State cracks down on prisoner legal aid

State Department of Corrections cracks down on prisoner legal aid

Prisoners need protection

Revolutionary greetings to all the workers worldwide! When does being a laborer and doing right become the wrong thing to do? The answer is apparently when you are a prisoner working inside a prison law library in Pennsylvania.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, prisoner work, if you can even call it that, pays as low as $0.17 per hour (six hours a day, five days a week), and as high as $0.42 per hour (eight hours a day, five days a week). Anybody can do that math and see that the money is not the reason why incarcerated men, women and children work.

Some people in life simply enjoy being of assistance to other people, regardless of compensation. Also some people are excellent at their profession, and take genuine pleasure in it. Such is the sad case of Mr. Jules Jetté, a middle-aged French-Canadian man who his dedicated his legal knowledge to explaining the complex intricacies to a large variety of prisoners: from the illiterate, mentally challenged, emotionally disturbed, juveniles, elderly, handicapped and many more. Now, he himself is in need of help!

Mr. Jetté, who has been incarcerated at SCI Houtzdale for over fifteen years and who has worked faithfully as a legal aid worker for his fellow prisoners daily for nine years, is now facing job removal. That’s right, I said job removal, for being of selfless service to others. What other reason would the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections remove him from his position of service to prisoners? Mr. Jetté has not had any misconduct reports as a prisoner his entire time here, no exaggeration. He does not even have any negative block card (housing unit) reports at all, which is something very hard to do under imprisonment for any length of time.

Sadly, the Department of Corrections does not care about the work Mr. Jetté does. Quite a few prisoners that benefit from Mr. Jetté’s self-taught legal knowledge have attested to his good character and effective service. However, SCI Houtzdale’s security office has taken notice of prisoners’ improved success rate in court with Mr. Jetté’s help, and are now retaliating against him and those of us who support him.

The public, whose taxes go to fund the prisons, including prisoner (poverty) wages, have a right to know  what is going on here. America is supposed to guarantee equal protection under the law and access to the courts. Yet thousands of prisoners are abandoned by Pennsylvania lawyers, have had ineffective lawyers, or have been barred from being heard in courts (a “jusrisdictional bar” from the courts).

That is where Mr. Jetté comes in: where there are already scarce legal resources for prisoners at SCI Houtzdale, the administration instead wants to remove him. Both Mr. Jetté and all those prisoners that will be affected by his job removal are desperately in urgent need of individual workers and labor unions to flood the Governor’s and DOC Secretary’s offices with letters, faxes, emails and phone calls voicing concerns and outrage over the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections plans to remove a prisoner employee from a job that they have been working for nine years with perfect behavior and work effort.

In solidarity with Mr. Jetté

Contact PA Governor Tom Wolf:

  • Phone: 717-787-2500
  • Fax: 717-772-8284
  • Mail: Office of the Governor
    508 Main Capitol Building
    Harrisburg, PA 17120
  • Online:

Contact PA Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel

  • Email:
  • DOC Phone: 717-728-2573
  • SCI Houtzdale Phone: 814-378-1000 (address calls to Barry Smith)

Sample email or letter message: Please do not allow SCI Houtzdale to fire inmate legal aid worker Jules Jetté! The service he provides, for which he is severely underpaid, is of great assistance to inmates who wish to exercise their Constitutional right to redress of grievances in the courts. Save Mr. Jetté!




For the Black Lives Matter Movement

Power to the people,

As a cadre of one and a New Afrikan prisoner I consider it my revolutionary duty to stay engaged in the daily political process of the greater mass movement beyond my confines. I recollect that the late North Amerikan anti-imperialist Marilyn Buck once wrote about that social movements should not just consider PPs and POWs [Political Prisoners/Politicized Prisoners and Prisoners Of War] as icons, symbols and objects designated as relics of the past but should seek to avoid alienating them by allowing their active participation in analysis and advisory roles that may be beneficial to new activist/revolutionaries. That is, their political engagement is recommended.

A lot of present trends can usually be traced to past fads. If I were to apply this outlook to a political context of the social movement of the moment I would point out the similarities between the current Black Lives Matter movement and the past founding of the Black Power Movement.

Central Theme

From a analyst perspective both the Black Power movement of the past and the Black Lives Matter movement of the present have their identical roots in one common ground that is academia. Regardless of gender origins the intelligentsia of the Black Power Movement and the Black Lives Matter movement began its political birth amongst student activism in the halls of academic life, community and world. This comparisons can be made between the current co-founders of Black Lives Matter movement Dr. Melina Abdullah of the Pan-African Studies Department, State University California and the other women are Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors-Brignac compared to their predecessors in the Black Power movement Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Touré), Herbert Brown aka H. Rap Brown (later known Jamil Al-Amin), Willie Ricks (Mukasa Dada) and later emerged into and became the identity of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.

By large from the era of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which included Stokely Carmichael, Herbert Brown and Willie Ricks; the latter is credited with coining the slogan Black Power, then on down to Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale who co-founded the Black Panther Party. We are looking at a male collegiate orientated nucleus from which a movement shaped and formed. In this neo millennium age of the Black Lives Matter movement we now have a few female, university and/or social activist based intellectuals at the core of a popular mass cause.

Racial violence

Beyond the opposites in the sexes of the leaders in the Black Power movement being a patriarchal leadership and the Black Lives Matter movement being a matriarchal leadership the 47 year gap between these two black formations 1966 and 2013 respectively has not changed the reality that racial violence was at the center of their origins. For the Student Nonviolent Coordinating committee in June 1966 then-chairman Stokely Carmichael was arrested and imprisoned in a Greenwood, Mississippi jailhouse, apparently the charge for being Black! Fast forward 47 years in 2013 Black Lives Matter movement activist was created after the killing of Trayvon Martin, the cause apparently again was for being Black!

The men in 1966 Black Power movement chose the political statement of Black Power!

The women in 2013 Black Lives Matter movement chose the political statement Black Lives Matter!

In both of these Black revolutionary slogans 47 years apart are the masses of black people’s feelings towards racial violence. In the midst of these two polemics the old vanguard Black Panther Party was founded also in reaction to racial violence such as led to the Watts Rebellion. Whats should be closely reviewed is how racial violence in 1966 and in 2013 served as orchestrated state violence repression against an oppressed people. While the 2013 actions of George Zimmerman must be categorized as a state actor (one acting on behalf of the state identity) as a fake cop (neighborhood watch) it is in no way any different than the lone wolf murder of Medgar Evers (on behalf of the state as a state actor). The actual police force of the past Civil Rights era was televised with the images of fire hoses and police dogs of the infamous “Bull” Connor in Birmingham, Alabama. Meanwhile in the present Black Lives Matter era cell phone streaming and the internet have globalized the viewing of racism inherited in police beatings and executions in Amerika.

As the Black Power movement began in 1966, by 1968 we found:

  • February 1968: 3 dead students at South Carolina State College shot to death by police.

  • May 1969: 1 dead student killed in shootout between students and police at North Carolina A&T.

  • 1970, a year later: 2 dead killed at Jackson State by Mississippi highway patrol attacking students.

  • Finally, two more dead students killed by sheriff’s at Southern University in a student-led occupy movement over racial policies in the university.

  • The most notorious with media coverage was 4 dead students at Kent State involving the National Guard.

These high profile police/state killings occurred outside of the uncountable murders attributed to Amerikan police forces in black neighborhoods across the country as well as their federal advisors organized military campaign against the Black Panther Party specifically whom deaths are not accounted for here.

These across racial lines examples of police/state killings from the past are important to the present because while there exist no census nationally on police murders in this era of Black Lives Matter movement a short list of racial violence killings would include Freddie Gray, Paul O’Neal, Laquan McDonald, Sylville Smith, Philando Castile, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Jordan Davis, and these are just a few of the ever growing list since Black Lives Matter movement began after Trayvon Martin 2013. This short list does not even include all the children, women, and Latinx individuals and elderly and disabled folks.

In the past both the Black Power movement and particularly the Black Panther Party began as a response to state racial violence from slavery through segregation and Jim Crow which the remaining records that do exist since 1882 to 1968 account for 3,500 black murders. The numbers were gathered due to the anti-lynching movement crusade of a Black woman Ida B. Wells and other organizers. This is very important to today’s movement because Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formulated a Black vanguard known as the Black Panther Party for Self Defense created in Oakland California in 1966.

In the present it is estimated that the Amerikan police forces kill nearly 2000 or over 2000 per year. Though it is evident race is a factor it is also a reality that other racial groups are killed as well by police/state violence. While we know that Black Lives Matter movement’s main objective is the police violence, since its 2013 organization the movement has lost one of its 1st martyrs while in police custody, Sandra Bland in the state of Texas. This tragic even parallel decades ago when Bobby Hutton was the 1st martyr of the Panther organization in the state of California. The initiates of both the organizers’ deaths have been the same cause stemming from their devotions to fight and combat racism/fascism however the responses to their murders was the hands of the police/state in regards to strategy and action have been different.

BPP Expansion vs. BLM Expansion

The Black Panther Party movement began with Black men at the founding of 1966 and its ending officially in 1982. In that span of time the Black Panther Party had chapters in 68 cities nationwide, satellite networks and members overseas, including England, Africa, Algeria and exiles in Tanzania, France, and Cuba.

The Black Lives Matter movement started in 2013 with Black women as co-founders; as of 2015 summer Black Lives Matter movement reported to have 26 chapters and its network extends globally with affiliated organizations. As of 2017, this writing, Black Lives Matter movement has not stopped and is at the lead of the new struggle.

The Black Panther Party movement was at the vanguard of revolutionary alliances with organizations such as Youth Against War and Fascism of the Workers World Party, National Committee to Combat Fascism, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Peace and Freedom Party, Students for a Democratic Society, student organizations and underground organizations such as the Weathermen (Weather Underground organization) and Communist Party USA – Che Lumumba Fraction.

The Black Lives Matter movement has largely been able to mass march and protest with a monopoly of organizations supporting Black Lives Matter movement coming off the momentum of the Occupy movement; many college students and working class masses have joined forces with the otherwise urban Black uprising; this has been added to by the huge and well-organized LGBT community pride groups. Another visible organization white people in support of Black Lives Matter. What remains to be rightly unknown is if Black Lives Matter will produce an un-connected offspring totally independent from Black Lives Matter movement underground security force and intelligence apparatus to defend the just cause?

BPP Organization and Outreach to Black Community vs. Black Lives Matter Movement

Almost immediately after its 10 point program the Black Panther Party as a organization began in 1967 an armed demonstration on state capitol of Sacramento, California which evolved into monitoring the police patrols.

While the Black Lives Matter movement has brought national awareness to monitoring the police again via cell phones and their stands against police brutality is the same initiatives that the Black Panther Party began it is not however well known what Black Lives Matter movement’s mass program is? If Black Lives Matter will develop into a political party with a party line?

The Black Panther Party program organized an estimated

  • 5,000 members

  • 10,000 weekly circulations of the party’s newspaper

  • 250,000 average readers

  • 10,000 children breakfast everyday

  • Food bank, health clinic, protection to the elderly, Panther Clubs and political education

  • Several national conferences called

  • A music band, arranged concert and a few books

The Black Lives Matters movement sole focus has been police brutality and while able to galvanize thousand of the masses nationwide to demonstrate, protest, march, layins, sit ins, block highways and commercial centers and radical new civil disobedience against police… one movement as a vanguard in this era has not taken shape into a political party.

While the Black Panther Party organization structure was centralized (democratic centralism), the Black Lives Matter movement is decentralized (horizontally organized).

The Black Panther Party collapsed as a centralized party. The Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Patrisse Cullors-Brignac stated, “a strategic focus is placed on local community building at a decentralized level.” She is also quoted as saying “we understand the local is the national and we must utilize resources as such”.

This writer must add that this seems to coincide with the political cliche: all politics is local.

The best that I can gather of Black Lives Matter movement “the movement is made up of Black folks and allies who are not necessarily a part of the network” – Patrisse Cullors-Brignac. “We focus on local leadership and help build the capacity of those impacted to fight and win victories for their communities” – Patrisse Cullors-Brignac. “We support both international and local action and policy changes that empower the black community” – Patrisse Cullors-Brignac.

Both the Black Panther Party organization in 1966-1982 and the Black Lives Matter movement 2013-present share community based and international solidarity, such as the Panthers with Vietnam and Black Lives Matter with Palestine. The question is will Black Lives Matter organizational structure survive the same repression as the Panthers but even more technologically advanced and militarized?

The Repression Against the BPP Vanguard vs. The Threats of Repression Facing Black Lives Matter Movement

The National Security Agency in Amerika cited the Black Panther Party and its allies as the greatest threat to Amerika’s national security even greater than the Soviet Union to Amerika’s internal security as a domestic threat. The FBI especially targeted the Black Panther Party under its Director J. Edgar Hoover’s massive Counterintelligence Program (COINTEL PRO).

On the other hand the Black Panther Party in Oakland California contain Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, an ex leader of the 5000 strong Slausons, along with Capt. Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt, an ex. Green Beret, aided the Black Panther Party vanguard in both recruitment and training.

In Chicago Chairman Fred Hampton and Mark Clark organized a Rainbow Coalition including Blackstone Rangers, Young Lords, and Students for a Democratic Society.

Before the Black Panther Party forced split initiated by intelligence agencies the Panthers influenced/controlled a mass movement of lumpen gangs, so-called general working class, and college activists. When the war against the Panthers began with the killing of Bobby Hutton, a teenager like Trayvon Martin later down the line, the subsequent events that lead to one of California’s and the nation’s longest shoot outs at that time with the police vs. the Panthers in California lasting hours until the Panthers while fortified in their headquarters ran out of ammunition is primarily responsible for U.S. SWAT teams in Amerika today. Due to the reinforced sandbag fortifications training by Panther Captain Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt.

Governmental agencies raided and attacked the Black Panthers and their allies in a national coordinated repression. Thousands of arrested (and rearrested after bail), hundreds imprisoned and too many killed from California, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Philadelphia and more, outright assassinations in San Quentin Prison and outside the Marin County Courthouse.

From the very beginning of the Black Panther Party organization there was involvement and participation of prisoners, most notably Eldridge (Papa Rage) Cleaver, Alprentice (Bunchy) Carter, Comrade George L. Jackson and the notorious Angola 3 Panthers. Imprisonment and frame ups was a large part of the repression such as the case of Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt, Dhoruba Bin Wahad and Angela Y. Davis and extends into today with Mumia Abu-Jamal.

When comparing this awful history to Black Lives Matter movement so far there has been the murder in police custody of Sandra Bland, the frame up of Jasmine Richards aka Jasmine Abdullah and the 2st Black Lives matter political prisoner Joshua Williams serving 8 years.

The Black Lives Matter movement faces a two pronged threat by the government and actors on behalf of the state.

Number 1. National and local police apparatuses, conservative right-wing political organizations and reactionary media in exploiting the Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas police killings.

Number 2. Foreign intelligence services and domestic intelligence organizations after solidarity with Palestinians cause of divestment campaigns against Israel the Zionist state (apartheid).

Black Lives Matter movement must be educated and organized around combating governmental repression and state infiltration. At best learning from the past the movement can minimize future arrest, casualties and disarray such as the Panther Party and their allies were confronted with by intelligence agencies.

Prisons and Black Lives Matter Movement

As revealed earlier the Black Panther Party members included prisoners from the Angola prison chapter to Comrade George and his Black Guerilla family. Bunchy Carter, Eldridge Cleaver and many Panthers who were in prison, the Panther 21, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Safiya Bukhari and hundreds more. The Panthers had allies and organizations and individuals that contributed to the Panther prisoners’ bail and defenses as well as the newspaper was outreach for prisoners.

In the Black Lives Matter era there is a number of organizations allied against the prison-industrial complex (slavery). One particularly stands out is Stop Mass Incarceration. There are groups such as the National Lawyers Guild, Workers World Party and Communist Party USA that highlight and struggle against capitalist exploitation and state repression. What is missing in Black Lives Matter movement and other allied organizations is a complete consensus against capitalism, a radical left endorsement of socialism, a workers state and the role of prisoners (slaves) in the movement. Such as political education and cadre development. Absent is a program for orientation and conversation between the most oppressed segment of the population, prisoners (slaves), and the intelligentsia behind Black Lives Matter movement and other allied organizations.

Conclusion: For the most part these are shared thoughts, views and ideas around which progressive elements should dialogue and educate to agitate and liberate.

Re-build to win!

Sehu Kessa Saa Tabansi


  1. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee originated in 1960 as a militant grassroots voter registration organization in the South against segregationism. The 1966 fraction became the catalyst for the Black Power movement.

  2. The state assassination at San Quentin was of Comrade George L. Jackson

  3. The state assassination at Marin County Courthouse was of Jonathan Jackson and others.

  4. The split between the Panthers was an East Coast/West Coast split between NY and CA. Later basically disintegration of the central committee authority leadership of Huey P. Newton, Chairman.

  5. Both Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt and Dhoruba Bin Wahad spent over 20 yrs in prison on FBI Counterintelligence frame ups.

  6. Angela Y. Davis came to the Panthers from the Communist Party USA – the Lumumba Fraction.

  7. Patrisse Cullors is also a founder of Dignity and Power now and director of Truth and Re-Investment for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

What is the SGTMU, Part II

The Security Threat Group Management unit (STGMU), as explained in the past, is a newly established program for “so called” members of Security Threat Groups (STGs) in the state of Pennsylvania. There are currently two STGMUs, one housed in SCI Greene, the other in SCI Forest.

On paper, the STGMU is a program made up of five phases, which inmates must work their way through in order to be released into general population. Before I detail the five phase program, I urge you not to be fooled, or as they say, “never judge a book by its cover” because there is more to it than meets the eye.

Phase 5: Phase 5 inmates are locked in their cells for 23 hours a day, on weekdays, 24 hours on weekends. Phase 5 inmates are not allowed any books, magazines, pictures, or newspapers. No phone calls are permitted and visits (Monday – Friday) are for immediate family only. All inmates are given a homework assignment once a week. All mail, both incoming and outgoing, is under intense scrutinization.

Phase 4: Phase 4 inmates are allowed to receive up to five books, five magazines, newspapers and ten pictures. They are allowed one 15 minute phone call per month. Commissary purchases, which consist of junk food. Recreation for one hour (only on weekdays). Visits from anyone on the inmate’s approved visiting list. Once a week group sessions are held in the rear of the pod (in a shoulder width cage). Once a week, inmate s are permitted to attend block-out, where he is shackled to a table by the ankle. All mail, both incoming and outgoing is under intense scrutinization.

Phase 3: Phase three inmates are allowed ten books, magazines, pictures, and newspapers. They are allowed 2 fifteen minute phone calls per month. Recreation for one hour in the “big” cage, with an inmate of the correctional officer’s choosing (only on weekdays). Inmates are permitted extended commissary. Can have T.V. in cell. Groups are held in a huge cage in the center of the pod, where up to three inmates are locked in there, simultaneously. Visits are allowed from anyone on inmate’s approved visiting list. All outgoing and incoming mail is under intense scrutinization.

Phase 2: Phase two inmates are allowed ten books, magazines, pictures and newspapers. Four phone calls per month. Block-out, with another inmate of the correctional officer’s choosing. One hour of recreation with up to six inmates in the “big” cage. T.V. and radio are permitted. Visits are once a week from anyone on inmate’s approved visiting list.

Phase 1: Phase one inmates are in general population. It’s a six month “probationary” period in which inmates must be free from STG-related behavior or face return back to STGMU. All inmates are temporarily Z-coded for six months. Must see security once a month; unit manager once a month (formally), but once a week informally; all mail still under intense scrutinization.

In order for one to understand the reality of the STGMU, one needs to first understand the reality of SCI Greene. For, the very correctional officers who in the past have been accused of torturing and/or abusing other inmates are the very COs who supervise and work the STGMU. The COs who worked security at Greene and have been known to “frame” other inmates, are the ones that work the STGMU and “scrutinize” all inmates’ mail in the STGMU. The COs are known to “fabricate” events and/or misconduct report’s work the STGMU. Finally, the administration, from the superintendent down to PRC, who have been known to leave inmates in the RHU for years, under the fabricated guise of “the inmate is a danger to himself and others” are the very ones who not only run the STGMU, but must approve inmates’ progression and ultimately their release back into general population. [Note: since my arrival at SCI Greene on October 31st, 2006, I’ve witnessed COs assaulting inmates, COs denying inmates their mandatory one hour yard period, COs deny inmates their meals, COs antagonize inmates or as they call it “grind them up”, I’ve witnessed COs tell inmates to kill themselves (two of which later did), I’ve witnessed COs destroy inmates’ property, COs discard inmates’ mail, the tampering of inmates’ meal trays, COs telling other inmates that such and such is a rat because that specific inmate filed a “grievance” on the CO, and I was made aware of the fact that if “security” wants you out the way they will do all within their power to get you out the way (this includes sending one of their little hirelings to transgress against you, or start something that will get you caught up in it). All of these heinous and barbaric acts committed by the people who work in the STGMU.]

The reality of the STGMU

Corrupt correctional officers and personnel are supervising the daily operations of the STGMU. COs are engaging in the highly illegal and unconstitutional tactics employed in the COINTEL Program by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI! COs are pinning one inmate against the other, under the guise of “divide and conquer” tactics that leads to fights, cuttings, and eventually all out wars across the state. COs are engaging in acts of propaganda, slander, and disinformation. They are engaging in such acts to assure the STGMU becomes a revolving door (that’s how they get paid). COs are giving agent provocateurs the green light to instigate problems, however they may do so, in order to keep someone from successfully completing the program. COs are confiscating incoming mail and pictures in the hopes of destroying an inmate’s relationship with relatives, friends and outside supporters, not to mention the silencing of inmates’ voices from exposing the oppressive conditions and dangerous games being played by the COs at the STGMU. And in some cases, COs are writing typed up letters to other inmates, using the names of those in the STGMU, with the sole purpose of commandeering a “so-called” STG.

Since August 21, 2012 (the opening of the STGMU) on May 1st, 2014. There were a total of three incidents as a result of COINTELPRO tactics. In one of these incidents an inmate was cut! In other incidents, inmates were transgressed upon by COs or the COs did things to cause an inmate to transgress upon them, but wrote the misconducts as the inmate being entirely responsible.

In the STGMU inmates are still being denied trays during meal times or being given a tray with nothing on it (so that it appears on camera that he is still being fed when he actually isn’t)! Inmates are still being denied yard! When inmates voice their concerns on grievances it’s almost always denied (and the inmate is retaliated on)! Inmates have no access to legal assistance! Inmates are being disciplined for any acts the rogue elements define as “unauthorized group activity” (unity)! For any slang they do not comprehend in the mail or over the phone!

This is the reality of what we face in the newly established STGMU! This is what we go through! This is the battle we must fight and continue to fight because it will not get any better for us. Only worse. Especially on the probationary period.

On August 17th, 2014 I was escorted to the RHU at SCI Mahanoy for a fight. According to the reports, I was “snuck” from behind and punched in the back of the head while eating. I got up and began to return punches. This was written by several officers in their reports. Despite what was written in their reports. I was told I am being returned to the STGMU. The “fix” was in. Just like that, “poof” and I am gone… To be continued…

The Eagle and the Arrow

There was an eagle soaring in the sky when suddenly it heard the whizz of an arrow and felt itself wounded to death. Slowly it looking down upon the arrow with which it had been pierced it noticed that the shaft of the arrow was feathered with one of its own plums. “Alas” it cried as it died: we often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.

B.I. Jonathan Castro FX-6703 / SCI Dallas, 1000 Follies Road, Drawer K, Dallas, PA 18612-0286

What is the SGTMU, Part I

Click here to read Part II.


November 3, 2014

According to the Department of Corrections, the STGMU is the Security Threat Group Management Unit. At present, there are two (2) STGMUs in the state, one at SCI Greene and the other at SCI Forest. The STGMU is “allegedly” designed to house members of security threat groups (STGs).

So the question is, what is a security threat group? Where in the DOC inmate handbook or DOC policy (that inmates are privy to) does it clearly define what constitutes an STG or unauthorized group activity? Then ask yourself, how is it that inmates are being placed in these programs or being confined in the restricted housing unit (RHU) for extended periods, whether on disciplinary custody status or administrative custody status, for rules or regulations we are not privy to?

On August 21, 2012, I was transferred out of SCI Houtzdale to the newly implemented STGMU. I was one of 52-54 other inmates placed in this newly established unit. Prior to my placement in the STGMU, I was given neither notice of recommendation for placement in the STGMU nor was I given a hearing about my placement in the program. On that day, at a little over six in the morning, myself along with five other prisoners were awaken from our sleep, escorted by men clad in all black to the reception area of SCI Houtzdale, where our property was inventoried and we were ultimately transported to SCI Greene’s STGMU.

While in the newly established STGMU, we were all seen by the Program Review Committee (PRC), who could not answer the basic questions of: “Why am I here?”, “What did I do to be sent here?” Instead, PRC resorted to the finger pointing of the sending institution, as a means to circumvent all questions that were presented to them.

The filing of grievances about our unconstitutional placement in the STGMU were all initially rejected to discourage us from fighting for our rights. Yet, I fought on, appealing all decisions all the way to the sending institution (Houtzdale), who retracted all rejected grievances and assigned me a grievance officer (one of the main people who were supposed to notify me of their recommendation to place me in the program and give me a hearing).

Though my grievance was essentially denied, the issue was raised: (1) I was unconstitutionally placed in the STGMU, in violation of my 14th amendment right to procedural due process, when I was placed in STGMU without prior notification of their recommendation to be placed in the program and without being afforded the opportunity to be heard or object to said recommendation in a hearing; and (2) the PA Department of Correction’s failure to clearly define what constitutes an STG or unauthorized group activity in the DOC inmate handbook or DOC policy, that we are privy to, has led to the unconstitutional placement of inmates in the newly established STGMU, in that the DOC does not meet the requirement under due process of law. The DOC does not spell out clearly what constitutes an STG and/or unauthorized group activity.

In response to the above issues raised on appeal the grievance coordinator states: “An STG is ‘clearly defined’ in a confidential policy that I am not privy to”. Further, this same grievance officer, who by the way is an active part of PRC at SCI Houtzdale, goes further and states: “there was no policy for the STGMU, that stated review prior to the placement was necessary”! He continues by stating: “the procedures governing the STGMU were issued on 8/23/12 and became effective on 8/30/12”. A sentiment shared by the facility manager of SCI Houtzdale and the chief hearing examiner at central office.

According to the DOC policy, specifically, DC-ADM 801 Section 6.B.1. Which states in part: “When an inmate is being recommended for transfer to a Special Housing Unit (SMU, SSNU), the PRC shall review the recommendation with the inmate and inform him/her of the reasons for the transfer recommendation. The inmate will be given an opportunity to respond to the rationale given and object to his/her placement in a special housing unit, if he/she desires. The recommendation shall be documented on the DC-141, Part 4, with a copy to the inmate…”. (DC-ADM 802 Section 2.D.6 states the exact same thing) (See: Wilkinson v. Austin 545 US 209, 125 S. CT. 2384, 162 L. ED 2D. 174)(2005)

Also, according to DC-802 administrative custody procedures manual glossary of terms a special housing unit (SHU) is defined as: “A housing unit, often within a security level 5 unit, designated for a specialized program, examples of special housing units include a ‘Special Housing Unit’ (SMU) and ‘Security Special Needs Unit’ (SSNU).”

Title 37 of the PA Code § 93.11 (B) states in part: “Confinement in a restricted housing unit (RHU), other than under procedures established for discipline, will not be done for punitive purposes. The department will maintain procedures which describe the reasons for housing an inmate in the RHU and require ‘due process’”.

So, the question initially asked, was, what is the STGMU? The STGMU is a game… a game being played by the department of corrections… a game where us inmates are being utilized as pawns for the sole purpose of the state reaping the benefits of this newly established program… it is a game, where the DOC takes inmates and sits them in the RHU or SHUs for extended periods without affording them their rights under due process… it’s a game being played where the DOC thinks they’re above the law… a game where the DOC “hides” rules and regulations from the public, only to discipline them for violating rules they do not know exist… it is a game… so I ask, what is your next move? Because mine’s will be for the people, I can guarantee that. United, we shall always stand!

Respectfully, B.I.

Father and sons

There was a certain man, who had several kids who were always quarrelling amongst each other and try as he might he could not get them to live together in harmony. So to convince them of their folly he bidded each in turn to get a bundle of sticks and break it across his knee. All tried and all failed. So he undid the bundle handing them sticks one by one which they had no difficulty at all breaking. “You see, my boys” the old man replied. “United, you will be more than a match for your enemy, but if you quarrel and separate you will be at the mercy of all those who attack you”. To be continued…

Click here to read Part II.