Monday, April 25, 2011

Report Charges Abuse and Torture at State Prison

The Human Rights Coalition started investigating conditions of prisoners in solitary confinement at the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania in December, 2009 when an inmate denied mental health treatment committed suicide. Their report is based on written information obtained from prisoners who tell of horrendous living conditions, racial slurs, degradation and physical abuse from the guards, and an unfair misconduct process that keeps adding to their time in solitary confinement.

Investigator Amanda Johnson says prisoners protesting mistreatment in September 2010 were sprayed with excessive amounts of chemicals, then left in their cells for days without showers or medical treatment and the spray burning their skin. One prisoner says he returned his tray and utensils through the food slot after a meal, as rules require, but a guard threw the spoon back into the cell and wrote up a misconduct charge.

Johnson says the misuse of restraint chairs amounts to torture, with prisoners strapped naked into the chairs where they may be left untended for 12 to 15 hours at a time and forced to soil themselves.

Prisoners' grievances are dismissed 98% of the time, according to Johnson, who got the statistics from a "right to know" request, but a group of nine prisoners protesting an assault last week got more more positive results: the victim received medical treatment and the two guards accused of assault were removed from the unit.

Johnson wants the abuse to stop; wants the prison administration to acknowledge what's happening there; wants lawyers to help prisoners file class action lawsuits against their abuse; and she hopes more people will be concerned about human rights.

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