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Tales from the Washington IMU Crypt

Reader Mail

In case you'd like to report on recent events at Shelton [in one of Washington state's three "IMU" Control Units] here are the basics. In the first week of September [1997] a female guard told guys on F-tier to get ready for yard. [Only] One guy was let out and another guy questioned her about the delay in his yard. She smart-mouthed the guy and then went on break without running the other yards.

About an hour later they let another guy out on the tier [and he] refused to lock back up because he'd been denied part of his yard time. It took about 7 hours, but he eventually cuffed up and left the tier. But not before being shot in the forehead with what's called an "electrical impulse gun". It fires a load of hard rubber balls like buck shot. He was bleeding and required stitches when he left the tier.

A week later a guy was released from his cell without handcuffs. [He was then] told he received a "demotion" in level due to a so-called "observation report". These are infraction-type reports which only [line] staff decide. There's no actual report other than the [line guard's] word. No hearing, no appeal and the prisoner has nothing to say about it, whether true or false.

Needless to say, this guy was not a happy camper. He kicked the phone off the wall [and] used it to break 22 cell door windows, tier lights, shower fixtures and parts of the walls which he bashed in as well. He cuffed up and left the tier after jamming all the door locks so the cops couldn't get anybody out without opening our doors.

A week after that, a guy on B-tier got out of his cell somehow and managed to break 22 more cell door windows with the phone, and lit a huge fire out on the tier, causing the guards to put on gas masks to evacuate the whole tier.

That led to our lockdown, but it didn't end the rebellion. Guys were still trying to break more windows, trying to get out of their cells, throwing stuff on the cops, flooding cells (2 or 3 tiers at once), fighting with the cops, getting gassed and beat up. This continued for about two days into the lockdown, which lasted a week.

It's no exaggeration to say that for three weeks all we saw around here were goons in full riot gear, trying to restore "law and order" in IMU. [Letter edited for length]

-- M.L., Shelton, WA

The Check's in the Mail

Due to financial considerations, the recent killing of a NJ prison guard at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey (resulting in five different NJ prisons being locked down, July 30, 1997), the recent nightstick attack on a prisoner here at Trenton State Prison (morning of August 18, 1997), and the lunchtime attack (August 18) by prisoners on guards in the Trenton State Prison center rotunda (major traffic area for prisoners and staff) using the rotund guards' nightsticks against them (guards), the resulting complete lockdown and search of the prison for eleven days and semi-lockdown/reduced prisoner movement as of the above date (September 7), I was not able to promptly renew my subscription, which will likely lead to an interruption in issues received.

[Editor's Note: Don't let this happen to you! Don't wait for the last minute to renew. Save PLN both staff time and postage -- and yourself a possible delay/interruption -- by mailing in your PLN renewal at least four months in advance.]

-- D.S., Trenton State Prison

Fingers in the PIE

I thought you might be interested in the Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) program that was implemented at select Virginia prisons in 1997. The program allows the VDOC to contract outside of Virginia for prisoners to perform labor at minimum wage. I worked in the program until I found out how the money was being allocated. I enclose a copy of my pay stub that shows this allocation [received by PLN but not reproduced here].

Prisoners in this PIE program receive 25 percent of their gross pay; the DOC gets 25 percent; the Criminal Impact Compensation Fund gets 10 percent; and the withholding tax is about 8 percent.

It is interesting to note they take only 10 percent for the victims compensation fund (the federal guidelines say they can take out up to 20 percent for this type of fund). I doubt the 10 percent will even pay the salaries of those bureaucrats who decide who is eligible to receive compensation. The money does not go to the victim of the prisoner working in the PIE program. Instead it goes into a fund, and the bureaucrats sift through mounds of applications to decide who gets how much.

In addition, if the prisoner has been court-ordered to pay alimony or child support, then 20 percent is taken out for that purpose as well. If the prisoner has no court-ordered family support, the DOC automatically gets that money as additional "room and board".

So, interestingly enough, the DOC manages to choose prisoners for the PIE program who do not have court-ordered family support, knowing that by doing so they will receive a bigger slice of the "PIE". So it is easy to see how they decided on the name for this program. Anyway, as you will see from the enclosed documents, I made a total of $199.83 for 42.07 hours. I received a net pay of $49.06 and the DOC got a whopping $114.62, or 57 percent of my gross pay. I could not, in good conscience, continue in a program which I felt was designed to facilitate me paying to keep myself in prison.

-- D. H., Virginia 

Reaching the Breaking Point

A guy was mad over having his letter rejected because his girlfriend said something [in the letter] about sex. He was also tired of being lied to about getting out of IMU [Intensive Management Unit, Washington state's version of a 23/7 Control Unit].

So last week [just before Thanksgiving] he goes to the shower, breaks the lights out in the shower, breaks the door down somehow, and gets out on the tier where he commences to break lights, cell door windows, and [pries] door frames apart using a metal bar he tore off the shower.

After this, he goes upstairs, stands on the railing, and breaks a hole in the false ceiling. Once he's done, he climbs up into the ceiling, breaks through the wall separating B-tier from A-tier, and breaks another hole into the false ceiling over there.

Once he drops through [the hole in the ceiling] on A-tier, he proceeds to bust things up over there as well. He passed the metal] bar into different cells so they could do the same.

By this time there's a squad of 20 to 30 guards in front of A- and B-tier, fully equipped with electric shields, clubs, gas masks, tear gas guns, and a rubber bullet gun.

When they make the move to go in on him, he climbs back into the ceiling, goes over to C-tier, and breaks a hole in the false ceiling over there. Seeing this, the [goon] squad moves to C-tier, guns and all. So he goes [through the ceiling] to the law library area and does the same thing over there.

After this, he breaks up water pipes in the ceiling. So now we've got water raining down onto the tier. This went on for about four hours.

Finally the guards got tired of waving guns around. So they went to A-tier and fired into the ceiling with rubber bullets and tear gas. About 30 minutes later, he decides to give up.
-- M.L., Shelton, WA

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