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Urgent Action Alert! Prisoners Under Attack in Camp Hill's SMU

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In the last four months over a dozen prisoners confined in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Camp Hill have written HRC/Fed Up! about conditions of severe brutality, white supremacy, and the systematic sabotage at all inmate efforts to file grievances and/or obtain legal assistance. See the attached 14-page document (HERE) culled from prisoner reports detailing a violent program of dehumanization.

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Urgent Action Alert! Prisoners Under Attack in Camp Hill's SMU

Summary of Prisoner Reports

In the last four months over a dozen prisoners confined in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Camp Hill have written HRC/Fed Up! about conditions of severe brutality, white supremacy, and the systematic sabotage at all inmate efforts to file grievances and/or obtain legal assistance.  See the attached 14-page document culled from prisoner reports detailing a violent program of dehumanization.  The SMU at Camp Hill is one of two such control units in the PADOC system, the other being in Fayette, and functions primarily to repress prisoners inclined to file grievances, pursue civil suits against PADOC staff and officials, and otherwise assert their dignity as human beings.

Targeted: Michael Edwards, Gary Tucker, Damont Hagan

The ongoing repression against Michael Edwards, Gary Tucker, and Damont Hagan is detailed in greater lengths in the attached document, and it is upon their request that this alert is being sent in order to generate maximum exposure of conditions in the SMU.  HRC/Fed Up! is in contact with family members of all three, and they have all expressed their gratitude toward those who responded to earlier calls.

Michael Edwards #CM8086: Transferred to the SMU in Camp Hill from the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) in Fayette this May after refusing to sign an affidavit drafted by the PADOC, in which he would surrender any right to pursue institutional grievances or civil action against SCI Fayette staff and officials for an incident that occurred on January 10, 2007.  On that date C/Os Friend and Collings placed three photographs of lynched black people in his cell in an effort to intimidate Mr. Edwards into dropping a lawsuit.  Mr. Edwards eventually dropped the lawsuit after repeated threats to his life caused him intolerable psychological suffering.  Nevertheless, Michael is currently in the process of moving forward with legal action again, and is being subjected to another round of threats and deprivations of various sorts, including food, access to the law library, cleaning and hygiene supplies.

Gary Tucker #FG8520: On January 29, 2008, Gary Tucker was assaulted by at least 6 guards, including C/Os Sabalsky and Banks, along with Lt. Klanedist.  He was forcibly removed from his cell and taken to an empty one out of sight of prison cameras, where he was punched, kicked, stomped, and choked until his chin was split wide open, teeth were knocked out, and his face was badly swollen.   In his own words:

                "I was already subdued on the pod, however all 5 or 6 guards went inside CI-14 cell with me cuffed.  That's when they were off camera and slammed me face first to the metal bedframe. From there they beat me severely, choking me with a leash, kicking me.  In the process my chin was split wide open (I needed several stitches—it left a permanent gash), my teeth were knocked out and my face was badly swollen.  They stripped me naked and left me drenched in blood in CI-14 cell." 

Mr. Tucker filed an excessive force grievance.  On June 18 his grievance was denied.  On June 19th, SMU personnel, under the command and instruction of Unit Manager Chambers, began denying Mr. Tucker breakfast and lunch.  On June 26th guards began denying Mr. Tucker all meals.  Multiple prisoner reports from the SMU and family members of Gary spurred those of us on the outside to take action against guards who were trying to "starve Mr. Tucker to death," in their words.  After sustained pressure from the emergency response network, Mr. Tucker was forcibly extracted from his cell on July 11th and taken to the infirmary, fed, and gained 7.5 pounds in less than 48 hours.  In early August, Mr. Tucker was denied an interview with the state police when an officer arrived at SCI Camp Hill in response to a criminal complaint filed on his behalf.  In retaliation, prison officials falsely charged Gary with aggravated assault for the incident in January in which he was assaulted and left with permanent scars.

 Damont Hagan #DS9488: In a sworn declaration submitted to HRC/Fed Up!, Damont Hagan detailed multiple instances of severe harassment, including excessive force, prolonged deprivation of cleaning and hygiene supplies causing health problems, medical neglect, and psychological torture.  Mr. Hagan has been forced to sleep in urine-soaked bedding, with Sgt. Bingaman and C/Os Eger and Spiels asking him, "How do you like sleeping in white man's piss?"  Damont instructed us as follows:

                "First I would like to give you my FULL permission     to take any steps available to obtain massive exposure, send email blasts and put full court pressure on SCI Camp Hill.  I fear NOT   retribution—for I am suffering retribution daily."

Recently, Damont has been denied visitation with his lawyer, and on August 1st he was assaulted while being led to a legal visit that was again denied.  Mr. Hagan was assaulted by C/Os Spiels, Flynn, Huber, and Sgt. Jones while the inmate was cuffed and shackled.  Following that he was placed in a hard cell without his property, running water, or a mattress, meanwhile prison guards returned to his former cell and destroyed legal documents of Mr. Hagan's, according to multiple eyewitness reports.  Unit Manager Chambers is again reported to be the primary agent responsible for orchestrating and enabling these crimes.

Criminal Complaint Filed with DA's Office

On Tuesday five separate criminal complaints were mailed to District Attorney David Freed of Cumberland County, where SCI Camp Hill is located.  These complaints detailed the above cases and asked for a criminal investigation that begins with interviews of the prisoners themselves. 

Mobilizing the Network—Take Action Today, Tomorrow, and the Next

HRC/Fed Up! is asking that our allies mobilize themselves again to defend the rights and lives of those held captive in Camp Hill's SMU.  Please call the following agencies—as often as possible—and demand the following:

SCI Camp Hill-717-737-4531

Ask to speak to the Superintendent's office and Report that you are aware of excessive force, racist terror, and forced starvation occurring in the SMU, under the instruction of Unit Manager Chambers. 

Demand that Unit Manager Chris Chambers be investigated and fired;

Demand that Michael Edwards, Gary Tucker, and Damont Hagan all be given transfers to ensure their safety;

Demand that Superintendent Palakovich command his staff to stop abusing prisoners immediately.

District Attorney of Cumberland County-717-240-6210 or 717-240-6211

Call and Request that the District Attorney, David J. Freed, conduct a thorough investigation of the five criminal complaints sent to his office regarding prisoner abuse by staff at SCI Camp Hill.  These were mailed Tuesday and should arrive Thursday.  Request that the inmates named in the complaints be interviewed, and where their testimony contradicts that of prison staff, charges should be filed so as to bring these matters before a jury.

Demand, in particular, that Unit Manager Chris Chambers be given criminal charges.

Deputy Secretary Central Region Shirley Moore-717-975-4930

Ask to speak to Deputy Secretary Moore and Report that you are aware of excessive force, racist terror, and forced starvation occurring in the SMU, under the instruction of Unit Manager Chambers.

Demand that Unit Manager Chris Chambers be investigated and fired;

Demand that Michael Edwards, Gary Tucker, and Damont Hagan all be given transfers to ensure their safety;

Demand that Superintendent Palakovich command his staff to stop abusing prisoners immediately.

 

Tips for Phone Calls:

Talk about Michael, Gary, and Damont: Speak of the abovementioned incidents (and those in the attached abuse logs) involving these three, who have asked us to apply this pressure, in order to lend specifics to the general complaint.

What if they ask where I got this information? Inform the DA, prison personnel at Camp Hill, or Shirley Moore's office that you obtained this info from a colleague/friend on the outside; those in touch with family members of SMU prisoners.  Prison officials may tell you that they cannot investigate these claims if they do not know the source inside the prison or who on the outside is responsible for the exposure: this is a lie.  Tell them that you are certain the source is reliable, and they need to conduct an investigation into the crimes perpetrated against Michael Edwards, Gary Tucker, Damont Hagan, and others currently held captive in the SMU.  If those on the other line become aggressive, attempt to pump you for information, or are otherwise troublesome, remember that you can simply demand an investigation and an end to the abuse and then hang up.  This sends the message that Unit Manager Chris Chambers and his underlings are being watched and will be held accountable.

 Be Confident! We need to not be afraid to be confident and strong in our demands for justice.  Those who write us from the SMU at Camp Hill, the RHU in Fayette, Death Row at SCI Greene, and other locations of hell on earth are fighting for their very lives in the teeth of hostile forces.  The least we can do is let as much of the world as possible know what is being done to them, and to demand from those with the power to stop it to do just that.   

Building the Emergency Response Network: Having each other's backs

And finally, every time we mobilize the ERN we need to build the ERN.  We are requesting that each individual recipient of this message forward it to five others, make the calls, then make the calls again, and please contact HRC/Fed Up! and let us know what SCI Camp Hill, DA Freed's office, and Shirley Moore's office said.

Feel encouraged to send this information far and wide, and get in touch with us if you want to be strategic about it.  We are especially eager to work with independent, grassroots journalists.

In addition to phone calls, we encourage people to write to Gary Tucker #FG8520, Michael Edwards #CM8086, and Damont Hagan #DS9488 at: SCI Camp Hill, P.O. Box 200, Camp Hill, PA 17001.  Ask about conditions, their health, legal efforts, and let them know you have their back.  The prison will try to further isolate these individuals and others in contact with us, so it is critical that the maximum number of people maintain correspondence so we can collectively monitor the situation.

The reality faced by those held captive in Pennsylvania's plantations of punishment is grim and worsening daily.  We have the power to alter this equation, to push back in defense of human rights and human lives, against white supremacy, against torture, so long as we promise to have each other's backs and take actions to transform our values into our reality.

"MLK Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  I say, when injustice becomes law rebellion becomes duty."

 

Antonion Johnson #GN4027, Captive of the SMU at SCI Camp Hill



-Human Rights Coalition - FedUp! Chapter
5125 Penn Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15224
412-361-3022 xt.4  hrcfedup@gmail.com
www.thomasmertoncenter.org/fedup/-

Comments

Camp Hill

I recently spent a year locked up in Camp Hill and although i was not in the SMU I have seen 1st hand the degrading treatment that the guards use to force inmates to do what they want. One lietenant in the cafeteria whom we called the soup nazi would routinely kick inmates out of the cafeteria just for speaking. I once heard him tell an overweight inmate that had just arrived for classification "You look like you like to eat, you better keep your mouth shut fatass." The man had done nothing to provoke this lietenant other than bein overweight. When they would kick you out of the cafeteria take you outside force you to stand with your nose to the wall while they verbally abused you. I heard them telling an inmate that his mother was a whore. They would then take your prison I.D. so you could not leave your block to go to medical, use the library, go to classes, use the gym or get your time out of your cell for recreation such as dayroom or yard. If you tried to file a grievance they would systematically make things much harder on you. I personally had no problems with the staff but I saw many illegal actions taken by staff on multiple occasions.