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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/25/10

Prison Officials Lying About riot at Sierra Conservation Center

Message B. Cayenne Bird
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The mainstream news media carried a few paragraphs about a riot last week at Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, California that allegedly involved 50 inmates and resulted in "three minor injuries requiring no outside hospitalizations."

But my inbox contained reports that were far different from what Prison Warden Frank X. Chavez ordered to be told to the media. Reports sent by dozens of family members and whistle-blower employees who are part of the UNION communications network described a bloody battle that involved at least 150 prisoners. There were reports of broken arms, broken legs and puncture wounds requiring outside hospitalization of at least SIX people. About 35 men were then placed in the hole where they cannot use the phone and their mail communications are cut off. The fight apparently broke out between Blacks and southern Hispanics because of gross prison mismanagement. Circumstances that pit the two groups against one another until tensions rise and explode are commonplace at SCC and other state prisons.

If the prisoners had a place to go for help to get their problems resolved, these multi-million dollar riots could be avoided. There is no accountability of prison administrators or guards for this mismanagement either, which is a major reason why Edmund "Jerry" Brown has the full backing of the CCPOA, California Correctional Peace Officer s Association. As Attorney General, Jerry Brown should have prosecuted criminals wearing badges, but that has rarely, if ever, happened. The Inspector General David Shaw and Secretary of Corrections Matthew Cate are equally to blame. There is no help available for individual inmates from Clark Kelso, the federal receiver either. Form letters are sent to prisoners and their families even in life and death situations from all entities that are supposedly managing prisons.

This deliberate indifference and invalidation of the prisoners are key reasons why California has the highest rate of suicides in my opinion. No calls were allowed into or out of the prison on the first day of the riot. Warden Frank X. Chavez puts a great deal of emphasis on locking down the news of events that take place on his watch and any inmate who dares speak to the media is heavily retaliated against. But of course the UNION families' network isn't going to sit idly by and allow riots and disease epidemics to go improperly reported. The riot happened on Maricopa Yard and I am very interested in hearing from families whose loved ones were injured, especially those who required outside hospitalization.

There are probably more severely injured than the six I know about, and I would like to know the specifics since lying to the media is a very serious offense for any public official to commit. The public's right to know should always be served and no prison warden should have such power as to be able to stop the free flow of information. I have multiple reports of inmate abuses at Sierra Conservation Center and unlawful activities by medical and custody staff such as the falsification of records, deliberate indifference to mental health and medical care needs, denial of pain medication and medical care to elderly prisoners including some who are suffering with cancer, and careless double-celling that resulted in the rape of at least two prisoners.

The primary local judge there, Eric DuTemple, was the former District Attorney of Tuolumne County and the Republican voters keep him and other members of the punisher-crowd in elected office. The guards call Du Temple "our boy" and he has been summarily denying all inmate complaints about unbearable prison conditions. Due process has been repeatedly denied and Du Temple deserves to have complaints filed against him for failing to uphold his oath of office. Also, many complaints need to be filed by family members with Tuolumne County grand jury so that they can get in there and call for accountability of Warden Frank Chavez, Dr. Jack St Clair, Dr. Russell Otto, CC2 Sean Hannah, Captain C. Koenig, Patricia Quinn and others for their Cruel and Unusual, unlawful 8th Amendment violations.

A wrongful death at SCC is about to take place due to a cancer case of an elderly prisoner who has been totally ignored and pain medications denied to him for no good reason except sadistic torture. This prisoner has no family member to file a lawsuit for him but I will certainly be documenting this case in my complaints to the United Nations and in my columns.
Tuolumne yard hasn't had proper ventilation for at least a couple of years now, which carries great disease risk in spite of the fact that the prison admitted to the problem in May, 2010. The inmates spent a sweltering summer with little air coming into their cells and the fact that this is a violation of the law meant absolutely nothing to the Warden and prison officials there.

I also have multiple complaints about medical doctors for their unprofessional practices and blatant violations of Americans with Disabilities laws. When such abuses are reported to lawmakers or the incompetent Attorney General Edmund "Jerry" Brown, nothing is done to give relief even though many of the deaths are preventable. As a journalist for the past four decades who is dedicated to the public's right to know, I felt it was important to let everyone see a glimpse of what is really going on at Sierra Conservation Center.

As a native Californian, I am ashamed that such criminals are in power over the lives of people who have committed far lesser crimes than the prison officials at SCC. Physical and psychological torture and murder by medical neglect are serious offenses. Still, there are no real investigations taking place because the uneducated and poor people who are most impacted by this unprofessional conduct haven t learned to organize and aggressively sue for these abuses. They live in fear of these tin gods instead of making the necessary noise required to call them into accountability.

The silence and inaction of enough family members empowers the tormentors who consider themselves to be above the law. In 1994 when the United Nations condemned Pelican Bay Prison as inhumane, it ended up costing the state $400 million. We are long past the point where Sierra Conservation Center needs to be blown wide open. I cannot file complaints for non-UNION members but I can certainly teach others how to do it for themselves. Since there is no accountability in the State government and the courts, calling in the United Nations is about the only alternative at this point. Of course electing the right people in the first place would go a long way toward getting the Republican punisher crowd out of power. Until we do that, we are stuck with politicians whom the CCPOA have purchased in order to serve their interests.

Ask anyone in the State bureaucracy and they will brag about Sierra Conservation Center, but the truth lies beneath the radar of the regular media. This is why it is so important for the families to communicate with journalists all the details of what they are blocked from finding out. Journalists must have direct access to prisoners in order to properly cover the details which is why they aren t allowed inside except under very rare circumstances.

Each time a family member posts the truth in a news media forum, they are standing up against the limited access that protects prison officials even when they are breaking laws, even when their actions are causing rape, torture and wrongful deaths such as what is taking place at Sierra Conservation Center. Complaints to the State medical board, the Tuolumne County Grand Jury, protests in mass outside the prison to expose and document this handful of rogue players at SCC are in order.

Judicial accountability for DuTemple might happen if at least ten families file complaints for his denial of due process. People are not powerless but just enduring these unlawful abuses will not cause less of them to take place. The United Nations saw the realities of Pelican Bay and took action. Complaints will be filed with the UN by a number of UNION members at various prisons including SCC.

There are at least 3 million people related to a state prisoner. That is one heck of a large voting group if they will all get busy and vote AGAINST anyone taking large donations from law enforcement labor unions. That includes all of the Republicans and about 15 Democrats. The human bondage industry can only be stopped by we, the voters. Do you really want these practices taking place in taxpayer-financed institutions and the media restricted and told lies? Do something about it. File complaints everywhere, register voters as Decline to State, and organize or be the victim of those punishers who prosper off human bondage.

Contact me at
P.O. Box 340371
Sacramento, CA 95834
Three bunks high, unsanitary conditions
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B. Cayenne Bird is a 45-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. A descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln, and General Andrew Porter, she is passionate about human rights and criminal justice issues. A mother and grandmother with advanced degrees in (more...)

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