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!
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…