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Washington Prisoners Brutalized in Colorado Private Prison

[Editor's Note: The corporate media in Colorado and Washington alike reported on the uprising by Washington prisoners at the Olney Springs prison. They uniformly parroted the line by prison officials that the prisoners had revolted because they were unhappy at being unable to smoke. As usual, prisoners' grievances are trivialized. To PLN 's knowledge, no reporter attempted to contact any prisoners at the facility to confirm the claims made by prison officials. Also not commented upon by the corporate media is that Correctional Services Corporation used to be known as Esmor Corrections and was based in New Jersey. The company changed its name and moved to Florida after a riot at an INS detention facility it ran in Elizabeth, New Jersey, exposed chronic brutality, corruption and mismanagement by the company. This was reported in the November and August, 1994, issues of PLN and February, September, 1995 issues. See page 15 of this issue for more CSC news. As noted below, CSC seems to have changed its name but not its method of operation. Waldo Waldron Ramsey is a long time PLN subscriber and supporter.

He was among the Washington prisoners sent to the CSC prison in Colorado. CSC officials claim he instigated the uprising. Here is an eyewitness account of events as they unfolded.]

The local paper here (and I understand the Spokesman Review Newspaper in Spokane, WA) reported that the riot started because of my request for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and that no one was hurt. [The author is a vegetarian.] That is not true. To summarize, Washington prisoners were already disgruntled about being shipped out of state. They became infuriated when they arrived and found that they could have had all the personal property that the Washington DOC told them they could not bring with them. They were also mad about other things, such as being denied shoes and having to walk around in the Colorado snow and cold with just socks and a pair of shower thongs; being supplied with one set of socks, one pair of underwear, a t-shirt and a set of jail greens and being told they would have to wear those clothes for four days, etc.

The tension was thick long before the kitchen incident. I went to the kitchen and requested a vegetarian meal. They (the kitchen) informed me they had never served vegetarians before. I suggested that, as a protein substitute, they provide four slices of cheese, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The kitchen manager became belligerent, hostile and threatening. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Washington prisoners, observing the kitchen manager's conduct, started getting up out of their seats and shouting their disgust with everything, the denial of property, shoes, clothes, etc.

The prisoners refused to leave the dining area until their demands were met and they remained in the kitchen for several hours. After a lieutenant promised that some demands would be met that night, Washington prisoners returned to their living unit.

At the same time, Colorado and Wyoming prisoners who were housed in a different unit, but aware of the kitchen takeover, began a riot in their living unit which lasted for several hours. At about the time the county sheriff's SWAT team was subduing the first riot, Washington prisoners learned the lieutenant had lied to them about meeting some of their demands, and they too started to riot.

And people were hurt. A Wyoming prisoner was shot with a rubber bullet while lying prone on the floor. A guard was assaulted during the Washington riot. The day after the riot, Colorado DOC guards, dressed in black battle fatigues, with shotguns, riot shields and clubs, came into the unit and took myself and several other Washington prisoners out of our cells one by one and beat us and subjected us to what a court might define as torture for about ten hours. Then they threw us all in the hole, which is where I remain today.

As expected, the law library is poorly stocked. While they have some federal supplements and federal reporters they have no federal digests, so you can't access any of the books they do have. It is like having no law library at all.

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