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Articles by Panagioti Tsolkas

Former Michigan Prisoner Claims Sewage Spill Linked to Hepatitis C

by Panagioti Tsolkas

"That was just like opening a fire hydrant" is how former Michigan state prisoner Glen Lilly described the thousands of pounds of raw sewage that flooded the basement at the Parnall Correctional Facility as a result of a plumbing disaster that spanned several months.

“It shot onto ...

Michigan Prison Plagued by Sewage Problems Despite Repeated Complaints

by Panagioti Tsolkas

The Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson County, Michigan doesn’t have an official gas chamber. In fact, it’s considered a low-security prison. But recent conditions at Parnall have been poisoning prisoners through prolonged exposure to sewage gas.

Last year, Kevin Blair, Sr. watched his son, also Kevin Blair, a 40-year-old Michigan prisoner, deteriorate from a mysterious malady over a period of months before a test finally revealed what was wrong: he had unsafe levels of methane in his blood.

On January 20, 2017, Blair, Jr. filed a grievance complaining about long-standing air-quality problems and “toxic gases emitted from behind [his] cell” in Parnall’s 9 Block.

Another prisoner, Christopher Harvey, had submitted a grievance a week earlier after being woken by a guard telling him that his help was needed to clean sewage out of the facility’s basement.

“He stated that I would get paid,” Harvey explained. “I said no. My reason is that I’m not qualified to clean up such vast messes of human excrement. Hazmat or Servpro needs to be called. We are living in unsafe conditions. Soon we will get sick. There is human feces in the air, and the basement is flooded with sewage.”

Blair ...

Florida County Votes against New Jail on Former EPA Superfund Site, Opts to Stay in Flood Zone

Controversy arose at a November 12, 2015 Escambia County Commission meeting in Pensacola, Florida over a plan to construct a new jail. The county’s old jail had been damaged by a flood and natural gas explosion the previous year. Of three possible locations for the new facility, a consulting firm ...

Texas: Complaint Filed Over Contaminated Water, Conditions at Eastham Unit

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has become a litmus test for dealing with toxic environmental conditions for prisoners. Earlier this year, prisoners at the Wallace Pack Unit and their advocates on the outside succeeded in obtaining a court order to provide clean water at that facility, which has ...

Connecticut Prisoners File Suit Over Exposure to Radon Gas

This summer, prisoners at the Garner Correctional Institution (GCI) in Newtown, Connecticut responded to more than two decades of radon exposure at the facility by filing a class-action lawsuit.

“The length of time this went on didn’t have to happen,” said Lori Welch-Rubin, an attorney representing the prisoners along with ...

Hawaii Prison Relocation Project Fails to Skirt Environmental Review

While lawmakers in Hawaii have advanced bills to fast-track the relocation of a state prison, they were forced to concede that an environmental impact review could not be avoided.

In February 2016, the state legislature held a pair of hearings to consider House Bill 2388 and Senate Bill 2917, which both ...

Contaminated Sites and Prisons in New Jersey

When journalist Raven Rakia embarked on an investigation of “the Superfund State” of New Jersey, she found another layer to the environmental justice disaster that sits just south of New York City. While New Jersey leads the nation in federally-designated Superfund sites, with 113 listed for pending clean-up, there are ...

Incarceration, Justice and the Planet: How the Fight Against Toxic Prisons May Shape the Future of Environmentalism

Prisons inspire little in terms of natural wonder. It might be a weed rises through a crack and blooms for a moment. It might be a prisoner notices. But prisoners, one could assume, must have little concern for the flowers or for otherwise pressing environmental issues. With all the social ...

Prison Ecology and the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan

“Here’s your water filtration system. By the way, you have a warrant for your arrest.”

Jody Cramer, a former prisoner recently released from Michigan’s Genesee County Jail, said that was the story he heard from multiple other people who were locked up with him. Law enforcement officers distributing filters due ...

Environmental Problems Taint Plan for New Prison in Utah


by Panagioti Tsolkas

Utah is planning to open a 4,000-bed facility to replace the Utah State Prison in Draper. After several years of considering whether to relocate or rebuild the prison, the state has settled on relocation of the Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) facility.

Draper used to be ...