Friday, September 28, 2007

Prisoner Abuse in U.S. Prisons

The sadistic abuse and sexual humiliation by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison has shocked most Americans—but not those of us familiar with U.S. jails and prisons. In American prisons today, staff brutality and degrading treatment of inmates occur across the country with distressing frequency.

In recent years, U.S. prison inmates have been beaten with fists and batons, stomped on, kicked, shot, stunned with electronic devices, doused with chemical sprays, choked, and slammed face first onto concrete floors by the officers whose job it is to guard them. Inmates have ended up with broken jaws, smashed ribs, perforated eardrums, missing teeth, burn scars—not to mention psychological scars and emotional pain. Some have died.

Independent expert inspections yielding public findings are rare, and usually occur only after the situation has become so bad that inmates have filed a lawsuit.

Perhaps if photos or videotapes of abuse in U.S. prisons were to circulate publicly, Americans would protest such treatment as they have the treatment of Iraqi prisoners. Until that happens it is all too likely that abuse will continue to be a part of many prison sentences.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

trust should remain?

Read below or click the link above to read what the Sentinel had to say a couple days after they printed their article about the Federal lawsuit! Read the lawsuit below.

unless proven otherwise Questions are looming after an amended federal lawsuit alleging
prisoner abuse at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility was reported last week in The Sentinel. We hope that what results from the accusations is a thorough investigation, and that neither the corrections facility is discredited without merit nor is the complaint until such an investigation is conducted. The lawsuit initially was filed in 2006 and at the time named only one prisoner as plaintiff, Dustin Zimmerman, who accused three corrections officers of abuse. Two additional plaintiffs, Gary Searer and Justin Herb, have joined the suit, which seeks certification as a class action and the ability to include other prisoners who may have been subjected to the alleged abuse.

Again, these are hefty complaints being lodged against the corrections facility, its staff and the county. It is important to remember that anyone can make a claim about anything at any time.

{yeah just like the cops can accuse anyone of anything, but that never stops the reporters at the sentinel from publishing and posting young kids mug shots on the front of their paper and ruining their lives whether they are guilty or not}

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Restrained Mifflin prisoner Shocked

Restrained Mifflin prisoner unhurt, warden says - A Mifflin County Prison guard has been fired and is being investigated by state police for allegedly shocking a prisoner while the inmate was tied to a chair. Neither prison officials, state police, nor Mifflin County commissioners would release the name of the former prison guard. On Sept. 11, guards were trying to forcibly remove the inmate, Dustin Zimmerman, 19, of Lewistown, and his cell mate from their cell, said prison Warden Bernie Zook. The two were kicking at their cell door and the guards did not want them to damage the electric door locks.
"Once the inmate had been removed from the cell he was placed in a restraint chair," state police said in a statement Saturday. "At this point the inmate was allegedly shocked with an electronic body immobilizing device without apparent provocation."
Zimmerman was not injured, Zook said.
Known as an EBIT, the device has two probes that are placed against the victim's skin, and then the electric shock is administered.
"It covers a real small area," Zook said. "It's nothing near as severe as a TASER."
The TASER, which is also used by law enforcement, fires probes attached to wires, then sends an electric shock over the wires to the victim.
Zook said his staff heard about the incident the next day and suspended the guard without pay pending an investigation and disciplinary hearing.
After a hearing, county officials fired the guard Sept. 23.
"We train officers annually on the use of force," Zook said. "They know this is excessive force and unauthorized use of force."
Zook said the guard should have been familiar with use of force rules because he worked as a Juniata County Prison guard before coming to Mifflin County three years ago.
Mifflin County Commissioner Susan McCartney said she would not release the guard's name because of pending legal issues.
"If the state police aren't going to give it out, I'd rather not," McCartney said.
Zook said Zimmerman remains in the county prison in a restricted housing unit.

Prisoners claim abuse in lawsuit: Mifflin County Correctional Facility

The Article

LEWISTOWN — An amended federal lawsuit alleging prisoner abuse at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility was made available to The Sentinel on Wednesday.The lawsuit initially was filed in 2006 and at the time named only one prisoner as plaintiff, Dustin Zimmerman, who accused three corrections officers of abuse. Two additional plaintiffs, Gary Searer and Justin Herb, have joined the suit, which seeks certification as a class action.According to the amended complaint, Zimmerman, Searer and Herb allege they were “subjected to unlawful, cruel and inhumane treatment that caused substantial damages,” while incarcerated at the correctional facility.Under the four counts presented in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege they were subjected to excessive force and conditions of confinement that deprived them of their rights under the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. In addition, the plaintiffs allege they were inflicted with severe emotional distress and were intentionally assaulted and battered, and as a result, sustained physical and mental injuries.Among the allegations in the 16-page lawsuit are several the plaintiffs make against either one or more of the defendants named in the complaint, including:
≤ Unlawful use of pepper spray. A prisoner claimed being forbidden to wash off the pepper spray for 15 hours;
≤ Being pummeled with batons;
≤ Being subject to electric shock by Taser;
≤ Being subject to choke hold;
≤ Being deprived of the opportunity to use a rest room;
≤ Being deprived of padding or pillow for bedding and forced to sleep on a steel bed for approximately two months;
≤ Plaintiff(s) claim being tied to a steel bed frame with plastic zip ties with the hands bound above the head, for more than 50 hours;
≤ Plaintiff(s) claim being kept in a cell without light for approximately two months;
≤ Plaintiff(s) claim being denied shower facilities for 13 days; and
≤ Plaintiff(s) claim being strapped to a bed frame and struck in the groin area.The lawsuit names several corrections officers — Craig Schaefer, Ronald Bilger, Chuck Chambers, Kathy Weaver and Barry Kearns — as well as Warden Bernie Zook as directly responsible for the alleged abuse.One of the officers named in the original lawsuit, Brian E. Taylor, was criminally charged for shocking Zimmerman with a Taser, court documents indicate.“Taylor was later prosecuted and pleaded guilty to a charge of official oppression for shocking Zimmerman. Taylor was named in the original complaint in this action, but Zimmerman voluntarily dismissed him from the case after he agreed to cooperate and provide information about illegal practices at the facility,” court documents state. Attempts to contact prison officials for comment was unsuccessful. A representative of the correctional facility said employees were not permitted to comment on the case.“I’m not going to comment on a pending legal matter,” Zook said when approached at his office Wednesday.William T. O’Neil and Michael J. Cooke, who represent the prisoners, commented extensively on the case and said Zook was named in the lawsuit because he is responsible for “policy” at the correctional facility.“As warden of the facility, he is responsible for setting policies,” Cooke said.“Our goal is to have the prison be forced by the court to change the way it runs itself,” Cooke said.O’Neil and Cooke went on to say that Mifflin County as a governing body also is responsible for the alleged abuse and is named as a codefendant in the lawsuit.“The county has ultimate responsibility for how the inmates are treated ... we’re saying that the county has a practice that allows for excessive force ... (which) created an atmosphere that encourages this kind of abuse,” Cooke said.Several county officials were contacted for comment on the case, including, Mifflin County Commissioners Otis Riden and Raymond Snyder, Mifflin County Commissioners Chief Clerk Peggy Finkenbiner and Mifflin County Solicitor Patricia Gardner, none of whom would comment on the pending case.Mifflin County Commissioner Susan McCartney was out of town on Wednesday and a message left at her residence was not returned.Gardner did, however, say that “when the county is put on notice they put in a claim with the insurance carrier,” which then assigns an attorney to represent the county. In this case that is attorney David MacMain of the Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhoades law firm in Philadelphia.“I represent all the defendants in the suit,” MacMain said.“The prison officials acted appropriately ... we look forward to getting the case dismissed, or going to trial if necessary,” MacMain said.Going to trial is just what O’Neil and Cooke are looking forward to, they said.“We have a certain amount of hurdles we have to get over now,” O’Neil said, adding that the trial would most likely take place in June 2008.