IN SOCIETY'S NAME
The attached article, "IN SOCIETY'S NAME/7 is not the sour grapes of a disgruntled recalcitrant prisoner adversely affected by the conditions of his confinement. Since coming to prison 22 years ago, I mostly read and write, staying in my cell anyway l just felt that most people, free or incarcerated, would want to know about the conditions in a Super-Max Control Unit. I feel that I've actually understated the psychological impact of this particular institution. I also feel that incarceration for a crime of which one has been convicted is punishment enough without the added tortures of a Control
Unit's sensory deprivations. If you feel that such punishment IN YOUR NAME is acceptable, at least you have an
idea of what is going on in these places. If not, by al! means, try to abolish such institutions by disseminating the information in anyway you feel will accomplish the most good.
Many criminals are good people who have done terrible things, but all of them are human beings. Even the worst can be redeemed, but not with the psychological scars of in-humane treatment preventing the desire for remorse and rehabilitation.
'The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." (Dostoevski)
According to the 2001 Sentencing Project, the United States incarcerates its citizens at a rate of 699 per 100,000. That's 6 to 19 times the rate of Western European nations. With so many prisoners, something had to be done with those who posed a risk to themselves, other prisoners, staff, or the institution in general. Those prisoners were usually placed in segregation cells apart from the general populations, but since so many older prisons used cells for segregation that were next to, underneath, or sandwiched between cells which housed general population prisoners, the type of security required
for segregated persons could not be achieved. After the federal government built a separate prison to house its unmanagable prisoners, states across the country began to copy the Marion Illinois "control unit," built in 1972.
While segregation confinement was usually temporary, with the proliferation of control unit construction across the
nation, large numbers of prisoners were segregated much longer under much harsher conditions. In spite of the fact that Maryland's super-max prison has been cited by the Justice Department of the United States for human rights violations, and even after the United Nations Convention Against Torture was ratified in 1994 by our federal government, the conditions of and reasons for confinement in Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center are causing permanent psychological damage. There are numerous groups throughout the country trying to have control unit and super-max type
Psychiatrists and Psychologists have repeatedly testified in regards to the effects on the mental and physical health of prisoners kept in locked down solitary sensory depriving control unit prisons. Well beyond the angst generated by all prisons, Super-Max causes intense feelings of anger, anxiety, periods of uncontrollable rage, hallucinations, mild to severe
claustrophobia, insomnia, appetite loss, self mutilation, and suicide. Every aspect of daily existence in a control unit was purposely designed by a panel of Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Corrections Officials to produce the symptoms listed,
reportedly to make the prisoner want to do everything in their power to avoid ever returning once released from the punitive aspects of a control unit. Many psychological studies repudiate punishment in severe form as having a positive effect on behavior, but a more note worthy fact is that many of those confined in Maryland's Super-Max are to be soon
released to a neighborhood setting filled with men, women, and children who the traumatized most likely feel did nothing to alleviate their daily and longstanding suffering. While those perceptions do not account for public ignorance of the harsh conditions of a control unit, those suffering from what amounts to post traumatic shock syndrome are not forming opinions with stable minds. Honest citizens scared by the get re-elected rhetoric of increasing violent crime believe
that a control unit is needed for the prison system's "worst of the worst." That perception is false. Mental patients whose behavior is not quite severe enough for Clifton T. Perkins or Patuxent's Mental Health Unit, but who cannot function in a regular prison for their own safety or the safety of others are given stays of various durations at Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center. Prisoners with enemies in all other prisons wind up in Super-Max. Prisoners who have tried to
escape or have assaulted other prisoners or staff are sent to Super-Max. Those who receive long punitive segregation sentences for rule violations or who just get too many infraction notices wind up at Maryland Correctional Adjustment
Center. And finally, there is a group of prisoners who have no rule violations, haven't been placed on administrative segregation, but have been placed under investigation for "alledgedly" having done "something," they get sent to Super-Max for a year, and then are returned to general population, where for a reason that cannot be logically explained, they are no longer a danger to the institution or to others. Once sent to Super-Max for any of the stated reasons, the horror story
begins in earnest. Upon arrival, all accumulated property that was allowable in every other institution is sent to an address the prisoner provides. If a long term prisoner whose family no longer visits or cares does not have an address to send his property to, he must donate it or give approval for his television, radio, headphones, cassettes, CD'S, hot pot, fan, hardback books, clothes, shoes, and commissary food or cosmetic items to be destroyed. If his behavior after a set period warrants or if he is transferred to a general population prison, he must buy everything new as if he were a
brand new prisoner. Even things sent to an address provided cannot be sent back. The Division of Correction cares little about the huge financial burden put on the prisoner or his family. With no funds and no jobs while in Supermax, all is lost forever. That's the first of many injustices to come.
Prisoners should hope they arrive in the Spring or Summer, because they are not issued long sweat pants, long Johns, nor a coat. The heat in .the cells is turned on very late in the season close to or beyond Winter. Cold air blowers rarely work in the hot months and periodically blow in the coldest. Your fan has been taken and no ice is distributed on the hottest days, so there really is no good season to arrive.You are issued two jumpsuits, two sweat pants shorts, three undershirts, three undershorts, one pair Of sneakers, three pair of socks, two wash cloths, three towels, one laundry
bag, two sheets, one blanket, one small shampoo, one bar of soap, one toothbrush. and four packets of toothpaste. You have no pillow, no drinking cup, no stationary, no envelopes, no pens, no stamps, and if you did have money Tn your account where you came from, it usually takes four to six weeks before it reaches you at Supermax. If your transfer was sudden, no one will know where you are for weeks, since you can not write without a pen and paper and you are never allowed to make phone calls while in Super-Max. The cells are approximately 8 by 14 feet with three small shelves, a desk, stool bolted to the floor, a concrete slab bed with open storage areas underneath, a stainless steel mirror bolted to the wall over a toilet sink combination. There is a three part flourescent light directly opposite the bed. The lower three foot bulb can be turned on or off by the prisoner. The top three foot bulb is controlled from the control observation unit and used during counts and shakedowns. A center one foot high intensity bulb stays on at all times. It is hard to sleep with the light on 24/7, but at least your nightmares are not in the dark. It also gives you enough light to watch the roaches and mice playing happily on your floor.
Get used to the isolation of that cell. Saturday, Sunday and holidays you're locked down all 24 hours.You get to shower twice a week during your one hour of recreation daily Monday through Friday. You get to recreate outside in a metal cage two or three times a week counting as your hour. If the jail is locked down for cell moves or if it is decided it's too cold outside, you get no recreation that day.You never have contact with other prisoners, because when out of your cell for recreation, showers, non-contact visits, medical appointments, or classification matters you're handcuffed, waist chained with black box cuff cover and wearing leg irons. The restraints are removed through a slot in your cell door or a door in your pod so you can shower. If you want to trim your fingernails, toenails, or trim your beard prior to a shower you must use the common clippers used by all prisoners in your pod. While the clippers are sprayed with a disinfectant
prior to use, your mind stays on all the warnings about shared hygiene items as a way of transmitting Hepatitus C and AIDS.
You get three meals a day. Since you cannot hold a job you earn no pay. You'll need outside support for a few snacks from commissary to supplement a diet high in sugar and starches with no fresh vegetables except an occasional serving of chopped lettuce they call a salad. Food portions are small and hunger is common, but I guess they figure all you have to do is lay around idle all day. Weight loss is common. Outside support is needed again for vitamins sold in
You do all you can to stay healthy. If you get a headache, you cannot purchase aspirin or tylenol, so you must submit a sick call slip. By the time you're seen four or five headaches have come and gone and you've submitted as many slips. When you finally go to sick call and medicine is prescribed, you'll start getting it about a week later. Then when delivery starts, you'll never get it two days in a row at the same time, even heart, diabetic, or high blood pressure
medications. Some days you're toTd it just didn't come in today. If you complain too much or file a remedy or complain of chest pains (which are quite commonly a sign of anxiety) the nurse puts you on 90 day bed rest which means
fully idle no recreation and you learn to put up with the system of denial and deprivation.
As stated earlier, everything is purposely designed to isolate, irritate, deprive, discourage and frustrate the prisoner to make him never to do any act that could cause him to wind up in Super-Max. Never mind the permanent scars on the psyche. All movement and administrative activities are controlled from a central observation area. The officers can speak to you through an intercom, control your lights and electricity, serve meals, give out commissary, collect laundry, pick up mail, or distribute a needed form. Prisoners call the windowed central control area the Bubble. If you need something, you wave a sheet of paper out your door and hope they look your way. Banging on your door for quick attention gets you
a notice of infraction, a ticket. So if you're having a heart attack and they do not respond to your flag, which you can't
wave due to the intense pain and excruciating agony, at least your stay in Hell is over. Some think it worse than Hell. There are no jobs, no educational opportunities, no religious services, a library that only send fifteen to twenty year old love novels, laundry pick up at one to two a.m. on Friday mornings so you have to do with a sheet until that evening, noises, odors, voices, would be drummers banging on anything that annoys, guards shining flashlights in your eyes during count so you wake up and banging doors shut if that fails, many mentally retarded or mentally ill prisoners singing, yelling, throwing urine or feces, no mops brooms, or paper towels to clean your cell, cell searches two sometimes three times a day and whenever you leave your cell for any reason. Hell is probably better. So you want to file a legal complaint. It takes asking three shifts to get a form. All outgoing mail must be unsealed, so you wonder if it will reach its
destination. You must pay for copies of the rules you wish to review or complain about and do it with a floppy flimsy innards of a caseless pen that wiggles worse than some suppers. Believe it or not, there's more and ifs all done in society's name. I can only pray that when I get out no one I've seen in here moves to my neighborhood. You should pray for
that also, or better yet....demand an end to Control Units
Robert Leisure #159827;Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center; 401 E. Madison Street; Baltimore, Maryland 21202