two female inmates in return for sexual favors. Joel Herscap, 55, of Alpha, was charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct, two counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. Kearns said Herscap was recently sentenced to three years in jail on an official misconduct charge.

In October, Brian Y. Ambroise, 33, of Union, engaged in a sexual relationship with an inmate at the prison, authorities said, and was charged with official misconduct and sexual assault. The senior corrections officer was arrested following a joint investigation by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the New Jersey Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division.

Beyond Sept. 9th, Support the Largest Prison Strike in History and Help Eliminate Prison Slave Labor

Note: Previously, CopBlock Network Contributor Josh Hotchkins also published a post previewing and discussing the prison strike.

The growth of the prison industrial complex has been discussed many times on the CopBlock Network, as well as the ways in which prisons have become a modern day form of slavery. The fact is that the United States now has the largest population of incarcerated people in the world by a large margin and every indication is that the government intends to expand that lead.

In addition, the privatization of prisons (which the Federal Government’s recent decision to stop participating in will make little real impact on) has created a form of slave labor that both violates human rights and encourages the corporations and politicians profiting off that system to lock more people up.

It’s also no secret that most, if not all, of us at the CopBlock Network oppose victimless crimes. The largest instance of prosecution for victimless crimes, as well as human rights abuses and violence perpetrated by law enforcement, involves the War on (Some) Drugs. The Drug War and the huge number of non-violent drug offenders that are sent to prison as a result are in large part responsible for the enormous expansion in the U.S. prison population over the past several decades.

On September 9th, which is the 45 year anniversary of the Attica State Prison Uprising, prisons around the country began strikes designed to force reform of prison labor policies and improvements to basic human living conditions within those prisons. Outside of the prisons, many groups around the country and even outside of the United States are holding solidarity actions in support of the prisoners taking part in the strike.

Whether you are now or ever have been directly effected by the growing prison industrial complex, there are many reasons why you should help halt its expansion and even to put an end to it.

Some of the companies that benefit from prison slave labor:

The Industrial Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Worker Organizing Committee is helping to promote and organize actions in support of the prisoners. You can also find updates at the website of “It’s Going Down,” an Anarchist-based website that posts information and announcements about grassroots actions.

Additional links for information and updates:

SupportPrisonerResistance.net
FreeAlabamaMovement.com
IWOC.noblogs.org
resonanceaudiodistro.org

Transcript of Video Included Above:

This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America

In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.

Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.

Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.

Non-violent protests, work stoppages, hunger strikes and other refusals to participate in prison routines and needs have increased in recent years. The 2010 Georgia prison strike, the massive rolling California hunger strikes, the Free Alabama Movement’s 2014 work stoppage, have gathered the most attention, but they are far from the only demonstrations of prisoner power. Large, sometimes effective hunger strikes have broken out at Ohio State Penitentiary, at Menard Correctional in Illinois, at Red Onion in Virginia as well as many other prisons. The burgeoning resistance movement is diverse and interconnected, including immigrant detention centers, women’s prisons and juvenile facilities. Last fall, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike initiated by women held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas.

attica-prison-uprising-riotPrisoners all across the country regularly engage in myriad demonstrations of power on the inside. They have most often done so with convict solidarity, building coalitions across race lines and gang lines to confront the common oppressor.

Forty-five years after Attica, the waves of change are returning to America’s prisons. This September we hope to coordinate and generalize these protests, to build them into a single tidal shift that the American prison system cannot ignore or withstand. We hope to end prison slavery by making it impossible, by refusing to be slaves any longer.

To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.

Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.

Prison impacts everyone, when we stand up and refuse on September 9th, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs. This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.

Step up, stand up, and join us.
Against prison slavery.
For liberation of all.

The Attica Prison Uprising and Aftermath:

Additional Videos:

 

Proposed British Prison Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough to Address the Real Issues

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Gove’s Good Intentions for Prisons Don’t Amount to Necessary Action.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submission Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Nick’s own writings.)

In the post below, Nick discusses reform proposals that have been put forward for British prisons by “Lord Chancellor” Michael Gove, a member of the British Parliament. Within that discussion he explains why he believes that, although the reform efforts are a product of good intentions on Gove’s part, they ultimately fail to address the real issues with the prison system and even if adopted will be destined for failure.

Although this post references the prison system within Britain specifically and reform efforts within that system, obviously there many similarities between the prisons inside the United States. Therefore, the commentary is equally relevant here as it is there.

Links to previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on the CopBlock Network can be found at the bottom of this post. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Gove’s Good Intentions for Prisons Don’t Amount to Necessary Action

In the UK the “Lord Chancellor” and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove wants to be remembered for his efforts to reform prisons. Writing in The Telegraph, Gove says “The emphasis of our penal system must be on more effective rehabilitation, because our current approach is costing us all dear. At present, nearly half – 46 per cent – of all prisoners are reconvicted of a crime within a year of being released.”

Gove’s emphasis on rehabilitation rather than on punishment is a welcome change for British citizens. Especially given the fact that Britain suffers similar problems that the US does when it comes to overcrowding in prisons. The Prison Reform Trust reports jail population has risen 90 per cent to 86,000 since 1993. In addition suicides and deaths in British prisons have been on the rise in recent years, leading to even more uncertainty about how to effectively handle criminals.

These calls for reforms come in tandem with Queen Elizabeth’s speech which included a use of satellite tags to allow prisoners to leave during the week and coming back on the weekend. This may allow them to get employment and thus hold down jobs while they transition into society. In addition, they may be able to see their families more easily than they had before.

These tags would likely apply to those who are already on their way out of prison but it may be broad enough to include even serious offenders. The pilot testing for this reform will be tried in September 2016 and particularly in the hopes of “reform sentencing”.

But however good these intentions are, they’re insufficient to undo the harms that prisons do.

Prisons are not, as Gove argues, an institution to “keep us safe” but rather focus chiefly on enforcing the rules of the state. Even within a sentence on stressing the containment element of prisons, Gove states that “When we put criminals behind bars we take them off our streets, prevent them from preying on the innocent and uphold the clear bright line between right and wrong.”

But where is the “bright line” of morality for individuals who have not harmed others but are still imprisoned? Are we to believe that everyone who has ever been imprisoned has somehow upheld this imaginary lack of gray in morality that Gove has discovered?

Not only that, but putting people behind bars alongside countless other criminals who have committed worse offenses is a poor attempt at instilling morality that lacks any sort of gray lines. These prisoners are more likely to learn about how morality is very much anything but black and white and they’ll likely learn how to become a much more effective criminal as well.

Moreover, Gove’s sense of moralism when he proclaims that he will “…reject the idea we should give up on any human being…” contradicts the central purpose of prisons. Prisons exist first and foremost to put the “criminal element” outside of our minds. This accentuating of out-group bias allows us to look the other way or even laugh at the misery prisoners go through.

Gove uses the satellite tags as another way the British government are working toward reforming prisons. But it’s just as easy to see this as another way to make the British citizenry legible to the members of the British parliament. These tags are also a clear expansion of the surveillance state in a country already well associated with surveillance cameras and 1984.

If “hope” is really at the heart of Gove’s idea of a better world, I recommend he look into different theories of justice all together. Consider the fact that if you truly believe that people can be redeemed that actually giving them that chance with their victims (or the victims families) is a more direct, cost-effective and moral way of resolving conflicts then locking them in cages.

Consider theories of restorative and transformative justice which put the individuals who are the center of the conflict as the aggrieved, instead of the state.  These forms of situating justice require real hope and love for others because it gives them the autonomy to make their own choices outside of the confining realms of prisons.

Other Posts on CopBlock.org by Nick Ford

  1. If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!
  2. Prisons Can’t be Exonerated of Their Role in The Police State
  3. Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse
  4. Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots
  5. Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor

Update: Shooting Nevada Inmates With Birdshot Banned by New NDOC Director (For Now)

As I’ve reported here on CopBlock.org in several posts over the past year, the use of shotguns loaded with birdshot has come under scrutiny recently in Nevada prisons after a high-profile case in which an inmate was killed after a fight with another inmate. The family of that inmate, as well the family of the other inmate, who was also shot but survived, and others have made claims that the fight was instigated by guards intentionally in order to allow for the shooting.

Although the Nevada Department of Corrections continues to deny that, they have filed manslaughter charges against one of the guards involved. In addition, the former director of the NV Department of Corrections, Greg Cox, was forced to resign by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

In April, James Dzurenda was appointed to take over as the director of the NDOC. Prior to this, he worked in the corrections department in New York and was the DOC commissioner in Connecticut. During that time, he drafted the use-of-force policy for New York State.

In a recent interview with a local NPR affiliate in Nevada, Dzurenda has indicated that one of his first moves as the state DOC director will be to suspend the use of shotguns loaded with birdshot within Nevada Prisons. Previously, the NDOC had indicated that they would not accept the recommendations of experts who had stated shotguns should not be used by prison guards included in a report prompted by the most recent shooting and other similar incidents. However, although he states that he thinks that he feels it’s unnecessary, he seems reluctant to actually stop their use permanently, instead specifying that it is a temporary ban.

The interview also touches on Nevada’s “unique” prison culture and use of guns within those prisons. Dzurenda also indicates that he wants to focus more on rehabilitation and “reintegration” of prisoners being released back into society. plus, he wants more money (surprise!) and he thinks you can help him get it.

Via KNPR.org in Las Vegas:

Throughout history, however, Nevada has developed a unique prison culture. Huffington Post recently published an in-depth story about the use of guns inside Nevada’s prisons following the High Desert State Prison incident, and the sub-headline says it all: “Guards inside prisons shouldn’t have guns. That’s pretty much an accepted fact. Except in Nevada – and the results are mayhem and death.”

When interviewing writer Dana Liebelson, she told KNPR that Nevada’s use of guns inside its prisons “is highly unusual.” Skolnik said he agreed with her – to an extent.

“When I left, Nevada had the lowest rate of correction officer to inmates in the United States,” Skolnik said. “I don’t anticipate it’s gotten any better. If anything, it’s probably gotten worse.”

Is Dzurenda possibly wondering what he’s gotten himself into? Maybe. But he’s not shying away from tough questions about the state of the Nevada’s prisons. In fact, Dzurenda’s interview with KNPR was a first – former director Cox and interim director McDaniel never responded to multiple requests for interviews for the past few years.

One of his first orders of business, he said, is stopping the use of birdshot (the pellet-style ammunition that killed Carlos Perez in 2014) at least temporarily.

“To me, I don’t think it’s necessary,” Dzurenda said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be eliminated, but I’m going to temporarily take it offline because I think there are better things out in the world today we can use to control inmate populations.”

These things include non-lethal rounds of ammunition such as bean bags, rubber or plastic.

Dzurenda is more concerned, however, with programming inside correctional facilities – and considers an inmate’s first day at prison what should be the first day of reintegration efforts.

“If you take a snapshot today, and you don’t arrest anyone ever again, there’s 13,500 inmates in the system right now and 88 percent of those have less than 20-year sentences,” Dzurenda explained. “That means 12,000 of those offenders are released into our community pretty soon – that’s if you arrest no one.

“No matter how we feel about an offender, they are going back into the community. If we don’t funnel resources to do better for them, we’re just going to re-victimize our communities.”

As Skolnik noted, however, getting the money and resources together to have proper programming for inmates is no walk in the park. So how could Dzurenda do what his predecessors could not?

Constituents. Dzurenda may not be a political candidate – but getting the constituents to care about the people being put back into their communities might be able to get the ears of their represented politicians.

You can listen to the entire interview here on KNPR’s site.

Nevada Prison Guard Charged With Manslaughter in Fatal Shooting of Inmates (Update)

I’ve posted several times over the past year about the shooting of two prison inmates at the High Desert State Prison, which is located at Indian Springs, Nevada, just north of Las Vegas. Lawsuits by the families of those inmates, Carlos Perez and Andrew Arevalo, claimed that a fight was instigated between the two prisoners by correctional officers in order to justify the shooting.

As I’ve stated previously regarding the incident:

Both prisoners were handcuffed behind their back at the time of the fight and the lawsuits maintain that neither prisoner represented a threat to the guards sufficient enough to justify them being shot. Carlos Perez died from his injuries, while Andrew Arevalo was gravely wounded but survived. Although it was later overturned, Arevalo was also “internally convicted” of murder charges by the warden relating to Perez’ death.

As I’ve also reported, this and other incidents of shootings by Nevada prison guards led to a review of the use of force within state prisons and the use of shotguns in such incidents. A report produced at the conclusion of that review criticized prison guards’ use of shotguns by concluding “Nevada’s Department of Corrections (NDOC) is improperly relying on live ammunition instead of proper staffing.” Instead of accepting the advice to stop murdering inmates with shotguns, the NDOC responded to that report by saying they “hope to reduce the use of live rounds,” but won’t be doing so anytime soon and agreeing that they should hire more guards.

Two weeks ago in my last update, I discussed the releasing of internal disciplinary reports from the original “investigation” of the shooting, which were released as part of the discovery process in the lawsuits brought by the parents of the inmates shot at High Desert State Prison. Although they didn’t address the claims of the fight being instigated by the guards, they did pretty clearly place the blame for the shootings on those guards.

Latest: Guard Trainee Indicted

Earlier this week, former High Desert State Prison Correctional Officer Trainee Raynaldo J. Ramos was charged with two crimes in relation to the shooting of Perez and Arevalo. However, several questions remain regarding the nature of the charges, as well as the lack of any other indictments.

In light of the conclusions included within the disciplinary reports, the inmates’ families and others believe that Correctional Officers Jeff Castro and Isaiah Smith, both of whom were also present during the shooting, should have been charged, as well.

emailbannerVia Fox5 Las Vegas:

Ramos was charged with one count of the performance of an act in reckless disregard of persons or property resulting in death, and one count of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the death of inmate Carlos Perez.

According to the criminal complaint, while serving as a correctional officer trainee at High Desert State Prison, Ramos shot Perez in the chest, head, and neck while Perez and another inmate were involved in a brawl. Perez died as a result of the shooting.

Perez’s brother,  Victor Perez, believes those involved should be held accountable for his death.

“They can say all they want that it was an accident. I believe my brother was executed,” he said.

Charges were not filed against two other guards who resigned in May 2015, according to the Associated Press.

Perez’s lawyer, C.J. Potter from Potter Law Offices, said the two guards were present at the time of the shooting.

“There’s two other corrections officers there. The Department of Corrections said they failed to intervene, they allowed the two to be in that situation to fight,” Potter said.

” We do feel that the other guards are at least partially responsible because they’re supposed to be training this guard to do things the right way and they didn’t,” Victor Perez said.

Several other things including the length of time between when the issues were outlined in the internal reports, the fact that he was only charged for the fatal shooting and not the injuries to Arevalo, the changing stories that have been publicly released about the incident, and the previous attempt to charge Arevalo with murder for the death of Perez have all been pointed to as evidence of a cover-up by the prison administration.

In addition, the fact that the trainee was the only one charged and the low level nature of the charges (often referred to as a “Policeman’s Discount”) that were filed against him has been characterized as a scapegoating tactic to draw blame away from the other two guards involved and the NDOC itself.

Via ABC 13 Action News:

It’s taken nearly a year and a half, plus allegations of a cover up, for the state to charge a corrections officer in a deadly prison shooting.

Contact 13 explains why some say this is only half a cup of justice.

In November 2014, two handcuffed inmates in a secured unit called “The Hole” got into a fight at High Desert State Prison. A guard fires multiple rounds to break it up. Inmate Andrew Arevalo is seriously wounded. Inmate Carlos Perez is killed.

“Carlos’ mother, Mrs. Perez, was very concerned that there would never be that sense of justice in the case,” said Perez family attorney Cal Potter.

On Monday, the Nevada Attorney General filed a criminal complaint against former Correctional Officer Trainee Raynaldo J. Ramos.

Ramos is charged with “reckless disregard of persons or property resulting in death” and “involuntary manslaughter” for his role in the death of Perez, who was shot in the chest, neck and head.

“Why did it take this long for these distilled charges to come down?” Potter asked.

The charges come just one week after an internal prison report went public — blaming two other corrections officers for failing to follow safety procedures, failing to break up the fight and bringing “negative media attention” on the Department of Corrections. There is no mention in the report of Trainee Ramos.

Potter said, “It’s almost like a half a cup of justice at this point.”

And for only half of the victims. Arevalo was injured by the same gun in the same incident, but no one is being held criminally responsible for shooting him.

“This gives NDOC, this gives the AG’s office almost a scapegoat in COT Ramos,” said Arevalo’s attorney, Alexis Plunkett. “They’ve charged him with low-level felonies and they’ve charged the lowest person on the totem pole.

They’ve charged the trainee. And they’re attempting to remove the blame from all the higher-ups and from anyone else. It’s a trickle-down. And at the very bottom of the totem pole is the person that they’re making take the fall for this.”

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Official Report: Nevada Prison Guards Blamed For Fatal Shooting of Inmates (Update)

Last year, I posted about the shooting of two prison inmates at the High Desert State Prison, which is located at Indian Springs, Nevada, just north of Las Vegas. Lawsuits by the families of those inmates, Carlos Perez and Andrew Arevalo, claimed that a fight was instigated between the two prisoners by correctional officers in order to justify the shooting.

Both prisoners were handcuffed behind their back at the time of the fight and the lawsuits maintain that neither prisoner represented a threat to the guards sufficient enough to justify being shot. Carlos Perez died from his injuries, while Andrew Arevalo was gravely wounded, but survived. Although it was later overturned, Arevalo was also “internally convicted” of murder charges by the warden relating to Perez’ death (see the first video embedded below).

As I also posted about last year, this and other incidents of shootings by Nevada prison guards led to a review of the use of force within state prisons and the use of shotguns in such incidents. The resulting report (see the second video embedded below) stated that “Nevada’s Department of Corrections (NDOC) is improperly relying on live ammunition instead of proper staffing” and recommended they stop doing that. Not surprisingly, the NDOC responded to that report by saying they “hope to reduce the use of live rounds,” but won’t be doing so anytime soon and agreeing that they should hire more guards.

Yesterday, as a result of the aforementioned lawsuits, internal reports relating to the “investigation” of the shooting were released as part of the discovery process. While these disciplinary reports, which the Nevada Attorney General’s Office fought to keep secret, don’t address the claims of the fight being instigated by them, they do pretty clearly place the blame for the shootings on the guards involved.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

The Employee Misconduct Adjudication Reports specified six allegations against Correctional Officer Jeff Castro for neglect of duty, insubordination, unauthorized use of force, false statements and unbecoming conduct that brought the Corrections Department “negative media attention.”

Correctional Officer Isaiah Smith was written up for three allegations of neglect of duty and false statements for failing to report repeated, prior security breaches “which led to an inmate’s death.”

Carolos Perez, 28, died Nov. 12, 2014, from multiple gunshot wounds. Another inmate, Andrew Arevalo, now 25, was wounded. Both men were handcuffed behind their backs when they were shot in a shower hallway in a segregation unit known as “the hole.” High Desert is about 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas, just south of Indian Springs.

The shooting death of Carlos Perez by a NV Prison Guard Has Raised many Questions

The shooting death of Carlos Perez by a NV Prison Guard Has Raised many Questions

Another correctional officer who arrived after the shooting stopped said there were “vast amounts of blood everywhere on the tier.” Another officer, identified only as Senior Correctional Officer Mumpower, evaluated the inmates who were both handcuffed and lying on the ground, according to an incident report.

Mumpower determined Perez needed immediate medical attention. He placed Perez “on his left side as he heard him gurgling on his own blood and this would allow for it to drain out,” the report said.

Prison medical staff took Perez to a trauma room and administered CPR and other treatment for about 45 minutes before he was declared deceased, the report said.

Prison officials acknowledged Perez’s death when it happened but didn’t provide details. That he was shot by staff didn’t become known until four months later when the Clark County coroner reported the cause of death and ruled it a homicide.

Two civil lawsuits, one filed by Perez’s family, the other by Arevalo, are pending.

The latest documents were contained as exhibits in a motion by the attorney general’s office seeking dismissal or summary judgment of the case filed by Las Vegas attorney Cal Potter on behalf of Victor Perez.

Besides the officers, the lawsuits name the state, former Corrections Department Director Greg Cox, the warden and other administrators as defendants. A state board in March approved hiring private lawyers to represent the three correctional officers for up to $45,000 each.

Cox resigned in the fall at the insistence of Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Castro, Smith and the trainee who fired the four shotgun blasts, Reynaldo-John Ramos, were put on leave immediately after the incident. Ramos, who was on probation, was terminated. Castro and Smith resigned May 1, 2015.

Andrew Arevalo was also shot and seriously injured by a guard's shotgun, but survived.

Andrew Arevalo was also shot and seriously injured by a guard’s shotgun, but survived.

The attorney general’s office sought to keep the internal reports secret, arguing they are personnel records not subject to disclosure.

But U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon, in an April 4 order, denied the state’s motion.

“Those reports concern the state’s investigation of the events that give rise to this litigation,” Gordon wrote. “The public has an interest in seeing that the state properly and thoroughly investigates allegations of serious wrongdoing.”

At the time of the shooting, both Perez and Arevalo were in a segregation unit known as “the hole,” where regulations require that inmates be moved one at a time and “all escorts of retrained inmates are hands on.”

Castro, according to the documents, admitted he often failed to comply with the regulation, telling an investigator, “Pitch and catch, that’s the norm at HDSP.” The description refers to allowing inmates to walk unescorted from one correctional officer to another.

The report said Castro failed to directly escort Arevalo from the shower to his cell, and also allowed Perez out of the shower without a hands-on escort while Arevalo was in the hallway. The two inmates got into a fight, and Castro failed to intervene, instead leaving the area to find a pair of gloves.

“The use of the shotgun would not have been required had … Castro followed policy and had he not had two inmates out of the cells at the same time,” the report said, adding that had he broken up the fight “the other officer would not have used the shotgun to quell the fight.”

Smith was also cited for failing to intervene in the fight. The report said Smith had witnessed Castro moving multiple inmates out of the cells at the same time but failed to report the security breaches.

The Review Journal also reports that “The attorney general’s office has been investigating the case for a year for potential criminal charges.” I wouldn’t suggest holding your breath on that, though.

Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “More Prisons is Not Reform.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made.)

This post relates to recent riots within the United States prison system and specifically two riots at Holman Prison in Alabama, which took place in March of this year. Nick makes the point that it’s the underlying problems and abuses within the prison system itself and not just the singular symptom of overcrowding that caused those riots. Building even more prisons (which inevitably will also be filled to beyond capacity) is not the answer to those issues.

Previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on CopBlock.org can be found here, here, and here. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

More Prisons is Not Reform

Holman Prison in Alabama is home to death row and many there have little to lose should something go wrong. Given the degrading conditions of prisons and their lack of security for prisoners, it should come as no surprise that riots took place on March 11th and 14th.

The first riot happened when a prison guard was stabbed during a fight between two inmates. A prison fire was subsequently started by inmates so they could get access to another part of the prison. The riot included 100 inmates and went from Friday night into Saturday morning before control was re-established and the prison put on lockdown.

An inmate who was interviewed by WHNT 19 News over the phone explained, “What [the officer] did was not professional. They teach them not to do what he did. He went in swinging his stick and throwing inmates around. You know, if you try being in prison for 20 years, people get tired of seeing their fellow convicts get treated that way.”

On Monday while Holman was still on lockdown, an estimated 70 inmates barricaded themselves in a dormitory room after the stabbing of another inmate. WKRG News was able to get a phone call with an inmate there who “said inmates are fed up with deteriorating conditions and overcrowding within the prison system, something even Governor Robert Bentley has acknowledged is a serious issue in Alabama.”

Unfortunately the answer by both Bentley and media like Alabama.com has been to build more prisons.

Bentley and others agree that the riots are symptomatic of a system that isn’t working. But instead of trying to reduce sentences, challenge discriminatory practices or expand alternatives we’re given the choice to expand prisons.

Then again it shouldn’t be surprising that the response from the people in power to necessary and radical action on the part of inmates is milquetoast at best. Yes, the riots were necessary, despite perhaps being inadvisable. Prison riots are acts of desperation that will more naturally occur under such brutal and repressive systems. There’s no need for moral condemnation of the inmates; desperate people act desperately in an attempt to become empowered.

The proposed expansion of prisons from Bentley includes, “merg[ing] the state’s maximum security prisons — about 14 in all — into six prisons, four of them new.” But suspiciously Bentley has also pushed for a one-time exemption for letting a single company build these new prisons. The inevitability of sweetheart deals is much too great to be surmounted by well-meaning liberals.

Governor Bentley thinks focusing on older prisons and merging some will help save money. As true as this may be it still won’t bring back all of the casualties that the Alabama system has caused.

One casualty was death row inmate Timothy Jason Jones. Jones committed suicide in 2006 before he could be sentenced to death for a murder conviction. Jones was a drug user, aggressive, and shied away from his responsibilities by fleeing the scene.

But instead of trying to understand him, prosecutors called him a “monster” and confined him in a locked cell where he eventually killed himself. My point isn’t that Jones was a good person but that instead of giving him the chance to prove he could’ve been the state decided he’d be better off rotting in a cell.

There are are other ways to deal with justice.

Organizations like Common Justice and Community Works West both specialize in alternative forms of justice and specifically transformative and restorative justice. These organizations help inmates feel they can still successfully contribute meaningful things for themselves and their communities. They involve prisoners in their local communities and try to encourage meditation as ways to address underlying issues of crime. As organizations they may not deal with death row inmates specifically but their promise is great.

The success of these models helps release pressure from the overcrowded and bloated prison systems that the inmates expressly used as one of their underlying motivators. If we can help build alternatives to prisons that use positive collaboration instead of fear and dread, perhaps we can begin to more meaningfully address overcrowding.

Instead of expanding prisons, let’s work to expand alternatives.

Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Tutwiler Prison Will Live On.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made.)

This post relates to the impending closure of Julia Tutwiler State Women’s Prison, a facility located in Montgomery, Alabama that is notorius for rampant sexual abuse and other types of abuse, as well. Much like the clamoring for the closure of the detention center located at Guantanamo Bay, the perception is that simply shifting its residents to an alternate location will somehow eliminate those abuses, even though in reality the only real change will be geographical.

Tutwiler Prison Will Live On

Content Warning: Discussions of rape and sexual abuse

After over two decades of abuse, Julia Tutwiler Prison, located in Montgomery Alabama, will close. After almost two decades of prison guards sexually assaulting, abusing and raping inmates, Tutwiler prison will be closed. After nearly two decades of investigations, reformist legislature, promises on the part of the prison to improve, Tutwiler prison will close.

But Tutwiler prison will live on.

The governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, has said in a speech that Tutwiler prison will be closed so that Alabama may have a “complete transformation of the state’s prison system.” But adds that “These aging prisons will be consolidated and replaced by four, newly constructed state of the art facilities.”

And so Tutwiler prison will live on.

Tutwiler prison maintained its rampant sexual abuse even after a 2004 bill, advocated for by Amnesty International and the C4SS’s own Charles Johnson, had been passed. The bill was aimed at terminating and prosecuting abusive guards. But within the span of 2009-2013 only 18 cases of sexual abuse were reported in a prison well known for its widespread abuse.

As Charles Johnson notes, “the first basic obstacle is no matter how unambiguously written and strongly worded the law is, it is always nearly impossible ever to safely try to get a[n abusive guard] prosecuted from inside your cell. … The same overwhelming, full-spectrum life-and-death domination that facilitates the endemic, repeated rape also makes it impossible to defend yourself from them through legal processes.”

Removing this dynamic from prisons would mean prison abolition. And since we can safely presume Governor Bentley doesn’t believe in prison abolition, it’s safe to say that Tutwiler will live on.

Last year the US Department of Justice reported that Tutwiler had a population of women living in constant fear. They were in a highly-sexualized environment where abuse was so rampant that the prison was found to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

But all prisons are cruel and unusual.

Because of the aforementioned dynamics between prison guards and prisoners there will always be abuse and a reluctance to prosecute the abuse. In Tutwiler, reports from victims were discouraged by perceived or actual retaliation from prison guards. Guards at Tutwiler were often allowed to resign instead of being terminated. And thus were able to easily reintegrate themselves into another prison.

In this way too, Tutwiler Prison shall live on.

To make matters worse, the claims by victims of sexual abuse were frequently dismissed as the rantings of mentally ill patients. Polygraphs, known for their unreliability, were used as primary means to determine the validity of an accusation. Most insultingly, if the prisoners said it was consensual, then it was treated as such. And all of this only happened if an investigation actually occurred after an accusation, which it more often than not didn’t.

Treating accusations like this is not uncommon in prisons. A place where the abusers hold supreme power and have he legal system backing them engenders little accountability. Abusive prison guards are akin to police officers accused of murder in that they’re rarely indicted for, let alone convicted of crimes.

So, as you might expect, Tutwiler will live on.

ABC 33/40 recently reported that the Lovelady Center in Birmingham will take more than 100 inmates from Tutwiler. Lovelady is a rehabilitation facility for female convicts. But it’s also “faith-based treatment for women” and aims at converting the female convicts to Christianity.  Anyone who is either non-religious or isn’t interested in being proselytized is likely to feel excluded.

The rest of the women who will not be taken into those relatively merciful hands teeming with religious indoctrination will suffer in other ways. They may end up another number in recidivism statistics, or if they are freed, deal with the social isolation that comes with being a convict. Given that some will have their votes taken away, their job opportunities diminished and incredible social stigma, do you think they’ll stay out of prison for long?

Through these aftereffects, Tutwiler will live on.

And it will continue to live on until we abolish prisons.

If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Ferguson, Accept No Substitutes: Abolish the Police!” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: some links have been inserted, although no edits to the original text were made.)

Back in August 2014 a man named Michael Brown was shot by a police officer, Darren Wilson. Brown was unarmed and found himself in the hostile climate that exists between people of color and the police. His resulting death was the spark that lit the fire. Protests for #BlackLivesMatter began in earnest, people rallied for justice for Brown (Wilson was eventually acquitted of any wrong-doing) and in general, folks were deeply upset with the city of Ferguson.

Whether Brown’s actions warranted the almost 10 shots he received by officer Wilson, the background context of the event couldn’t be denied. Even the Department of Justice (DoJ) noted, to quote CBS, “a portrait of poor community-police relations, ineffective communication among the more than 50 law enforcement agencies that responded, police orders that infringed on First Amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.”

The DoJ also remarked on a broad pattern of discrimination by the Ferguson police, particularly towards people of color.

What has changed in over a year and a half?

In September, CBS reported that, “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recommended the consolidation of police departments and municipal courts in the St. Louis area, and decreasing the use of police force.”

But more recently and perhaps more promisingly to some, there has been a proposed agreement between the DoJ and the City of Ferguson. If approved, this agreement would postpone any sort of federal lawsuit and make changes to local policies concerning the police. CBS reported that the proposal was even brought before the public for “feedback” before its approval.

Policy changes could include mandatory body cameras and microphones for police and their cruisers. In addition, there could be more thorough training of police and possible revisions of municipal codes that allow the City of Ferguson to jail people who can’t afford fines.

All of these things, if actually implemented, might sound like decent reforms.

But as fellow C4SS writer Thomas L. Knapp wrote back in December of 2014, when it comes to body cameras and the like, “Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. … Cops need to be on cameras they don’t control.”

Why would we want the police to regulate themselves on how well they’re doing? A recent example of Chicago police officers tampering with their dash cams is just the tip of the iceberg. Somehow police often “mysteriously” can’t find evidence against themselves. It seems unlikely that it’d be any different in Ferguson.

Likewise, though there’d be more thorough training of the police, who would it be by? Other police? That’s likely the end result of this supposed “thorough” training that may teach “tolerance” for the disabled and marginalized. But acceptance is a lot more meaningful than tolerance, and how can we expect either to be taught to the police in any case?

They operate in an institution founded on “I was just taking orders” as a legitimate defense to wrong-doing. They operate in an institution that, if it really only had “a few bad apples”, would’ve done something more drastic than putting murdering cops on paid vacations. They operate in an institution that lacks any sort of communal competition in many areas, giving them de facto monopoly provision of defense. This monopoly leads not only to a lack of accountability but also violence on the part of the police.

Lastly, it seems unlikely that the city would, for some reason, stop imprisoning less fortunate citizens. If they’re able to make money off of these prisoners, why would they stop it? It seems akin to asking cops to stop profiting from traffic stops.

It’s a nice gesture to let the public “look” at the document before it’s actually passed.

But that’s all it is, a gesture.

Real change won’t come from the fox guarding the hen house. Real change will come from communities coming together and modeling their efforts less on busy-body neighborhood watches and more like the Black Panthers.

Further, community involvement shouldn’t aid prisons and punishment but rather should entice restitution and resolve.

To do that, my advice is simple: Abolish the police!