MELANET UnCut Chat and Discussion: MelaNet UnCut Talk: TRUE JUSTICE FOR THE BLACK MAN!
By DA BROTHA ( - on Thursday, September 6, 2001 - 02:57 pm:


By: Nanon Williams

When the Negro slave was African, he was independent - the tradesman, artisan, builder, agriculturist, doctor, teacher, etc. As a matter of fact the slaves were the brains and manpower in the beginning stages of American industrial development.

From the very beginning of our American history the African-Americans have never claimed to be a superior race, nor has ever tyrannized it’s fellow Americans, yet everything connected with the color black, no matter whether it was race, religion, or culture was labeled base, backwards and uncivilized. A cardinal example is the definition of the word "black" in the Webster’s Dictionary of the English language:

"Black - lacking hue and brightness; opposite to white. Enveloped in darkness. Of our belonging to any of the dark-skinned peoples of Africa, Oceania, and Australia. Soiled or stained. Gloomy; dismal. Sullen or hostile. Evil or wicked. A member of various dark-skinned peoples of Africa."

Whereas, everything associated with white was glorified, as exemplified in this definition:

"White - of the color of pure snow. Light in color: pale. Marked by little skin pigmentation. For, limited to, or predominately consisting of Caucasians. Morally pure; innocent. A color without hue that is opposite of black. A person of Caucasian racial heritage.

This particular dictionary is usually found in institutions, homemakers, and America’s lawmakers. The definition of the word “black”, given by white lawmakers and many English language authorities, is exactly the manner in which the white race perceives the African-American race.

African-Americans have been the scrape goats of White Americans for centuries. After reading Ralph Ginzburg’s "100 Years of Lynchings," feelings of white Americans was that of sympathy, for they know not what they have done, nor have they seemed to have cared. The news articles speak for themselves and as an African-American, I feel it must be read. For the typical American response has been that to “forget,” rather than let white Americans be confronted with the words they use to describe a “black man”. Only to truly describe themselves unconsciously.

April 30, 1914


Marshall, Tex., Apr. 29 - Because he is alleged to have hugged and kissed a white girl, daughter of former Charles Fisher, a Negro youth was recently badly mutilated by a mob near here. According to Sheriff Sanders and County Health Officer Taylor, the mob sheared off the youths ears, slit his lips and mutilated him other ways below the belt.


April30, 1914


CLOVIS, N. M, Apr. 27- The brother of the young colored girl who was lynched by a mob of white ruffians near Wagner, Okla., a few weeks ago, passed through this way on his way to Mexico. He gave pathetic account of lynching to colored citizens here.

The young man's sister was but 17 years old and of respectable parents. Two half-drunken white men walked into their home during the absence of the mother and found the girl dressing, locked themselves into her room and criminally assaulted her. Her screams for help were heard by her brother, who kicking down the door, went to her rescue. In defending his sister, he shot one of the brutes. The other escaped.

Later the evening the local authorities, failing to find the brother, arrested the sister, who was taking by a mob at 4 o’clock in the morning and lynched. From his hiding place the brother, who is 21 years old, could hear his sisters cry for help, but he was powerless to aid her.


January 3, 1916


HARTWELL, Ga., Jan. 2 - Two Negroes were lynched and a Negro woman was badly beaten as the result of a remark to a white girl in Anderson County, South Carolina, according to reports received here tonight.

The three Negroes were riding in a buggy when they passed the girl. One of the men made a remark to the white girl, at which she took offense. She reported the encounter to a group of white men who quickly caught up with the blacks, lynched the men, beat the woman and ordered her out of the state.

Reports concerning the nature of the allegedly insulting remark are conflicting. Officials of Georgia County say that one of the Negro men yelled out, “Hello, Sweetheart.” The Negro woman asserts that all they said was "Hello."

By more! ( - on Thursday, September 6, 2001 - 03:00 pm:


December 29, 1934


The State of Maryland, as late of 1856, enacted a law that provided that a Negro convicted of murder should have his right arm cut off his head severed, his body divided into four parts and that his head and quarters should be set up in the most public place near where the crime was committed!


October 27, 1934


MARIANNA, Fla., Oct. 27 - The body of Claude Neal, 23, Negro, confessed attacker and slayer of white girl, swung from a tree on the courthouse lawn here today, victim of an enraged mob ‘s vengeance.

A crowd of 100 men, women and children silently gazed at the body, nude except for a sack reaching from the waist to knee. The Negro had been shot at least 50 times, burned with red hot irons, and dragged through the streets behind an automobile.

An eye-witness to the lynching, which took place yesterday, said that Neal had been forced to mutilate himself before he died. The eye-witness gave the following account of the event which took place in a swamp beside the Chattanoochee River:

"Due to the large number ofpeople who wanted to lynch the nigger, it was decided to do away with him first and then bring him to the Cannidy house dead."

"First they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it."

"Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from toe to bottom. From time to time during the torture a rope would be tired around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death, when he would be let down and the torture would begin all over again. After several hours of this punishment, they decided just to kill him."

"Neals body was tied to a rope on the rear of an automobile and dragged over to the highway to the Cannidy home. Here a mob estimated to number somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000 people from eleven southern states was excitedly awaiting his arrival. When the car that was dragging Neal‘s body came in front of the Cannidy home, a man that was idling the rear bumper cut the rope.

"A woman came out of the Cannidy house and drove a butcher knife into his heart. Then the crowd came by and some kicked him and some drove their cars over him."

What remained of the body was brought by the mob to Marianna where it is now hanging from a tree on the northeast corner of the courthouse square.

Photographers say they will soon have pictures of the body for 50 cents each. Fingers and toes from Neal‘s body are freely exhibited on the street-corners here.

Neal is said to have confessed to attacking and killing the white girl when he was first brought to jail for safe keeping.

By NIGGERS IN PRISON GETTING WHAT THEY DESERVE! 1 IN 8 NIGGERS IS IN PRISON NOW!!!!!!!!!! ( - on Friday, September 7, 2001 - 08:22 pm:


The treatment of inmates at Red Onion State Prison, Virginia’s first super-maximum security facility, raises serious human rights concerns.1 The Virginia Department of Corrections is responsible for safely and humanely confining all its inmates, even those deemed to be violent, disruptive or to pose other security risks. Like many corrections departments across the country, Virginia’s has endorsed the confinement of purportedly dangerous inmates in extremely restrictive, highly controlled facilities. Absent thoughtful leadership and careful policies, the potential for human rights abuses at such “supermax” facilities is great. At Red Onion, unfortunately, the Virginia Department of Corrections has failed to embrace basic tenets of sound correctional practice and laws protecting inmates from abusive, degrading or cruel treatment:

· The Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) is assigning to Red Onion men who are not the incorrigibly dangerous for whom super-maximum security confinement may be warranted. Inmates who pose no extreme security or safety risk are subjected to unnecessarily restrictive controls and are arbitrarily deprived of the activities and freedoms available ordinarily even in maximum security prisons. In a blatant effort to fill large super-maximum security facilities whose capacity exceeds the state’s needs, officials are apparently planning to dilute even further the criteria for admission to Red Onion and its newly-opened twin, Wallens Ridge State Prison.

· Prison staff use force unnecessarily, excessively, and dangerously. Inmates are fired at with shotguns and have been injured for minor misconduct, non-threatening errors, or just behavior that guards have misinterpreted. These inmate actions should—and in most other prisons would—be handled by staff without weapons. Although physical force is never justifiable as punishment, inmates at Red Onion report staff’s punitive use of electric shock stun devices.

· Conditions at the facility are unnecessarily harsh and degrading. General population inmates are confined in their cells more than twenty hours a day. In segregation, inmates are isolated twenty-three hours a day. All are subjected to remarkable levels of control and forced to live in oppressive and counterproductive idleness, denied educational, behavioral, vocational and work programs and religious services. These conditions exceed reasonable security precautions for inmates who have not engaged in chronically violent or dangerous behavior behind bars.

· Correctional officers and other prison staff threaten inmates with abuse and subject them to racist remarks, derogatory language and other demeaning and harassing conduct. Facility administrators and supervisory staff appear to condone such unprofessional conduct.

It is politically fashionable in many places to disregard mistreatment of inmates and to assume criminals by their conduct have forfeited all claim to public concern. Human Rights Watch (HRW) believes the public—and officials who are its servants—should not tolerate abusive treatment of prisoners solely because they have committed crimes against others. As one inmate at Red Onion wrote to HRW, “I don’t pretend that prisoners are saints. Most can be real idiots, but their idiocy doesn’t justify abuse, physical or mental.”2 We agree. Inmates must be treated withrespect for their dignity as human beings and for their fundamental rights, whatever their crimes. Sound correctional practice mandates such treatment, as it is essential to safe, orderly and humane prisons. But it is also required by international human rights treaties signed by the United States and binding on state as well as federal officials.

Even if it is politically difficult, state officials and elected representatives have a duty not to condone abusive prison conditions. The concerns raised about Red Onion warrant careful investigation and full disclosure. The public should be fully informed about policies and practices at Red Onion—as at any prison—and should be able to subject them to critique and debate. Unfortunately, the DOC uses the walls of Red Onion to keep the public out, as well as prisoners in. It routinely denies the press access to facility staff and provides scant information about practices and policies there.

In March it denied Human Rights Watch permission to tour Red Onion and to interview staff. The DOC claimed that security considerations precluded it from granting Human Rights Watch access to Red Onion. Security, however, has not prevented other state and the federal corrections departments from permitting Human Rights Watch access to their super-maximum security facilities. When pressed to justify his refusal, Director of Corrections Ronald Angelone simply asserted to Human Rights Watch in a telephone conversation that permitting us to tour Red Onion was not in the state’s “best interest.” He insisted that since Red Onion was operated consistent with state and federal law, there was no need for scrutiny by an independent human rights organization. The secretary of public safety, who has authority over the DOC, never responded to our letter of February 22, 1999 requesting reconsideration of Angelone’s decision.

We believe Mr. Angelone interprets the state’s interests too narrowly. As detailed below, there are many aspects of the facility that warrant public concern. Moreover, openness to scrutiny, information-sharing and engaging in informed, constructive discussions about policies and procedures are indispensable to continual improvement of operations in corrections as in any other public endeavor. The unwillingness to let Human Rights Watch tour Red Onion, coupled with the DOC’s notorious reluctance to give the press access to the facility and its inmates,3 suggests the DOC is uncomfortable in letting the public acquire a fuller picture of operations there.

This report reflects our attempt to give the public some of that fuller picture about certain aspects of conditions at Red Onion. Our description is based on communication with inmates and their families, information from the DOC and from press accounts and other public sources. Unfortunately, it is incomplete and despite our best efforts may fail to reflect all conditions accurately, because the DOC has prevented us from directly observing the facility and has also refused to provide some of the information we requested.4

1 Human Rights Watch has reported on prison conditions and assessed the extent to which prisoners’ internationally guaranteed human rights are protected in numerous countries including Brazil, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Japan, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, the former Soviet Union, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela, among others.
2 Throughout this report, we include information and quotes from the more than thirty inmates whom we have interviewed or from whom we have received written communications. To protect their privacy and to prevent the possibility ofreprisals, we do not attribute information to specific inmates, nor do we identify any of our sources by name. We also do not include the names of individual officers identified by inmates as having engaged in abusive conduct. The purpose of our research into conditions at Red Onion has not been to “name names” or to document in detail individual instances of alleged misconduct by staff but to alert the DOC of the need to take more seriously its obligations to ensure humane conditions through appropriate policies, staff supervision, and internal disciplinary investigations and procedures.

3 There was widespread media attention in Virginia to the DOC’s refusing Human Rights Watch access to Red Onion. Shortly thereafter, the DOC granted a reporter from The Washington Post the opportunity to interview the warden and speak with some inmates there.

By MORE ( - on Friday, September 7, 2001 - 08:24 pm:

In the mid-1990s, as part of a massive prison building effort launched by then-Governor George Allen, the DOC decided to construct two 1,200-bed facilities to house the state’s most dangerous criminals, inmates who require extraordinary security measures. The first of the two identical super-maximum security facilities to come on line, Red Onion State Prison, located in remote Wise County, began accepting inmates in August 1998 and currently holds approximately 1,000.5 Ceremonies to inaugurate its twin, Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap, were held on April 9, 1999. Both facilities are Level 6, the most secure in the DOC’s prison system. Little information was ever provided to the public to substantiate the projected existence of 2,400 chronically dangerous inmates in Virginia. The idea of supermax prisons was appealing—or at least tacitly unquestioned—in a “tough on crime” political climate in which parole was abolished and sentences lengthened.

In constructing Red Onion and Wallens Ridge, Virginia participated in a national trend. Across the country, corrections departments have chosen to create special super-maximum security facilities for the confinement of dangerous or disruptive prisoners.

Traditional prisons have had cells or units in which inmates who were repeat or very serious violators of critical institutional rules could be isolated and segregated from the general population. An inmate might besegregated either as punishment following a disciplinary hearing (disciplinary segregation, in Virginia called isolation) or segregated administratively as a management measure for an indefinite period until authorities believed he could be safely returned to general population (administrative segregation). Although administrative segregation ostensibly is not a punitive measure, conditions have been almost invariably as harsh and restrictive as in disciplinary segregation.

Nowadays, segregation of inmates who engage in assaultive, dangerous, disruptive or escape-related or predatory behavior behind bars increasingly takes place in super-maximum security facilities, of which there are thirty-six in the U.S., including two in Virginia. Assignment to these uniquely restrictive facilities is ordinarily not based on the inmate’s underlying offense but on his conduct behind bars. Although conditions and policies vary somewhat from facility to facility, their common characteristics are extreme social isolation, reduced environmental stimulation, scant recreational, vocational, or educational opportunities and extraordinary levels of surveillance and control.

Proliferation of these “supermax” prisons reflects in part the belief of some corrections professionals that they are necessary to prevent serious misconduct by the “worst of the worst” in their inmate population and that concentrating dangerous inmates away from the rest of the prison population makes it possible to provide safer, more secure facilities elsewhere.

But supermax prisons also play a symbolic role. Their highly restrictive nature is appealing in a conservative climate in which retribution is the principal response to crime. Unfortunately, this attitude can make it easy to uncritically embrace harsh conditions and policies that are in fact not justified by legitimate security needs or other penological purposes. It encourages or condones supermax placement of inmates who do not in fact require such restrictive controls for their proper management. It also can promote an indifference or blind eye to abusive conduct and a failure to adequately supervise staff and hold them accountable for abuse.

There is considerable debate even within the corrections profession over the cost, cost-benefit, operating and ethical/moral issues raised by super-maximum security confinement. The constitutionality of supermax isolation and other extreme restrictions remains unclear.6 Super-maximum security confinement also raises important human rights questions.7 Governments must respect the inherent dignity and basic rights of all people, including inmates. The United States has ratified international human rights treaties that are binding on state as well as federal officials. These treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture (CAT), prohibit the abuse of prisoners, including treatment that constitutes torture or is cruel, inhuman or degrading. Additional international documents, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Standard Minimum Rules), provide authoritative guidance on how governments may comply with their human rights obligations with regard to prisoners. While super-maximum security confinement does not automatically violate protected human rights, it can if conditions are unnecessarily harsh, if prisoners are unnecessarily subjected to them, or if periods of solitary confinement are unduly long. Deprivations that are disproportionate to reasonable correctional goals are inconsistent with the fundamental touchstone of all human rights—respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings. Physical abuse—e.g. corporal punishment in the form of beatings or unjustified violence—is prohibited in a supermax as in any prison.

By MORE ( - on Friday, September 7, 2001 - 08:25 pm:

Red Onion houses inmates in both “general population” and segregation.8 Regardless of which category an inmate is in, he spends most of the day in a small cell: general population inmates spend about 140 out of 168 hours in a week confined to their cells; segregation inmates spend 162½ hours so confined. Inmates in general population are held two to a cell.9 In segregation they are single-celled.

The cells at Red Onion contain steel slabs with a thin mattress for a bed; a steel desk and shelf and a toilet/sink combination. They have solid metal doors with tray slots for passing food and handcuffing inmates and a piece of glass for viewing. The cells are configured so that inmates cannot see each other from their cells. Communication of sorts is possible by yelling. Each cell has a single narrow window that cannot be opened but which allows some natural light to enter. Windows facing the parking lots of the facility have been treated so inmates cannot see out. Inmates cannot regulate the lights in their cells. The lights shine sixteen hours a day. At night, they are reduced to a dim glow that is, according to inmates, bright enough to read by. The two inmates in each cell in general population share one electrical outlet.

Guards armed with shotguns are stationed inside the perimeter of the prison. There are gunports overlooking the recreation yard and in the housing units. Virginia’s use of firearms is atypical: most states rely “on higher numbers of staff as their primary means of physical control, supplemented by a variety of nonlethal weapons.”10

General Population

Conditions for general population inmates at Red Onion are remarkably harsh and restrictive, far more so than at maximum security facilities. Inmates are stringently limited in their movement, social interaction, access to programs and ability to make ordinary day-to-day choices. Certain aspects of Red Onion are, however, an improvement over supermax prisons elsewhere: inmates are allowed recreation in limited groups and also to eat together.

General population inmates are locked in the cramped cells twenty hours or more a day with another person. Double-celling exacerbates the strain of living in confinement most of the day and increases tension between inmates. Inmates find it difficult to spend most of their waking (and sleeping) hours in close quarters with a stranger.11 The lack of privacy is unrelenting. The men find it humiliating to use the toilet in the presence of another person.12 Double-celling is also inconsistent with the premise that inmates at Red Onion are so dangerous or violent that they cannot be safely confined elsewhere. If they are dangerous, how can it be safe to confine them in a small cell with another person? We do not know if DOC officials screen inmates placed in double cells to reduce the potential for conflict and violence.

Inmates in general population are allowed out of their cells, one housing “pod” at a time, to eat in the mess hall. They are also allowed outside their cells in limited groups for one hour of outside recreation in a bare yard with a basketball hoop and one hour of indoor recreation daily. There is little or no athletic or sports equipment. The recreation yard is supervised by officers armed with shotguns. Inmates are also allowed to leave their cells three times a week for ten-minute showers. The showers do not have curtains or doors; inmates are thus forced to involuntarily expose their genitals to female staff as well as other men when they shower.

Maintaining contact with families is extremely difficult for prisoners at Red Onion. They are allowed two fifteen-minute calls per month if the privilege has not been removed because of misconduct. Telephone calls must be collect and are expensive, posing a financial burden for the mostly low-income families of inmates. Prisoners are allowed four two-hour non-contact visits per month. The amount of visiting time is particularly meager given that most inmates at Red Onion come from areas that are hours away.13 Inmates and their families visit in a small cubicle with a solid glass partition between them; conversation is through an intercom phone. During visits inmates are in leg shackles and waist chain, with one hand free.

Personal property is extremely limited, and only small quantities of reading material are permitted in the cells. Publications are permitted only with prior approval and only if purchased from an inmate’s prison account. A family, for example, cannot give their son a subscription to Time magazine. Prison rejection of reading material is hard to fathom. One inmate has been denied Plowshares newsletter, a Catholic devotional booklet Living Faith, and an alternative newspaper, the New River Free Press. Incoming letters can be of any length, but there is a maximum of ten pages allowed for photocopied enclosures, which restricts an inmate’s ability to receive information and maintain contact with the outside world. 14

Inmates at Red Onion are denied the group and individual programs and activities available in most prisons, even though the DOC’s policies acknowledge the importance of programming at all facilities. According to Division of Institutions Operating Procedure (DOP) 832, programming at Red Onion should “promote inmates’ appropriate in-prison behaviors and coping skills and identify their inappropriate maladaptive behaviors. Programming may have the result of helping inmates develop positive, stable behavior records for eventual transition to a lower level facility.”15 The policy identifies appropriate programming to include anger management, substance abuse, wellness, behavior management, impulse control, and basic academic programming. Seven months after Red Onion opened, most inmates’ days are marked by forced idleness. The DOC told HRW in March that they were working on developing programs.

Currently, the only educational program available to inmates are GED (high school equivalency) courses over the television. There are no group religious services or activities. Religious programs are also, apparently, limited to some television tapes.16 There are no vocational or skill training programs. Indeed, the physical plant of the facility contains no space for classrooms or workshops. Job opportunities are few, e.g., kitchen duty, sweeping housing units, cleaning showers. After seven months, the library is not yet operating.

Red Onion may lack programs because Director of Corrections Ron Angelone is dismissive of rehabilitation: “What are they going to be rehabilitated for? To die gracefully in prison?”17 Such comments may please part of the political spectrum, but they ignore several realities. Many Red Onion inmates will not be dying in prison. According to the Washington Post, one in five are scheduled for release in the next ten years.18 Rehabilitation programs serve the DOC’s mission of promoting safe and orderly prisons. And, finally, rehabilitation is mandated by respect for the fundamental dignity of each inmate—whatever his crime. 19

By MORE ( - on Friday, September 7, 2001 - 08:27 pm:


Segregation is the modern form of solitary confinement; segregated inmates are almost completely deprived of the commonplace incidents and routines of prison life. In theory, administrative segregation is not a punitive measure. In practice, it can only be described as punishing. The more than 20020 segregated inmates at Red Onion live in conditions designed to impose long-term social isolation and restricted environmental stimulation. Their world is austere, cramped and claustrophobic. Security procedures imposed on all inmates in segregation exceed those reasonably necessary for safety; their real purpose may be simply to intimidate and degrade. Prisoners’ minimal physical requirements—food, shelter, clothing, warmth—are met, but little more. The facility offers nothing but bleak isolation to encourage or enable an inmate to return to general population or to enhance his ability to live peaceably once he has.

With minor exceptions, all of a segregated prisoner’s waking hours are circumscribed within the four walls of his cell. He is fed in his cell, the food brought on a tray that is pushed through the door slot. He is allowed to leave his cell to shower three times a week. And he is permitted one hour of out-of-cell recreation five days a week. All the recreation is outside, rain or shine. Inmates are not provided with (or allowed to use their own) gloves or hats in cold weather nor to come inside early if the weather turns bad while they are out. The recreation yard is surrounded by two-story-high concrete walls and covered with a chain link grate. In an important departure from the practice at many super-maximum security facilities, at Red Onion segregated inmates are allowed to spend recreation period together three at a time. This interrupts the otherwise unrelenting isolation. Inmates in segregation are also allowed to leave their cells for visits.

Every time an inmate in segregation leaves his cell he is subjected to extreme security measures. First he must strip, permit a visual search of his body (opening his mouth, lifting his genitals, bending over and spreading his buttocks), and hand his uniform out the food slot to be checked. After dressing, he backs up to the door, extends his hands through the cuff slot and is cuffed. Shackles are then placed on his legs, and a lead is attached. Two officers then escort the inmate to recreation, the shower or wherever he is being taken, one holding the lead and one holding an electronic stun device (an Ultron II) against the inmate’s body. The cuffs and shackles are removed for recreation and showers and then replaced to return the inmate to his cell. These extensive security measures are taken even forinmates with no records of violence and, apparently, will be utilized for however long an inmate is kept in segregation, regardless of his good conduct.21

Nurses employed by a private contractor make rounds in segregation every day, speaking with inmates through the cell doors to determine if medical attention is needed. A visit with a doctor cannot be scheduled unless the nurse decides it is necessary. If a doctor visit is scheduled, the doctor comes to the cell. After a routine search and restraints procedure on the inmate the doctor conducts the examination. At no time are the restraints removed, and the examination is conducted in the presence of guards, precluding any privacy.

The social isolation, the absence of stimulation, that segregated inmates at Red Onion experience is profound. For all but five hours a week they are cut off from all other inmates, unable to see anyone other than staff who bring them their food or provide escort service or the fleeting periodic visits of medical staff or other prison personnel. There are no programs or activities other than the GED course or religious tapes on television. Inmates who are literate can read— if they can obtain books (there is no functioning library yet at the facility). They can write letters. If they are able to afford it, they may purchase a 5" (no bigger) television—which can be taken away for misconduct—and a radio. Their visits are restricted to one visit per week for one hour.

In many super-maximum security facilities across the country, segregated inmates are able to acquire additional privileges and freedoms through periods of good behavior or by completing program requirements (e.g., anger management or substance abuse courses). No such system exists at Red Onion. Inmates who maintain perfectly clear conduct records at Red Onion are subject to the same harsh regime as those who continue to violate disciplinary rules.

Social isolation and confinement in a small space can be physically and mentally dangerous and destructive to the persons subjected to it, particularly if endured for protracted periods.22 Even persons who are mentally healthy can be damaged or incapacitated in segregation and can lose their ability to function in ordinary settings, to govern their behavior and make positive choices, and to interact with other people. Prolonged confinement in isolation can also provoke symptoms usually associated with psychosis or severe disorders— including perceptual distortions and hallucinations, delusional states, hypersensitivity to external stimuli, difficulties with thinking, and panic attacks. Such symptoms can be provoked in healthy personalities, but prisoners who enter segregation with preexisting psychiatric disorders are at even higher risk of suffering psychological deterioration and psychiatric harm. The periods of recreation with other inmates undoubtedly offset the harm somewhat, but to an unknown extent.

Mentally Ill Inmates

Mentally ill inmates should not be confined for prolonged periods in super-maximum security conditions, particularly those that exist in segregation at Red Onion. The conditions of isolation, enforced idleness, surveillanceand control pose serious risks of aggravating their symptoms and precipitating psychiatric decompensation.23 “Although some mentally ill offenders are assaultive and require control measures, much of the regime common to extended control facilities may be unnecessary, and even counterproductive, for this population,” according to the National Institute of Corrections.24

Inmates with serious mental illness are nonetheless sent to Red Onion and are housed both in general population and segregation.25 Due to the DOC’s non-cooperation we do not have reliable figures on the number of mentally ill inmates at the facility. One inmate told us that in his pod of twenty-two men, three were on psychotropic medication, and he thought at least two more acted in ways that, as a lay person, seemed to him to indicate mental health problems.

Proper mental health screening and monitoring are crucial for inmates sent to supermax confinement.26 It is our understanding, however, that no special mental health evaluations are undertaken for each inmate sent to Red Onion. Nor, apparently, is there monitoring that would permit the prompt identification of new or exacerbated mental health problems and timely intervention.

Treatment of mental illness at Red Onion consists primarily of psychotropic medications. Once a week a psychologist checks in on inmates receiving medication. Privacy and confidentiality are nonexistent: the conversation take place at the cell front, with guards and other inmates listening. The visits are generally fleeting, consisting of a question “How are you doing, any problems?”, and then the psychologist is on to the next cell. For inmates in segregation there is no therapy other than medication. Although placement in segregation is for an indefinite period and can last for years, mental health personnel have told inmates that because “this is a behavioral control unit, there is no mental health treatment here.”

By MORE ( - on Friday, September 7, 2001 - 08:31 pm:

Physical conditions and policies at Red Onion were ostensibly designed with “superpredators” in mind— violent, incorrigible inmates who cannot be safely confined in less secure facilities. Yet it appears that the DOC has diluted the concept of who requires assignment to Red Onion. The DOC is in fact willing to send men there who could and should be housed in less restrictive environments. Every indication is that this trend will accelerate now that the state is also trying to fill Wallens Ridge. Governor James Gilmore stated on April 9, 1999 that felons caught with guns who qualify for a five-year mandatory sentence would be eligible for incarceration in Red Onion or Wallens Ridge. Public officials in Virginia thus appear to be adjusting supermax housing criteria not to reflect genuine security and management needs but simply to fill what would otherwise be half empty—but very expensive—facilities.

A basic premise of contemporary corrections is that every prisoner should be housed in the lowest security and custody level suitable for adequate supervision and the protection of staff, other inmates and the community. Indeed, the DOC operating procedures provide that “no inmate will be maintained in a more secure status than thatwhich his behavior, risk potential and treatment needs indicate.”27 Ensuring that inmates are not subjected to restrictions that are not reasonably necessary for safety or security is cost-efficient and consistent with common sense and legitimate correctional objectives. It is counterproductive to use supermax facilities for “ inmates for whom lesser levels of control may be satisfactory [when to do so] may deprive them of freedoms, education, treatment, and work opportunities from which they could reap significant benefits and which may subject them to pressures detrimental to their physical and psychological health.”28

Avoiding the unnecessary use of supermax confinement is also dictated by fundamental human rights principles. As stated in the Standard Minimum Rules, prisons should be operated with “no more restriction than is necessary for safe custody and well-ordered community life.”29 To subject inmates to extremely harsh conditions depriving them of freedoms and privileges ordinarily available in prison without adequate justification constitutes treatment that violates the basic dignity of inmates and their right to be free of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. We do not consider the DOC’s desire to fill expensive prisons a sufficient justification for sending men to Red Onion (or Wallens Ridge, for that matter) if they do not otherwise require stringent controls.

The DOC instituted a new six-tiered classification system in November 1998 and is currently reclassifying inmates under the new system.30 Level 6 facilities—Red Onion and Wallens Ridge—are the most restrictive and secure. Inmate custody levels are determined through a scoring system that assigns points for such factors as history of institutional violence, severity of current commitment offense, escape history, length of time remaining to serve, and age, among others. According to the new classification procedures, assignment to Red Onion requires a score of thirty-four points or more. A discretionary override for certain factors is permissible that would increase (or decrease) the security level. (According to classification experts, discretionary overrides should only increase/decrease a security level by one class.) According to the DOC’s Institutional Assignment Criteria, the profile of an inmate classified for a Level 6 facility is “disruptive, assaultive; severe behavior problems; predatory-type behavior; escape risks.”31

Once an inmate has been sent to Red Onion he can be confined there indefinitely. DOC classification criteria provide that inmates must maintain at least twenty-four months with “no disruptive behavior” prior to consideration for a transfer to a less secure facility.32 There is no guarantee, however, that even maintaining clear conduct will enable an inmate to be reclassified to a lower security level facility and to be transferred from Red Onion. The decision is at the discretion of the warden.

The DOC has not publicly released information on the statistical profile of the men who have been sent to Red Onion. We have not seen, for example, any summary of the classification results or other data on the institutional history and security and custody requirements of Red Onion’s inmates. The DOC has stated that approximately 50 percent are there because of their behavior. We do not know whether those inmates have in fact accumulated the thirty-four points required in the classification system or have demonstrated that behind bars they are chronically violent or assaultive or otherwise severely threatening to the orderly operation of less secure institutions.33 The DOC has not indicated, for example, how many have assaulted staff or inmates.

Several dozen men were sent to Red Onion when the facility opened to serve as a work “cadre” providing inmate labor. Although these inmates did not require Level 6 security, they have nevertheless been subjected to the same restrictions as all other inmates at Red Onion, and they do not have the privileges, freedoms, activities and freedom of movement they had at their previous facilities. The DOC told Human Rights Watch that it did not have a definite timetable for removing these men from Red Onion and returning them to more appropriate facilities, although this could possibly occur in the next few months.34

Based on Mr. Angelone’s comments as reported in the press, it appears that about half the population at Red Onion has been sent there simply on the basis of a lengthy (eighty-five or more years) sentence. We understand that men who enter the custody of the DOC with lengthy sentences are being sent directly to Red Onion from the receiving facility regardless of their security score.35 We consider this practice indefensible, particularly in a state in which lengthy sentences are commonplace.

Mr. Angelone has stated, “[F]or such an inmate you don’t need to find out if his behavior is good or bad.”36 This view is not shared by most of his profession. Indeed, corrections professionals know that many—perhaps most—inmates who have been sentenced to long prison terms even for violent crimes are not management problems. (Indeed, most inmates in prison systems are well-behaved; they want to do their time and get on with their lives.) The usual practice in many jurisdictions is to place inmates in the general population of maximum security facilities if they have been convicted, for example, of murder and have life sentences. They are then reclassified after a year or so, and depending on their behavior may be transferred to less restrictive facilities.

The decision to use length of sentence as a basis for assignment to Red Onion is particularly difficult to justify in the case of inmates who were already behind bars before Red Onion opened and who have demonstrated by their actual behavior that they are not violent or difficult inmates requiring the extensive controls of a supermax. Yet we have received various complaints from inmates in just this situation. One inmate with a life sentence, for example, had spent six infraction-free years in prison only to be transferred to Red Onion. One inmate told HRW that he was sent to Red Onion even though he had a classification score of eighteen and had gone years without any infractions.

By what da phuck ( - on Sunday, September 9, 2001 - 11:48 pm:

the above rant is evidence that 211 is
a prime canidate for stem cell research,
a poor deprived white boy with no life,
no woman (all da brothers got da white
women now), no manhood, no education and
last but not least-no cable t.v., his only
venue to the outside world...a poor inbred
unick with too much time on his hands

By mALCOLM x ( - on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 08:01 am:


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