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Friday, December 20, 2013

Close enough for government work...


If you are familiar with my history from the blog posts here, then please excuse me for repeating myself. For those of you who do not know, the first place I was housed after being sentenced and being processed through Central Mississippi Correctional Facility was Unit 17 at Parchman, MS. To the best of my knowledge, this is where they still carry out executions of those condemned by the State to die. After Unit 17, I was later housed for years with the death row prisoners at Unit 32, when I was classified on High Risk status and was being moved at least once a week. I grew up around these guys, so death penalty issues are something I try to keep abreast of.

A recent Gallup poll showed that support for the death penalty is at its lowest point in 40 years - at 60%, down from a high of 80% in 1994. In 2011 the sole American manufacturer of the anaesthetic sodium thiopental announced it was ending production of the drug under pressure from the government in Italy, where its plant is based. (Love to Italy!) Despite struggling to maintain supplies, the 32 death-penalty states effectively ran out of the drug this fall. Other European manufacturers have refused to provide the drug because of a European Union statute prohibiting the export of any product that might be used in capital punishment, especially in light of evidence that lethal injections sometimes cause agonizing deaths.

Probably the most gruesome instance of lethal injection gone wrong occurred in Florida in 2006, when the state tried to execute Angel Diaz, who'd been sentenced to death two decades earlier. The 3-drug cocktail used to kill Diaz was supposed to take around three to five minutes to render him unconscious and motionless. Instead, Diaz writhed on the gurney, grimaced, shuddered, gasped for air, and even tried to mouth words... for 24 minutes. A second dose of the drug meant to render him unconscious was administered. Ten more agonizing minutes elapsed before he died. Post-mortem examination revealed 12" long chemical burns on Diaz's arm. The IV needle had punctured Diaz's veins, so the injected chemicals went straight into his flesh, burning it and causing great pain. He was apparently conscious as he suffocated to death.

When an execution is carried out correctly via injection, the condemned is given a cocktail of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. Sodium thiopental is administered to induce unconsciousness. Once this has taken effect, pancuronium bromide is then added to halt respiration, and potassium chloride is given to stop the heart. The condemned- in theory- shouldn't be able to feel the effects of the last two drugs, which actually kill the individual. However, in practice the executioners are often inept and apathetic to any suffering experienced by the condemned.

Promoted by state medical examiner Jay Chapman as a humane alternative to traditional forms of execution such as the electric chair, Oklahoma became the first state to adopt lethal injection, in 1977. Injections were meant to transform executions into a less gruesome affair. To avoid any comparison with "putting down" animals with a single drug, Chapman suggested a three-drug cocktail, and it became a national standard. Affirmed in 2008 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the cocktail was determined not to violate the 8th Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Unable to obtain the anesthetic sodium thiopental, states with the death penalty are improvising. Some are using a single dose of the anesthetic pentobarbital to excute prisoners, usually bought from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies. William Happ was executed in October by Florida, using a new three-drug combo that replaced sodium thiopental with the sedative midazolam. Midazolam causes memory loss and relaxation, but not necessarily unconsciousness. Happ took 14 minutes to die -twice what executioners planned- while his head shook throughout, and his eyes remained open until the 10th minute. The Texas DOCJ, which has carried out 37% of all U.S. executions since the death penalty was reinstituted in 1976, has gone so far as to allegedly submit a falsified prescription to Pharmacy Innovations, for patient "James Jones"...actually the warden of the Huntsville Unit, which houses the execution chamber. Some states have gone so far as to buy lethal injection drugs with petty cash or individual employees' credit cards.

Expect more claims of lethal injection being cruel and unusual in violation of the 8th Amendment. In the meantime, what will the courts -and the public- allow the DOCs to do in the name of "justice"? If you are a voter, your voice counts. Contact your representatives, let your opinion be known, speak up. Silence amounts to consent in these matters.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New services (coming soon)


One thing I have wanted to do with the blogs since their inception is to vet products and services for those of you who have friends and loved ones in the DOC system. Next year will be my 16th consecutive year as a prisoner of MDOC, so I have an idea of what guys want and what they might need to help them do their time more easily.

I would like to see your feedback on this particular topic. We are thinking about starting out by doing book reviews with links to purchase a copy of the book that meets the requirements of prison mailrooms (paperback, not spiral-bound, no CD inclusions, etc.). So many folks are overwhelmed by trying to do something for their incarcerated loved one because of the numerous and often arbitrary restrictions that they don't even know where to begin. I hope that we can make the process a bit easier.

Once we see how this works out, we will consider adding other services. Keep in mind that these blogs are maintained for me by my loved ones who volunteer their time and energy. They have gone through -and are still going through- what you are going through right now. You aren't alone in all this. There are people who understand and who care. I want to see these blogs spark a community of those affected by the prison industrial complex, who support one another.

A quick reminder... Holidays are one of the most difficult times for prisoners and those who love them. Try to make allowances because it's a stressful period for almost everyone. Love and light to you all.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Update on Wilkinson County Correctional Facility


Thanksgiving Day is on my mind as I write this. What are you thankful for? We shouldn't need a special day to think about what we have to be thankful for, but it isn't a bad thing. I am thankful for my loved ones. I'm thankful that the atmosphere here at the facility seems to be improving in certain respects and only isolated incidents have occurred. I am thankful that Warden Shaw seems genuinely concerned seeing the prison run as it should.

One thing that has changed is the facility's name. This is no longer Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, but is now known as  Wilkinson County Correctional Center (WCCC). There are 22 pods where prisoners are housed, and 16 of them are "general population" and are no longer locked down (not including the two pods where prisoners are housed on protective custody status). There are only 4 pods where prisoners are housed on long-term segregation status, and one of those is an "incentive program" where prisoners classified on high risk or security threat group status are allowed to earn their way back into general prison population. There are two halls at WCCC- the West and South halls. So far, the general population pods on the South hall have not been allowed to go to the dining hall to eat, but are served trays off a cart on their respective pods. All the pods on the West hall must go to the dining hall if they want to eat.

Education programming is in the initial stages of being established. 

There are 3 levels to the GED program:
 - Basic level 1, taught by Mrs. Ware
 - Basic level 2, taught by Mrs. Scott (whom I tutor for)
 - Pre-GED, taught by Mrs. Alexander

Two vocational programs will be offered, in which prisoners can earn certification:
 - Painting
 - Facility maintenance

Alcohol & Drug programs are offered in two course lengths:
 - the short program last 8 weeks
 - the longer program lasts 6 months
 
Religious programs will soon be held as Chaplain Barnes settles into his role here at WCCC. This is what I'm looking forward to.
 
Recreation opportunities include:
 - basketball tournaments
 - table tennis
 - a bodyweight workout station donated by the police academy
 - chess
 - checkers
 - dominoes
 
Some in-cell programming is made available through the Case Managers in the form of interactive journaling. Also, an evidence based program called Moral Reconation Therapy is in the works, and focuses on cognitive behavioral treatment. Pre-release for prisoners with 6 months or less left to serve on their sentence will soon be available.

As things progress I will do my best to keep you updated. Thank you all for your patience with me and my lack of new posts as of late. I hope to remedy that. Thank you for caring and for all your feedback, suggestions and support.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to send money to a MS inmate from abroad


A bit of explanation. The current admin of this blog does not live in the USA but in Poland. And while I was reviewing old posts to check whether the information we had provided was still accurate, it came to my attention that the website Mississippi Department of Corrections advises to use when sending money to inmates, www.inmatedeposits.com, cannot be accessed from abroad. I got a huge 403 error message: 

Forbidden
You don't have permission to access / on this server.

The same problem occurs when I tried an alternative website www.accesscorrections.com

I managed to obtain their email address and this is the response I received:

Quote:  

Dear Marta,

We apologize for the inconvenience, but due to the amount of chargeback and unpaid credit card transactions we were receiving, we have terminated the ability of a credit card order to be placed that has a non US address as its billing address.  This includes all credit card orders whether placed via our website, phone or mail process.
We will however process mailed in orders that are accompanied by cashier checks or money orders payable in United States dollars.  Cashier checks may be obtained at most banks.  Money orders obtained from foreign post offices are acceptable.
We are working on establishing Pay Pal as an acceptable method for non US based transactions, but that process has not been completed at this time.
Thank you for choosing Access Corrections!  We appreciate your business.

Customer Service

Access Corrections Customer Service

1-866-345-1884, www.accesscorrections.com

Unquote 
 
 
As much as I can understand their "No foreign credit cards" policy, it is strange, least to say, to ban all foreigners from visiting their website. I have written to them again and will let you know as soon as/ if they respond

Anyone has ever experienced similar problems? Please share your stories in the comments section

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Holiday Package Program


It's that time of year again, folks. That's right -holiday packages! There are few things we have that we look forward to in prison. Visits, mail, commissary...and holiday packages. If you're wanting to do something for your friend or loved one in the Mississippi DOC, read on and we'll try to guide you in the right direction.

There are 3 ways to place an order.
1) ONLINE at: www.mississippipackages.com
(Ordering begins October 21, 2013 and ends December 2, 2013.)

2) MAIL by sending to:
Access Securepak (MS)
10880 Lin Page Place
St. Louis, MO 63132
(Orders sent via mail must be postmarked no later than November 25, 2013.)

3) PHONE by calling: 1-800-546-6283
(Ordering ends December 2, 2013)

There is a $100.00 maximum limit per prisoner. Multiple orders for the same prisoner will be combined into one package, not to exceed the $100 limit.  Access Securepak is applying a 7% sales tax to all products for the State, as required. Orders will be accepted when accompanied by institutional check, cashier's check, money order, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, or Discover). They also accept debit cards, prepaid credit cards, or cash advance cards. When paying by card, be sure to include the card number, expiration date, card member's name, phone number, and address. My advice on this matter is that you check and see if your friend or loved one is in Access Securepak's system. If they don't show up, then don't use a credit or debit card. Instead, use a cashier's check or money order to pay for the package. There have been some problems with the system, and when you aren't able to order a package for your friend or loved one via credit/debit card, you can still order one with a money order or cashier's check -NOT a personal check. There is also a $3.95 processing fee for all orders.

If you have any questions or want to track the status of your order 24 hours a day, call 1-800-546-6283.
Customer service hours are 7:30 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. CST, Monday - Friday and 10:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. CST, Saturday.  If you have any questions or concerns, you can also call Trish Jolly at the Pearl, MS office at 1-877-420-1576 or 601-420-4100.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Prison glossary - State issue

 
State issue: A term used loosely by prisoners and staff to refer to anything the prison is required by policy to provide a prisoner. Some items -such as toilet tissue, soap, toothpaste, and razor- are passed out on a weekly or biweekly basis. Other items -like clothes, bed sheets, towels- are issued only once every 6 months or yearly (if that, depending on where the prisoner is housed).

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

CCA... MTC... Different Name, Same Thing


I was recently informed to be careful as to what I write for my loved ones to post here on my blogs, that people could view it negatively. I will continue writing for these blogs, and I will continue to express my views. If someone thinks it's a crime for me to speak my mind, please feel free to immigrate to China. I do not express hatred or negativity on my blogs because I don't harbor these things in my heart. If I express myself bluntly and you don't like it, that is fine and it's your right to disagree. It works both ways, however.

That being said, I want to update you about what has been happening at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility since MTC began running of operations at the prison. In many instances MTC has the same staff doing the same things they did under the previous administration. The supervision of the kitchen is the same, as is the food with only a couple of menu item changes. The laundry runs five days per week, instead of only two or three days per week. The clinic is backlogged by about 300 sick call requests, and the staffing isn't what they need right now to catch up, nor do they have the necessary supplies. The same staff is still operating the mailroom (I found my evil midget clown pictures, too). No staff has been assigned to organize things in the Visitation Department yet, and though C-custody isn't being allowed visitation right now, A-custody and B-custody are. We were supposed to have a Chaplain at the beginning of August, but that hasn't happened yet. And until the lockdown ends we probably won't see any religious services or educational programs being made available.

The administration has let a few pods off lockdown status, so far: Lima, Mike, November, Sierra, and Tango, from what the staff is saying. More will come up soon. What worries me is that MTC does not really have an emergency response team to deal with any situations such as the violence that happened in April. The same prisoners that fought each other then are still housed around one another for the most part. I know that whatever is going to happen is going to happen- if anything at all. I just pray for all our sakes that we don't have a repeat of April.

We have not received any kind of orientation material since MTC assumed the contract here at WCCF. From what I gather, these are some of the current administrators:
Warden - Mr. Shaw
Assistant Warden - Ms. Tyra Jackson
Chief of Security - Mr. Gabriel Walker
Investigator - Mr. Gaines

I am hoping, as I have many times before, that the situation will continue to improve. I'll do my best to help the process, if possible. I would really like to see some positive things happening in the near future.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Prison Glossary- Mailroom

Mailroom is where all incoming and outgoing mail is processed. Usually the mailroom is staffed by two or three people whose sole job is processing the mail, which can be a task. Depending on the facility, incoming packages are fluoroscoped like at an airport. Letters to prisoners are opened and checked for contraband or suspicious material relating to criminal activity. Unless the prisoner is on some form of censorship because of a criminal investigation, incoming and outgoing regular mail is not scrutinized or logged. Incoming legal mail is not opened outside of the prisoner's presence and must be signed for and logged in. Also, some books and magazines must be signed for and a log kept. With letters there is not a limit on how many a prisoner can receive or how long a letter can be here in the MDOC system. To be on the safe side, don't include anything with a letter until you have checked with the prisoner to see if they can receive it. Be sure to include your full name and address on outside of the envelope, plainly visible, and the prisoner's full name, DOC number and address. Don't put any stickers or things like that on the outside of the envelope unless you know it is okay. Some books and magazines are not allowed, so check before ordering. All books and magazines must come from a bookstore, publisher or vendor like Amazon.com. If it is about weapons, martial arts or tattoos, then the prisoner won't be allowed to receive it. Pornographic magazines depicting penetration are not allowed. The amount of books/magazines a prisoner can receive varies from facility to facility. Outgoing mail is not sealed before it is inspected for contraband and is not scrutinized and logged unless the prisoner is under investigation. Depending on the prisoner's housing, mail is either deposited in a designated place or is picked up by a C.O. when they make their rounds. Mail is passed out Monday through Friday, usually during the evening shift by the C.O. working the floor, but the policy for delivering books varies from facility to facility. Legal mail (mail to attorneys, judges, or public officials) must go through the law library, and that process is initiated by the prisoner by completing an Inmate Legal Assistance Program request form stating that the prisoner has legal mail to be posted.


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Latest Rulings in Mississippi Following Miller v. Alabama


There have been a couple of cases on appeal in Mississippi that have been decided by the Court of Appeals recently. The cases of Terry Hye, Jr. and Lester Lavon Parker, Jr. both are directly related to the interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama by the courts here in Mississippi.

Hye had appealed his conviction on the grounds of jury instructions that weren't made or were inaccurate, insufficient evidence, refusing an accomplice instruction, the trial court's statement to the jury panel, the indictment, and cumulative error. When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Miller, Hye's attorney filed a supplement to the appeal to include that Hye was now serving an illegal sentence. A prime example of Mississippi justice is that Darwin Wells, the actual trigger man in this case, was convicted of deliberate-design murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Hye was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole.

On May 28, 2013 the Mississippi Court of Appeals confirmed Hye's conviction because they found no reversible errors, but they did away with his sentence in the light of the Miller ruling. So now he has to go back to his trial court in Jackson County where the judge is to consider his "chronological age and its hallmark features" at the time of the crime, "family home and environment," "circumstances of the homicide offense," and "the possibility of rehabilitation" before resentencing Hye. Justice Carlton disagreed with the majority opinion, arguing that Miller should only apply to future cases and not be applied to cases that were ruled on before Miller.
 
Parker's case deals with a murder charge instead of capital murder, so it is a bit different than Hye's case. Parker appealed on grounds of abuse of discretion, conviction against the overwhelming weight of evidence, and illegal sentence. Parker's conviction was affirmed, but his sentence was vacated as illegal and he will have to return to his trial court in Copiah County for resentencing. This is important because the Miller decision was specific in dealing with cases where a juvenile is sentenced mandatorily to life without the possibility of parole. The Court of Appeals justices determined that if Mississippi law is applied as it currently reads, Parker's sentence is tantamount to life without parole.

Technically someone sentenced to life imprisonment for homicide is eligible for conditional release at the age of 65 if they have served 15 years. However, this is closer to clemency, which the U.S. Supreme Court has held as a matter of law to be different from parole. Conditional release would not be determined by the sentencing authority, which would go against the Miller decision. The Court's opinion in Parker recognizes Miller and attempts to provide a "stopgap mechanism" to annul application of Section 47-7-3 (1)(h), should the trial court determine that the juvenile should be eligible for parole after Miller consideration. This is an unnecessary measure in my opinion. The State suggested that if it was determined that Miller applies, the juvenile "would be subject to the general provisions of the parole statute which permit parole eligibility after serving ten years." The Court remanded Parker's case for a hearing to determine whether he should be sentenced to "life imprisonment" or "life imprisonment with eligibility for parole notwithstanding the present provisions of Mississippi Code Section 47-7-3 (1)(h)."

Justice Kitchens agreed in part and disagreed in part with the majority ruling, but made a lot of sense in his seperate opinion. Justice Kitchens agrees that Parker's sentence was tantamount to life without parole and because he was 15 years old when the crime was committed, the mandatory sentence is "cruel and unusual" in light of Miller. Justice Kitchens disagreed that the Court was required to modify two statutory provisions so a juvenile convicted of murder will face the same sentencing options as a juvenile convicted of capital murder. The simplest remedy is to adopt the State's previously mentioned suggestion.

Retroactivity of Miller has only come up once and the Court of Appeals said that because Miller was decided after Parker's conviction, sentence, and notice of appeal, Parker's case was pending on direct review and Miller therefore applies. When the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision that results in a "new rule," that rule applies to all criminal cases still pending on direct review.

That is the update for now. As decisions are made, we will try to keep you notified and explain as best we can. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to leave them here on the blog. Any feedback is appreciated.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Prison Glossary - ILAP Request Forms


ILAP Request Forms- These are used by a MDOC prisoner to request services from the Inmate Legal Assistance Program (ILAP) through the law library of their respective facility. Services listed on the form are:

  • Packet on Post-Conviction Collateral Relief
  • 42 U.S.C.A. 1983 Form (civil litigation)
  • 28 U.S.C.A. 2254 Habeas Corpus Form
  • Conference because I cannot read or write.
  • Conference because I need clarification on a certain area of the law, or my case has advanced to a point where I cannot proceed alone.
  • I need emergency assistance in meeting a deadline
  • Copy of cited cases
  • Copy of statutes
  • Rules of court
  • Supplies- pen/paper
  • Copies
  • Mail services
  • Notary services
The prisoner must be listed as indigent to receive some of these services. In most instances the ILAP is operated as an "exact-cite paging system," meaning that the prisoner must know exactly what they need and how to request it specifically.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prison Glossary - Law library


Law library- This varies from facility to facility, and usually the space set aside for the law library is only minimally large enough to pass as such. The law library is part of a set of standards that statutory law outlines the prison must provide, such as access to courts and access to counsel. There will be a certain amount of legal research a prisoner must be able to do, and many facilities no longer keep actual legal tomes, relying instead solely on services online like Thompson WestLaw and Lexis-Nexis. Both of these are good, but the prisoner must know how to ask the law library staff for exactly what he/she wants. To request law library services, a prisoner completes an Inmate Legal Assistance Program (ILAP) request form and gives it to a CO or turns it in to the control tower. If the prisoner is in general population and the services they request require it, they will be called out to the law library on the scheduled day for their housing unit unless it is shown they must meet an emergency deadline. For prisoners in a lockdown setting, they must rely on what is termed as an "exact-cite paging system." Meaning, if they do not know exactly what they need and exactly how to request it on an ILAP Request Form, then they will not receive it.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Review of "By Hook or Crook" just published on The Writing on The Wall


Steven's friend, Chris Roy, has published two books now and Steven wanted to review them and let the public know about these books. The following is a link to Steven's review of "By Hook or Crook: the Criminal Ventures of Razor and Blondie", Chris' breakout novel. We hope you'll read the review and decide to give the book a try. Steven will be following up with a review of Chris Roy's second book, "Shocking Circumstances." 

The book can be purchased here.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Prison Glossary- Sick Call


Sick Call/ Sick Call Request: If a prisoner is having any kind of medical issue and needs medical attention, unless it is an emergency, the prisoner is required to fill out a Sick Call Request form. This form asks for the prisoner's name, DOC#, housing area, nature of the complaint, and if the prisoner agrees to a $6.00 co-pay fee, if they are not indigent. The Sick Call Request is given to a C.O., or either deposited into a designated box or turned in to the control tower. After the Sick Call Request is collected the next day, it is processed and -depending on the backlog- the prisoner is called out for Sick Call. In a general population setting, the prisoner is informed by the control tower that he is wanted at the clinic. He is given a slip of paper stating his destination and the time of departure from his housing unit, and is cleared to walk to the clinic. In a lockdown setting, the  prisoner must be escorted by at least one officer (sometimes two), after being restrained in waistchains and shackles.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Clinic

Clinic: This is the name of the medical department where a prisoner is taken when they have a medical issue. Unless it is an emergency, the prisoner must complete a Sick Call Request form and turn it in. When it is processed the prisoner will be called out for Sick Call, varying on the prisoner's housing situation. The clinic at WCCF is stocked with the equipment to do triage and handle all the basic medical issues, as well as X-ray films, dental work, optometry work, and tele-conference with a psychiatrist.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Dayroom

Dayroom- In a general population setting, the dayroom area is outside of the cells in a central area of the pod or zone. Often there are a couple of tables, and maybe a TV to watch or a microwave, but not much else.

Please also check this post with a description of a dayroom at WCCF.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Control tower

Control tower- These "towers" are inside the prison and are manned by a guard who observes two or three pods and controls the cell doors, cell lights, pod lights and pod access doors with an electronic control panel.

Please also check this post with a description of a control tower at WCCF.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Housing Unit/ Section

Housing Unit/Section- These are made up of groups of pods. For example, if C-pod, D-pod and E-pod are accessed from the hallway through the same "sally port" and observed by the same control tower, this would be considered Housing Unit/Section CDE.

Please also check this post with a description of a Housing Unit at WCCF.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Pod


Pod- This is a term used by private prisons mostly. A pod is made up of at least twenty-four cells and up to thirty-two cells, with a central dayroom area and a set of shower stalls all of which can be observed from a control tower. In state prisons, pods are often referred to alternately as zones.

Please also check this post with a description of a pod at WCCF.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Prison Glossary- General Population

General population- Prisoners in the general prison population are housed in that setting because they have been classified "open" C-custody or any of the less restrictive custodies (B- med. & min.; A- med. & min.). In this environment prisoners can be around those prisoners of the same custody status or those of less restricted status without being in restraints. Prisoners classified to "open" C-custody can be housed in the same cell as those of the same custody. B-custody and A-custody prisoners can be housed in the same cell, but not with C-custody.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Prison Glossary - Yard Call

Yard call- Respective of the housing of the prisoner, this refers to mandated recreation time. In general population where prisoners are housed two per cell, they are to be allowed out in a dayroom area or outside of the housing unit, in a gymnasium or on an actual yard on the prison grounds. A yard on the prison grounds sometimes has things like a volleyball net, maybe a basketball goal or two, a set of dip/pullup bars. In an open dorm setting, the prisons get a lot more leeway in providing yard call, especially with "open" C-custody. Closed C-custody (long term segregation) yard call is mandated at five hours per week, which is provided in recreation pens made of steel mesh and are approximately the size of the prisoner's cell. The prisoner is escorted to and from the recreation pens while wearing waistchains and shackles.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Prison Glossary- Mississippi Department of Corrections Hierarchy

The Department of Corrections (DOC) hierarchy can seem a bit confusing, but here are the basic positions, from top down:

Commissioner of MDOC- a politically appointed position, the Commissioner has the final say in the running of the Department and is its prime mouthpiece.
Deputy Commissioner- there are three of these positions: Institutions (DCI), Community Corrections (DCC) and Administration and Finance (DAF). They are a step down from the Commissioner and more involved in running the DOC, especially the DCI.
Superintendent- there are three State facilities (MSP, CMCF, SMCI) with one Superintendent each. They are responsible for the operation of their respective facility and answer to the DCI and the Commissioner.
Warden- appointed by the Superintendent, the Warden is responsible for their Area or Unit. They approve any in-house rules and such, but it is still basically a political position. Prisoners rarely speak or interact with a Warden.
Deputy Warden- usually one or two per Area or Unit, they are picked by the Warden and approved by the Superintendent. They are responsible for security plans and things like programs, and you see them more often than the Warden.
Assistant Warden- usually one or two per Area or Unit, they are picked by the Warden and approved by the Superintendent. More of the grunt work is delegated to them and they are seemingly on the same level as Majors and Captains.

The correctional officers are the ones that prisoners are in contact with every day and are the ones who truly have to implement any decisions that filter down from the top, and suffer any consequences that come from it. Their ranks from highest to lowest are:
  • Major- almost on the level of an administrative position, you don't see them often.
  • Captain- more visible than Majors, but seen only when they make their rounds.
  • Lieutenant- part of the staff you see daily, they are more hands-on.
  • Sargeant- usually work right along with your C.O.s, they are visible on a daily basis.
  • C.O.- technically every guard is a C.O., but the lowest ranks are referred to as C.O.s and are your grunt workers who get their hands dirty dealing with the prisoners.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Prison Glossary - RVR


RVR is an abbreviation that stands for Rule Violation Report. A RVR is a form that is filled out by a prison employee who has witnessed or has become aware that a prisoner has violated one of the MDOC rules. The employee, once aware that a violation has occured, must author the report and it must be issued to the prisoner within 24 hours. The RVR is to state the prisoner's name/DOC #/housing unit, date/time, rule alleged to have been violated, the circumstances and details, any witnesses the prisoner intends to call, who authored the report and who delivered it, and if the accused waves their right to a hearing. 


Categories of violations (with respective punishments):
Category A (Minor Violations) - for such as possession of any item or quantities not on the allowable items list, faking illness or injury, failure to abide by any institutional schedule or documented rules, or not following dress codes or grooming standards. Punishment ranges from a warning or reprimand, to loss of all privileges up to one month, excluding exercise periods.
Category B (Serious Violations) - for things such as improper or unauthorized use of state equipment or materials, refusing or failing to obey an order by staff, tattooing/piercing yourself or others, vulgar language, horseplay, gambling, stealing, possession of serious contraband (money, gang material, drug paraphernalia), giving or receiving anything of value to or from another. Punishment ranges from loss of all privileges for up to two months, disciplinary segregation up to 20 days for each offence, loss of up to 30 days earned time for each offence.
Category C (Major Violations) - has a shorter list of violations, but for a reason. Violations in this category are such as destroying state property valued at $100 or more, destroying or tampering with locking or security equipment, using mail to obtain things by fraud, escape, possession of major contraband (firearms, knife or sharpened instrument, tools, explosives/ammunition, illegal drugs, electronic devices or parts, stolen property valued at more than $100), assaultive action resulting in serious injury, murder, hostage taking, or inciting a riot. Punishment ranges from requirement of restitution, to custody review, disciplinary segregation, loss of all privileges up to two months, loss of all earned time and referral to the District Attorney if warranted.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Prison Glossary - Custody Status



Custody status is a status applied to a prisoner which determines how and where the prisoner is to be housed, what is to be made available and what restrictions will be placed on them.

Initial classification (Mississippi) 
When a prisoner is sentenced in Mississippi, they are transported to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Rankin County and turned over to MDOC, or picked up by bus from the county jail by MDOC. CMCF is where they are processed into the prison system and where they are initially classified.  There are custody statuses that the prisoner is classified into depending on how many points they score, determined by the Inmate Classification Score Sheet. 

List of custody statuses (from least restricted to most restricted):
A - minimum and medium out (0-4 points)
B - minimum and medium out (5-10 points)
C - open (11-18 points)
C - closed ((long term status) 18+ points)
Security Threat Group (special status)
High Risk Status (special status)
 
Classification Criteria:  
Classification criteria determine how many points a prisoner scores.
1) History of institutional violence (jail or prison, score most serious RVR within last 10 years)
2) Severity of current offence (score most serious offence if there are multiple convictions)
3) Severity of prior felony convictions (score most serious prior felony conviction within last 10 years)
4) Escape history (last 10 years)
5) Current age
6) Institutional disciplinary report (last 12 months)
7) Severity of most serious report
8) Performance in recommended work/treatment programs (during last 6 months)

Identification:
The prisoner's custody status is visibly identified by the pants they are issued to wear. 
A-custody wears pants with green and white horizontal stripes; 
B-custody wears pants with black and white horizontal stripes; 
open C-custody wears pants with red and white horizontal stripes; 
closed C-custody wears a yellow jumpsuit or yellow pants and shirt.
 



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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Demond Flowers - A Senseless and Preventable Death

At least three times prior to this I have started writing about how conditions at WCCF are improving, about how things are changing for the better and so on. As soon as I write it out though, something happens and we go back on lockdown. I don't know how to look at things positively right now, though. A young man lost his life on Saturday 4/20/2013 and these guys were happy about it. Completely pointless and senseless.

So here is the situation, unvarnished and without positive spin. I feel that those in administration knew something was going to happen and allowed it to take place. I will explain this in more detail in a later post. As it is, CCA's contract ends in June or July and they haven't expressed interest in making a bid to run WCCF again. The physical plant at WCCF is in serious disrepair. The roof leaks all over the facility, the HVAC and plumbing is in need of an overhaul, mildew has taken over but is ignored. CCA has no interest in investing any more money into this place and is just waiting for their contract to run out.

I have been incarcerated since 1998, and nowhere else in all the time I have been in prison have I seen a facility stay locked down as much or more than WCCF. Nowhere near as much. The only consistent thing is its inconsistency. Today we might be locked down. Tomorrow? We might be out for four hours in the morning. The next day? Maybe a couple hours after 1 P.M., and we might come back out if they can get the count right. Every day it is different.

Common sense tells you that in a situation such as prison it is important to set up some kind of schedule and maintain it. To do otherwise is to invite chaos. That is what it seems like they are trying to foster here- chaos. They have an education department and staff they cannot even utilize. They have a gymnasium they only use to stick us in during shakedowns. We haven't been out in the sunshine since May of last year. The majority are being punished for the actions of a minority. Why not lock down and punish those that are causing the problems? Hell, they locked me down for 10 years. I guess that was different though.

The days ahead are uncertain ones. They cannot let us back out together because they aren't even certain who all was involved. If they do let us out together, there will be more violence immediately. But where are they going to move those whom they are certain were involved and responsible for the previous violence? It's past that point and would amount to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. People need to be asking how it got to this point and why it was allowed to do so.

As for what happened during the fighting on 4/20... I have to write about it. There will be a separate post, but I am still trying to sort it out in my mind. It will be here for you to read in the near future, blood and gore and all. I'm not all about doom and gloom however, and hope to be able to give you some good news.

My thanks to all of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers. My condolences go out to the family of Demond Flowers.
You are all in our prayers.
 


 

About Steven

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
WCCC
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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