Pennsylvania Prison Report

Author: 
Human Rights Coalition

Pittsburgh march honors wrongful death of pregnant prisoner

Thursday, November 25, marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Medical neglect and deprivation of basic reproductive health care for incarcerated women is a form of state violence against women affecting thousands every year in the United States.
 
On November 23, Pittsburgh human rights and womens' reproductive rights groups marched on the Allegheny County Jail to demand justice for a woman who died there earlier this year. Amy Gillespie, 27 years old, died in January, along with her unborn child, as a result of Allegheny County Jail's complete disregard for her worsening medical condition. Amy was locked away in December of 2009 for violating the terms of her work release. The violation: becoming pregnant!
 
While locked in the Allegheny County Jail on the charge of pregnancy, Amy developed pneumonia. By the end of the month, she was complaining of having trouble breathing and of discharge from her lungs. Her complaints went unacknowledged and she was denied diagnostic tests that would have shown that she had bacterial influenza. Instead, the jail treated her for viral influenza and by January 1, her condition became so bad that she was taken to an outside hospital where she died twelve days later. Amy's pregnancy spelled a death sentence for her and her child.
 
HRC's Pittsburgh chapter, Fed Up! sent out an action alert asking members to voice their outrage over Amy’s death through a letter to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette editor.
 
On November 23, New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, along with HRC-Fed Up!, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Women and Girls Foundation, the Birth Circle, and the Women’s Law Project, held a march to the Allegheny County Jail. The purpose of the march and rally was to address the reproductive justice and human rights issues within the Allegheny County Jail, seek institutional and cultural changes inside and outside of the facility, and to hold the jail accountable for its treatment of incarcerated women.
 
Solitary Confinement at SCI Muncy 

One of the many forms of violence against women that typically go unrecognized is solitary confinement. A woman recently released from the hole wrote HRC about her experience two weeks ago: "Solitary confinement should be abolished. Mental health inmates are placed there and forgotten. The isolation allows staff to abuse their power. Solitary confinement is not required for some of these petty, trumped up charges. Some of the officers take bets on who can write the most misconducts. It’s a game to them. Some inmates are just targeted. Not only are you in solitary but when you’re released it’s still not over. You can’t work, go to school or participate in any prescriptive programming for 60 days. You’re a level 4, you can’t be paroled, you must be misconduct free for 9 months before you can submit any paperwork to parole. The male officers enjoy watching you get undressed while they aren’t supposed to be looking.”

Medical Neglect at Green Rock Prison, Virginia

Multiple Pennsylvania prisoners transfered to Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, VA report that medical neglect may have contributed to the death of Howard Morrison in the early hours of Sunday, November 7. According to the reports Mr. Morrison, who had been transferred to Virginia from SCI Dallas, had repeatedly requested medical attention from staff on "B" block  after he began experiencing stomach problems and spitting up blood on November 6. His requests were ignored and he was told that he had to wait until the following Monday for treatment. He died later that night, around 1:30 am, in cell 226.

HRC censored by SCI Coal Township

An affidavit received by HRC/Fed Up! from a prisoner at SCI Coal Township reported that Dashaun Jamison's cell door was opened and he was attacked in retaliation for filing grievances about physical and racial abuse and other human rights deprivations. The affidavit stated that a guard ordered the officer in the control booth to open Jamison's door because he was "tired of this nigger shit." He was attacked by more than six guards. Several prisoner witnesses reportedly issued statements and filed complaints to Coal Township staff and DOC officials. Mr. Jamison was transferred to SCI Dallas almost immediately thereafter, where prisoners report that they have informed prison officials that they will protest any attacks or retaliation against Mr. Jamison.

Also at Coal Township, prison officials issued confiscation slips to multiple prisoners in the solitary confinement unit informing them that mail from the Human Rights Coalition had been confiscated. An investigation letter was sent to more than 20 prisoners in solitary confinement at SCI Coal Township in the beginning of October, seeking reports of human rights violations after escalating reports of severe maltreatment in the previous weeks.  The mail was rejected as "racially inflammatory." The only mention of race in the letter was a request for racial demographics of the prisoner population and staff in the solitary units.
 
Harassment and Neglect at SCI Dallas

A prisoner at SCI Dallas reported on November 30 that another man, Barry Stevens, has been targeted for harassment by staff and has been forced to go on at least one hunger strike due to being served food which he is allergic to. The report also states that Mr. Stevens is losing vision in his right eye and has been denied medical treatment by the prison. Other sources report that according to PA Department of Corrections policy, DOC allows prisoners to become blind if it's only in one eye, and will not operate to save vision in one eye if the other eye remains functional.
 
Announcements

Every Wednesday: Write On! Prison Letter Writing Night at the LAVA space at 4134 Lancaster, 6-9pm. Come help us stay connected with the many prisoners who write to us with news from inside, learn to document crimes committed by prison staff, and help bring an end to the abuse and torture of our brothers and sisters behind bars.
 
If you'd like to know more about the Human Rights Coalition or would like to get involved, call us at 215-921-3491, email info@hrcoalition.org, or visit our website at http://www.hrcoalition.org/