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Truth Takes a Holiday in Virginia DOC Press Release

Virginia state prisons chief Ron Angelone announced in July, 1997, that he would drop his blanket ban on reporters entering prisons for face-to-face interviews with prisoners, but said reporters would still not be allowed into 10 of Virginia's 52 state prisons.

"I remain steadfast in my contention," said Angelone, "that the priority mission of correctional facilities will invariably take precedence over any and all other issues..." including, apparently, the "issue" of accurate reporting by the press of DOC bungling and mismanagement.

Angelone steadfastly maintains iron-fisted control over the flow of information out of his gulags. State DOC employees who speak to the press are severely disciplined. All inquiries are, instead, to be directed to Angelone's office.

Contrast the Richmond Times-Dis- patch account of events (spoon-fed to them by Angelone's spin doctor) to those same events described by a VA prisoner who was there.

Times-Dispatch (TD): Virginia Department of Corrections officials have fixed an electrical problem that caused 21 segregation cell doors to open unexpectedly on Oct. 9, 1997, at the Keen Mountain Correctional Center.

PLN Source (PS): The "malfunction" was actually two new guards who didn't know what they were doing. The first new guard was working in the "Master Control Room and sent a message to open certain cells so the prisoners could go to work. But he sent the message to the wrong building (the newspaper says the prisoners were on "administrative/segregation" but the truth is they were all on protective custody) where it was received by another new guard. The second guard complied with the message and opened the identified cell doors.

TD: "There was a malfunction that caused 21 cell doors to open," said David Botkins, a Corrections Department spokesman.... Botkins said officials know what caused the malfunction but he would not disclose the cause for security reasons.... He said that when the doors opened not all 21 inmates left their cells.

PS: None of the [21] prisoners came out of their cells. The guards realized the mistake a few minutes later and tried to close all 21 doors at the same time and wound up blowing a fuse. With the power off, none of the doors would work. The sole guard on the floor of the pod was so scared that he ran into the Salley-port for protection, even though no one made any kind of threat to him. Naturally, the [expletive] who run the joint couldn't resist a chance to show off a lot of unnecessary force, so they showed up in full riot gear and put guns inside the control booth.

TD: "Right after it happened [inmates] were placed under [the coverage of] armed officers in a control room [where they] were able to monitor the situation with lethal and nonlethal weaponry,' Botkins said.... Two inmates had a "verbal exchange" but there was no violence.

PS: Three or four prisoners stepped up to the control booth to ask why their doors had been opened, but were simply ordered to return to their cells. Then the goon squad came in with dogs and guns, cuffed all the prisoners and took them outside to the recreation yard (dog pens) while other guards hurriedly tossed all of the prisoners' belongings into trash bags.

TD: The problem was corrected and the segregation inmates were back on their original tier by Oct. 14, 1997, he [Botkins] said.

PS: This incident occurred on one shift and apparently word was slow to get around. The next day the "master control" guard forgot... and sent a message to open certain cells so the prisoners could go to work (here we go again!) but this time the doors were closed with no problem. Isn't it amazing how creative these [expletive] can be when they give a press conference? They screwed up (not a "computer malfunction") but you sure can't tell the true facts from this article, and reporters are still not allowed in to interview prisoners.

Sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch , Reader Mail

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