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Harvard v. Inch, FL, Declaration of Juan Espinosa, Solitary Confinement, 2021 (1)

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Case 4:19-cv-00212-MW-MAF Document 311-5 Filed 05/28/21 Page 1 of 7

HARVARD, et al.,

MARK S. INCH, et al.,

Case No.: 4:19-cv-00212-MW-MAF

I, JUAN ESPINOSA, declare under penalty of perjury:

I am a 60-year-old Hispanic man incarcerated in the custody of the

Florida Department of Corrections (FDC). I am currently assigned to General
Population at Columbia Correctional Institution Annex. I make this declaration
based on my own personal knowledge. I am a named plaintiff in this lawsuit.

I agreed to be a named plaintiff in this case because I wanted the

opportunity to speak up about the abuse that occurs in isolation and to help stand
up for those who may not be courageous enough to speak.

I have worked closely with my attorneys to respond to all requests for

information to the best of my ability. I will continue to work with my attorneys,

Case 4:19-cv-00212-MW-MAF Document 311-5 Filed 05/28/21 Page 2 of 7

review materials they give me, and share my thoughts as the case moves forward.
When I have questions about the case, I will ask my attorneys for help so I can
understand and participate.

I have been diagnosed by FDC with paranoid schizophrenia, major

depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. I also suffer from anxiety, depression,
paranoia, hallucinations and mood swings. FDC has prescribed me Abilify and

I am an American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) inmate because I am

unable to speak. I had tumors in my throat that made it hard for me to eat and
swallow. FDC referred me to multiple specialists, including an oncologist. I had to
have surgical reconstruction of my jaw and surgery to remove all my teeth. In
December 2018, I permanently and completely lost my voice after a surgical
procedure to remove one of the tumors.

When I was in isolation, it was very hard to receive accommodations

for my disability. I had to submit a lot of grievances and Accommodation Request
Forms asking for an American Sign Language handbook so that I could learn to
communicate by signing. My requests were denied several times. FDC also refused
me access to a Text Telephone (TTY) for a very long time. Without access to a
TTY or similar device, I could not call my family. I miss my family a lot and it
was really difficult never being able to speak with them over the phone or know

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how they were doing. Our only way to communicate was by mail, but I never
really knew if the prison was sending my mail out or letting my mail come in.
Months would go by without hearing from my family. In general population, I
have been able to regularly access the TTY device and speak with my family.

FDC first placed me in isolation in June of 2018. I spent about

seventeen months in isolation, until November 2019. During that time, I was in
Administrative Confinement, Disciplinary Confinement, Close Management I,
Close Management II, and Close Management III. I also recently spent some time
in Administrative Confinement in the first half of 2020. I call all of this “isolation”
because I was isolated from other people and spent almost all of my time alone. I
have been isolated at Martin Correctional Institution, Florida State Prison,
Reception and Medical Center, and Santa Rosa Correctional Institution.

The cells in isolation at all the institutions were filthy and cramped. I

saw rodents and bugs everywhere. I was not allowed to hang pictures and
photographs on my cell walls. It made the walls feel blank and like they were
caving in on me. It was always loud. I would hear doors banging, officers shouting,
or the exhaust fan blaring. It made it hard to sleep.

No matter the type of isolation, I did not get many opportunities to

leave my cell. We were supposed to get recreation at least once a week. A lot of
times they would not give me my recreation because they said they did not have

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the staff available to do it. If I did come out of my cell, I felt like I was always
harassed by officers and they were looking for ways to do it. They would destroy
my cell during the cell searches and mess up all my property. They would serve
our food cold to us. I saw a lot of officers hit and beat on people. It made me feel
scared to ever come out of my cell.

It was hard to get medical treatment in isolation. When I submitted

sick call slips, it would take weeks to get a response, or I would have to submit
multiple requests for the same thing. For example, I had to submit a lot of requests
to finally receive Ensure as a dietary supplement because of my medical diet
restrictions related to my throat surgery. A lot of times my sick call slips were
completely ignored. Now, in general population, I normally get a response a few
days later to my sick call slips. In isolation, officers would also fail to bring me to
my medical appointments. I would not even learn that I had appointments until
they were already missed. I saw officers offer cigarettes to other people to
encourage them to refuse their medical call outs. I haven’t had a problem getting to
my medical appointments in general population.

In December of 2018, I lost my balance while trying to walk escorted

by a correctional officer and fully restrained at my hands and feet. I fell and the
strain of the leg irons during the fall broke three bones in my right foot. I had to
wait three days in isolation before I finally saw a doctor for my broken foot. A

Case 4:19-cv-00212-MW-MAF Document 311-5 Filed 05/28/21 Page 5 of 7

doctor ordered crutches for me but FDC staff refused to give them to me because I
was in isolation. I had to hop around my cell to move about. When I had to leave
my cell, staff would chain me to a wheelchair for transport. FDC staff did not
provide me physical therapy in isolation to help rehabilitate my broken foot. I
don’t know how I could have done physical therapy anyway since I was always
restrained in a black box and leg irons when I left the dorm.

It was also hard to get mental health treatment in isolation. Nurses

passed my medication daily to me through the food flap in my cell door, but they
did not communicate with me or ask how I was doing. Mental health staff only
came around occasionally to do mental health checks; it felt like t once every
couple of months. Sometimes, they would not even stop at my cell door to check
in. I would have to waive my arms and knock on my door to get their attention.
When they did come to my cell, these visits were always very brief, normally no
more than a few minutes. Since I am unable to speak, I would have to use hand
gestures to try and tell them how I was doing. I did not find these mental health
checks very helpful since they were so short, through a cell door, they did not ask
me much, and I could only communicate with hand gestures or by writing a note
sometimes if they let me use paper they had. A few times, I was pulled from my
cell to receive one-on-one individual counseling with mental health staff. But these


Case 4:19-cv-00212-MW-MAF Document 311-5 Filed 05/28/21 Page 6 of 7

sessions were never long or frequent enough to be helpful in managing my mental
health symptoms. They were also inconsistently and sporadically offered.

I was scared that I would not be able to get the attention of staff if an

emergency happened inside my cell. I saw a lot of people on the wing declare
psychological emergencies. Staff would take a very long time to come to their cell
to respond. Sometimes they did not come at all. I never had an intercom or buzzer
in case of emergencies, even though I am entirely unable to speak. I’d have to bang
and kick on my door and hope staff could hear me.

I was put on property restriction once when I was in isolation.

Officers took everything away from me. They took my property, my personal
hygiene items, my paperwork, my mattress and my clothes. I was left only in my
boxers for seventy-two hours. I had to sleep on my steel bunk without a mattress. It
was the middle of winter so I was very cold. I felt mad because it felt like I was
being tortured.

For over half my time in isolation, I was given even less privileges

than my Close Management level because of my disabilities and medical needs.
Florida State Prison was unable to take care of all my medical needs so I was sent
to Reception and Medical Center (RMC). RMC is not a Close Management facility
so when I was there, I had to spend my time in Administrative Confinement (AC).
They only gave me AC privileges. For example, I did not get recreation as often as

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I would on Close Management. I also did not get any dayroom, phone, library, or
visit privileges. I received less canteen items on AC than I received when I was on
Close Management.

My time in isolation was really hard. I was stuck in a cell for all hours

of the day with nothing to think about but dying from cancer. I thought about
suicide often and my thoughts consumed me. I felt like my depression and mood
swings got worse and more severe because I was always behind the door. When I
was released from isolation, I no longer felt like the same person. I still feel
nervous and anxious being around people again.
Under 28 U.S.C. 1746, I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing
declaration is true and correct.

Executed on April 6, 2021
Signed: /s/ Juan Espinosa, DC# 419680