Another attorney who defends prisoners' rights confirmed that "many disciplinary tickets are written for incidents that could be charged as crimes. If the DOCCS determines to handle it through the prison system, then there is no criminal case. DOCCS does call in the DA for some incidents--this is a discretionary decision." Under the SHU exclusion law, if the incident is dealt with inside the prison system, "New York State regulations "require that mental health is taken into consideration for the purpose of mitigation and possible dismissal of infractions under certain circumstances. Those regulations are pretty much going to be in effect for anyone who is in an RMHU--meaning that for all disciplinary hearings arising out of incidents in an RMHU, it is likely that the regulations require mental health testimony at the hearing and consideration of mental illness in the disposition." But if the case is kicked to the local DA--no such protections apply.
She continues: "If the incident is related to his mental illness, the lack of adequate treatment for that illness, and his inability to conform to the prison environment due to his illness--isn't charging him with a crime the ultimate criminalization of the status of his having mental illness? What purpose does the criminal case serve if these are the facts? It isn't deterrence or rehabilitation--it appears to solely be retribution--is that a sufficient purpose?"
When we described this case to a veteran former New York State corrections officer, he said people like Hall were often doomed from the moment they arrived in prison, if not before. They tended to rack up small felony charges, one after the other, so that they effectively served a life sentence, shut away out of sight in some form of solitary confinement.
In a letter written on April 9, 2012, Hall said: "It's hard in here for me. I feel like killing myself most of the time like I said but end up cutting myself to relieve the pain or just do things that help me relieve pain. Cutting myself seems the best way but one day I'm going to really cut myself and not tell no one so I can bleed out. That's how I am feeling nowadays. My life's gone down the drain."
The Buffalo office of Prisoner Legal Services of New York, the small but tenacious nonprofit that acts on behalf of inmates in state prisons, sent a letter to Attica asking the mental health unit to look into the situation. Hall wrote both his mother and us that he was making deeper cuts in his arms, cutting into the muscle, building up to a final suicide slitting. On the advice of Prisoner Legal Services, Carole Hall phoned the head of the mental health unit at Attica and told him about the threats. He told Hall he knew nothing about the case but assured her he would look into it.
Whether Hall is alive or dead, whether he has gotten better treatment or simply had his possessions removed and been thrown nearly naked into a suicide cell, his mother doesn't know.Here's the rest of his story: