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Life Arts    H1'ed 11/12/13

Inmates Stick Their Necks Out to Cast Light on Recent Prison Death

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At least one prisoner - a man who was very distressed about the events - was threatened by prison employees that he would be sent to solitary confinement for talking about it and telling his own wife.  It is a form of terrorism, really, that all the prisoners have had reinforced that their very lives are in the hands of abusive prison employees who simply don't care if they die, or, in some cases, would actually like for them to die.  Despite that knowledge and the fear cultivated, I have shared with you the written statements of two prisoners who shared crucial moments of the day Mr. Hallford died.  I believe they understand the risk to themselves but they understand the risk is to all prisoners when there is no accountability and prison employees are allowed to kill prisoners without consequences.  

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Yes, here they are, one by inmate John Wade Walker and the other by inmate Shannon W Fields. I won't ask you how you came to have these statements. What can we understand from the men's accounts?

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When I read what they experienced and witnessed that day, it broke my heart.  Prisoners - men caged and locked away from their families, portrayed and made to feel less than human - were the caring, compassionate, concerned and responsible people trying to save a life - a life that most of us would not want to live, a life that many of us would not value, a life that too many of us might find disposable.  Joe Crowder was the only prison employee who even tried, while all the other prison employees the prisoners described were indifferent at best, criminally negligent killers at worst.  You can't read what they experienced without feeling their panic and understanding they were seeing someone dying, someone that very well could have been them, as those in authority - prison employees - simply didn't care.

Gary has often said the BOP employees' motto should be, "We don't care."  That attitude and reality is apparent in everything they do, and in everything they don't do, everything they fail and refuse to do, for which we all pay an enormous price.  What effect do you think it has on men - prisoners, but men - to see and experience "man's inhumanity to man" every day, year after year, not from reprobates, but from employees of our government?  I can't imagine any circumstances under which they would ever be able to respect "authority" or our government or laws that allow some men - prison employees - to commit heinous crimes against the vulnerable and defenseless, with no accountability, knowing that no investigator or prosecutor will even question the abuse of "lesser" humans - prisoners, even if the abuse results in deaths.

John Wade Walker was friends with Hallford, teaching him the ropes, easing his entry to the facility. His account is full of the details that damn Forrest City - Low. Apparently, Hallford had a number of attacks within the last few days of his life. He was given an Ibuprofen and told to come back the following week. When he collapsed the last time and urinated on himself, there was no official sense of urgency, only an "Oh, sh*t" on the part of Counselor Crowder [according to Fields's statement] when it appeared that Hallford had stopped breathing. What are we to make of this? Are they all inhuman over there? Is that what we've come to?

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JW: Mr. Crowder may actually be the best of the worst.  At least he responded, and he did try to save Mr. Hallford by performing CPR and telling the prisoners to get a gurney and the defibrillator, even after the prison guard who was supposed to be on duty - the one who the prisoners went to get to help him - did nothing other than take his ID and saunter off to who knows where.  After he left and no one came to help, prisoners sought out Mr. Crowder, a counselor, not a guard or a medical employee, maybe because he is the only one I've ever heard of responding when a prisoner has been in medical trouble.  

Gary told me about another prisoner who has lost consciousness a number of times, with no guard doing anything other than glancing toward the unconscious prisoner.  Another prisoner has had seizures and fallen from his bunk, gashing open his head in the process and suffering a lot of blood loss.  Mr. Crowder may not be the "go-to" guy, but I believe he is the "run-to" guy - the only one they believe might respond in an emergency because he is the only one who has responded.  Gary has said before that if anyone needs help in an emergency and Mr. Crowder is not on duty, God help them.

With that said, what the prisoners described happening to Mr. Hallford, including the symptoms clearly indicating a medical emergency, no responsible person would have failed to get help for him.  He should have been transported by ambulance to an emergency room, where he would have at least had a chance, rather than being left to die on a concrete floor of a federal prison.

JB: I'd like to recap the final paragraph in Walker's statement for our readers: 

"I'm giving my statement for [the] James Hallford family to know he went for medical help and was not given proper treatment which resulted in his death. Also my statement is to correct the on going issues with the medical Dept of the BOP at Forrest City. The neglect of treatement [sic] and the lack of Concern and the ill mannered attitudes of the staff to inmates is irresponsible and uncalled for. I hope that my on going attempts and dedication to Jame's [sic] family to do everything I can to give him and them the Justice they deserve. He will be greatly missed and my heart and prayer as well as many here at the facility go out to his family." 

Walker and Fields may very well face retaliation for having given these statements to the press. I admire their courage. Anything you'd like to add, Judy?

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JW: For over three years and at all the various prisons Gary has been moved to, we have encountered few prison employees deserving of respect, being abusive and worse.  We have also crossed paths with many good and caring men, men who may have made mistakes that cost them their freedom, but men who love their wives, children, mothers and other family members, men who are deserving of respect and redemption, not disposal or "escape by death", a term used to describe prisoners who get out of prison in a pine box.  I respect the men who stand against the abuse that resulted in Mr. Hallford's death, men who recognize they are placing themselves at risk by refusing to be silent, but who speak up anyway.  They are the ultimate whistleblowers, but who will listen?

JB: And, according to a piece this year in the San Diego City Beat, an inmate dying in prison is no longer an isolated incident. It's happening all over the place, especially in beautiful Southern California. Please extend our gratitude to Mr. Walker and Mr. Fields for sharing their stories with us at OpEdNews,Judy. What a world. I know you and I will talk again soon. 


How Many Inmate Deaths Is Too Many? San Diego City Beat, March 27, 2013

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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