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CBCC Prisoners Struggle

On September 26, 1995, some 25 prisoners in A unit of the Clallam Bay Corrections center (CBCC) attacked two guards and then attempted to barricade themselves and the guards within the 33 cell pod unit. The guards succeeded in escaping after being sprayed in the face with spray cleaner. The unit was placed on lockdown and remained that way until the morning of September 29, 1995. A prison spokesperson stated that at least two prisoners would be referred to the Clallam County prosecutor for criminal prosecution. The spokesperson claimed that the prisoners had tried to take the two guards hostage.

This is not the first time CBCC prisoners have rebelled. On April 16, 1995, prisoners at CBCC caused well over $30,000 in damages by totally demolishing a unit pod with cleaning utensils; that uprising was suppressed three hours later by guards with stun grenades.

Longtime readers of PLN may recall that PLN 's very first issue, in May of 1990, kicked off with a front page story about an uprising at CBCC where prisoners who were being beaten by guards were defended by other prisoners and the prison's close custody unit was seized and held by prisoners for three hours. Basically, not much has changed at CBCC.

The amazing thing about this incident wasn't so much that it received little attention from the corporate media but the blatantly untrue headline in the Peninsula Daily News article of September 29, 1995, by Mike Dawson which headlines with "Prison riot lacks motive" and in smaller print another headline says: "Corrections: Probe shows inmates were without grievances." Upon reading Dawson's article it is readily apparent that he never contacted any prisoners or spoke to any of them, not even the ones being charged with criminal offenses. PLN contacted CBCC prisoners and found, not surprisingly, that they had plenty of grievances. With journalism like Dawson's he should just put "DOC handout" as the by-line.

CBCC prisoners report "There is no way I could list each and every reason that prisoners here 'act up....'" The complaints are: "Recreation, at one point we had a hobby craft room, but it was taken from us so the [guards] would have some place to train new [guards]. The same is true with our bandroom. The yard is constantly closed due to some mysterious fog that no one can see except the [guards].

"Chow Halls. The chowhalls are tiny, there is only enough room for approximately 90 prisoners but the [guards] pack 198 prisoners in there at once on a daily basis. The menu that was sent from Olympia as to how much food we are supposed to get is drastically reduced, i.e. fruit juice, fresh fruit and the main course is usually cut in half.

"Religious Programs: Any religion other than Christianity is heavily scrutinized by chapel staff and the [guards], making it extremely difficult, often times impossible to properly fulfill religious obligations or ceremonies.

"Store prices. The store prices here are about 20-40% higher than any other joint. The [guards] have recently pulled all radios from the store list, promising to replace them with walkmans. None has been located and when it is it will cost about $90 each, not to mention a lame store list.

"Staff corruption. The staff here is really fucked up, and what makes it worse is that they are all related to each other and make sure to cover each other's tracks. None of the staff follow WAC rules. They make up shoe string policies daily. They force prisoners to program and don't provide enough jobs or school slots. When a prisoner is unable to program he is locked in his cell for most of the day and his good time is taken. Prisoners' property is consistently stolen by the [guards]. There is constant misuse of the inmate betterment fund. The grievance system is a joke, no steps are ever taken within the institution to correct any problems. [Any prisoner complaints of staff misconduct result in the prisoner being infracted and harshly punished for "lying." See, PLN . Vol. 2, No. 7, Prisoners and the Grievance System,] The unit counselors never make any attempts to work with prisoners to help them better themselves, all they do is push through loss of good time paperwork. Legal mail is unlawfully opened and regular mail is constantly stolen. Harassment of visitors is commonplace. The [guards] are overall.... and are constantly physically and verbally abusive towards prisoners [This is a long-standing practice. See: PLN , Vol. 2, No. 2, Clallam Bay Prisoner Brutalized.]

"Legal Library. The law library is small. It only has room for 16 people at a time."

Did the newspaper say prisoners "were without grievances"? Other CBCC prisoners reported that CUS Schneider had contributed to the uprising by instituting even more repressive policies, such as denial of TV and radio during cell confinement. This is at a prison where some 25% of the prison population is routinely on "cell confinement" at any given time for petty rule violations and the cell confinement can and does last for periods of up to 180 days.

CBCC prisoners report that with regards to the September 26 incident "There was no attempt to take any hostages. Basically a few prisoners were sick of all this shit and attempted to assault a few [guards] who entered their living quarters. When the [guards] fled the doors were barricaded and some fires were set. The prisoners were gooned after about 15 minutes and taken to IMU where I am sure they will be buried. Basically it was just a message to tell the [guards] "We ain't going for it anymore and some changes better be made. Who knows what will happen next."

The ongoing series of events at CBCC, which include several shootings of prisoners, a counselor being taken hostage, beatings of prisoners, etc., can easily be attributed to the fact that contrary to public opinion, CBCC is "managed like a Nazi concentration camp" (a direct quote from a senior WA DOC official) where confrontation is actively sought and any type of peaceful protest or dissent is ruthlessly crushed. The federal courts in Seattle have given their rubber-stamp to this process by refusing to address the ongoing series of civil and human rights violations at CBCC. The hard hitting investigative reporting by the likes of Dawson don't help either.

Sources: Peninsula Daily News, September 28-29, 1995. CBCC Prisoners.

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