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Letters From Prison: Oscar Stilley
Mr. Stilley is a federal political prisoner, in jail for 15 years along with Lindsey Springer. This letter took a month to find its way to Oscar's blog.
He is being held in solitary confinement, no visitors, no privileges. Oscar's hunger strike has been broken by prison officials who force fed him Ensure. This letter is a revealing insight into prison life. Oscar just can't stop fighting to have them play by the rules.
August 21, 2012
On Thursday August 17th, 2012 I was sentenced to 30 days in SHU (solitary confinement), 27 days loss of good time, 90 days without commissary, and 90 days loss of visitation. An explanation requires certain background information.
I commenced a hunger strike on 7-15-2012. They hate hunger strikes, especially if it is carefully planned to bring about policy changes. The lieutenant in charge, Ms. Reddick, threatened to write me a shot for rioting, simply for declaring the hunger strike. She did not carry out her threat. I declared that my goal was to establish the right to hunger strike in conformity with Department of Justice-Federal Bureau of Prison Policies and Program Statement. My quarrel is not with the rules, but with the fact that this prison routinely flouts the rules with little or no consequences. There is a vast disconnect between what the law requires and the way this prison functions.
I wanted juice rather than "Ensure", as a means to maintain a medically satisfactory blood sugar level. Fruit or vegetable juice is cheaper and healthier than Ensure. The prison administered an IV once and glucogen (synthetic glucose) by syringe twice just to avoid dispensing me juice. The glucogen caused stomach acid to such a degree that I vomited blood and told them "no more".
On Friday July 27 2012 they finally prescribed V-8 juice. It had more puree than I realized and it also caused some stomach acid, albeit much milder. The next day I strained the V-8 using a 4x4 gauze pad that medical gave to me when they pricked my finger for blood sugar testing. I showed the RN what I was doing, which was fine with her. I made a little red ball out of the discarded puree and showed it to the assistant medical director Ms. Hay on Sunday morning. She said that was fine with her.
When I went to Medical that morning, SHU Lt. Sieja and a correctional officer were waiting in the cell when I returned. Sieja confronted me about the juice straining, which I had started but not completed. Sieja got mad, grabbed me and started escorting me to his office. I responded to what I considered rough handling by balking just briefly a couple of times. That really made Sieja mad. As we entered the hallway to his office Sieja said "you came within about 2 seconds of getting your teeth shelled out back there". I responded pointedly telling him that he had no right to shell out the teeth of any handcuffed inmate. Lt. Sieja reacted instantly, viciously attacking me and taking me to the floor. He scratched my left shoulder. The scab was clearly visible 2 weeks later. He held me down so hard he bruised my forehead and left knee. After I was released from the shackles I found another scratch on my chest.
While I was still in shackles Lt Sieja came into my cell. He first tried in a sneaky manner to get me to impliedly admit wrong doing. I declined the invitation. He asked if I knew why I was in shackles. I said "I did not" He did not say I was in shackles for kicking him, the logical reply if such an event had ever occurred.
At 8:30PM I was served with an Incident Report known as a "shot" alleging 1.) destruction of government property in excess of $100, for allegedly cutting up my mattress for material to strain the V-8 juice. 2.) Assaulting a person (staff) This is a "224" offense, a serious charge. Lt. Sieja claimed I attempted to pull away and kick his left leg with my right foot. 3.) A lesser charge of possession of anything not "authorized" a "305" offense. Disciplinary actions are categorized by "series" Series 100 shots are the most serious. Series 400 shots the least serious. Both the destruction and assault charges are "200" series shots, carrying serious penalties.
All of my property was taken out of my cell before I returned Sunday morning. Most of it was returned later in the day or the next morning. Included in the returned property were my personal notes. My sister Mary Jane visited the next day, Monday afternoon. During that visit, someone came into my cell and took all my personal notes. Lt. Sieja denies taking them, they have never been returned. Nothing else in the cell was disturbed or taken. There was no evidence of a search. All notes were taken not a one left.
Monday evening I made a "cop-out" (written request to staff) to Mr. Davenport who works at SIS. SIS is the prisons investigative service, and I had been informed by a lieutenant that a request for investigation should be addressed to Mr. Davenport. He never acknowledged or responded to my request.
Tuesday I met with Counselor Ortiz, signed disclosures, reviewed photos, and told Mr. Ortiz about the "teeth shelling" comment. Mr. Ortiz wrote that on the "shot". He seemed duly concerned about the remark and talked to me about getting an SIS investigation.
Tuesday 7-31-2012 a nurse told me the doctor had directed that I get no more V-8. Wednesday I talked with the doctor who had talked to Lt. Sieja and decided not to let me strain the V-8, contrary to previous practice as herein stated. I have tried everything I can think of to get juice again, to no avail. I have friends who work in Food Service who would strain the juice for me and send it along with the meal trays. No deal.
However I started getting 5.5 ounce cans of "Original V-8" on 8-9-2012. They have much less puree than the V-8 I had to strain thru the gauze pads. I would drink these straight from the can with no complaint. Between the 9th and the 14th I received a total of 22 cans. I did not refuse any that was offered.
On the 16th Ms Graham the Director of Medical told me I would get no juice. Her position is that they can force feed, if necessary, to avoid giving me juice. Since she is the one that got me the "V-8 Original" in the first place, this attitude is both puzzling and suspicious.
On Wednesday 8-1-2012 I asked Lt Sieja why he said “I came within 2 seconds of getting my teeth shelled out." In response he asked why I was balky in the hallway near my cell door. I gave my reasons for my behavior. He never denied making the statement. However, when pressed, he claimed not to remember the statement or my verbal response to it. He suggested I also wouldn't remember kicking him. I emphatically denied kicking him at all. I confronted him with the fact that he never said that to the correctional officer in the scene, or on the video he took Sunday morning. He said he didn't have to tell me that. C/O Bradshaw was present during this exchange.
I have some legal material in property that I wanted for my defense. The property officer, a pleasant young man named Mr. Ford said it best on Friday 8-3-2012. "As long as you are on hunger strike, you ain't gettin no property." I complained about this and other matters to Acting Warden Ms Heulett. She agreed that I was entitled to my legal material but nothing changed.
On Monday 8-13-2012 in the morning I asked Lt. Sieja for access to a pen for legal writing. He said that could be done only in the SHU law library. He said I could not go to the SHU law library because I was on hunger strike. He said that justified denial of access to legal resources because hunger striking amounts to "not following programs" Lt Sieja then told me to put in a cop-out asking for legal. I did so the same day, asking for legal and other items. As of 8-21-2012 he has not responded or acknowledged the request.
The Disciplinary Hearing Officer DHO is Ms Ward. She heard the matter Thursday on 8-16-12. I selected Mr. Rasdon as my staff representative. He is a fine gentleman, a counselor respected and liked by nearly everyone. He told me his sole job was to ensure I got the process due under the rules.
I complained to Ms Ward about the destruction and unavailability of evidence. She was unconcerned. For the denial of legal material, and the SHU law library, she suggested a continuance, until I told her the assigned reason was my status as a hunger striker. She concluded that was sufficient cause for the deprivations and continued with the hearing. Ms Ward quickly accepted my version of the juice straining and dismissed the charge. She concluded that the "Unauthorized" item was the V-8 juice. She concluded that it couldn't be unauthorized because it was given to me by Medical.
She seemed to have her mind made up on the assault charge, and did not seem to want a substantial defense. I presented my case anyway. Ms Ward read to me from a purported statement by a C/O Van Landingham, in which he claimed to have witnessed the kick. I was shocked. I told her that I had looked for witnesses and video but found none. I asked to see the statement and read it. She said I could not see it or have a copy. She said that I could only get copies of statements she relied upon by way of FOIA request.
I don't blame Ms Ward. She was not hostile and perhaps even sympathetic toward me for the following reasons. First she said intent was not required. She gave the example of an inmate being pushed into a guard as an example where the pushed inmate had no intent but would still be punished for assault. Second she told me about Vanlandingham's statement. I was not aware of it. She could have withheld that as a trap during appeal. Third as I understand she made the punishment about as light as possible. She decided not to take the phone privileges.
At lunch I saw Mr. VanLandingham and asked him what he saw. He said he saw me on the ground but did not see what happened before that. I asked if he would sign a statement to that effect. He said he would when he got the time. He was so sincere and nonchalant that I concluded he must not be aware of his statement in the record. I prepared a statement for him to sign but did not see him that day. He was off Friday and Saturday. Sunday he said sure when he got a minute. If not he said he would be working the next four days. I detected no guile, deceit or intent to renege on his word. When VanLandingham came to my cell Monday he had a totally different attitude. He said that he was "a prison employee" and would not sign a statement for me. He did however admit he didn't see what happened before the takedown started. He claimed he looked out the control room window when he heard the commotion and then saw me kick Sieja on the way to the floor.
This was extremely important information, and not just because it contradicted his prior statement. Sieja claimed that a kick PRECIPITATED the takedown. There are only two theories as for the reason for the takedown. Either it was because I kicked him or because he reacted violently to my rebuke of his teeth shelling remark. VanLandingham's current story knocks the props out from Sieja's theory.
On Thursday 8-8-2012 Dr Piekar and Dr Resto proposed an informal agreement for resolving and concluding the hunger strike. They correctly perceived that my real goal was to achieve the highest level of inmate health while dramatically reducing tax payer costs. They offered to use all their influence to make that a reality. A second draft of this is on Dr Piekar's desk. It asks that inmates get access to the resources needed to get truly healthy. Give them reasonable incentives to reach that goal. Let us earn it- we ask for nothing free. Of the objectively verifiable cost reductions let half go towards inmate health and education. The other half should go to the US Treasury for deficit reduction.
Currently there is no Warden assigned to this prison. Warden Timothy Outlaw has retired. I want a signed memorandum of a suitable agreement that the next Warden assigned to this institution will be committed to making this a 1st class correctional institution. Where written rules are followed, excellent health is the norm, and recidivism rates are lowered to the best in class. I want a firm commitment from both Regional Mr. Gerardo Maldonado firstname.lastname@example.org and from National Mr. Charles Samuels email@example.com.
We are on an unsustainable path. We cannot forever spend 10% of GOP that we don't have and did not earn by borrowing and running the presses. The single biggest driver of this fiscal disaster is bad health brought on by bad lifestyle choices. The attendant costs and productivity loses can be halted now. Fellow Americans lets do something concrete to stem this tide of waste. Ordinary citizens can make the difference at this prison with a new Warden and the implementation of the above proposals. Email the above policy makers. Phone this prison Mr. Charles Harding 870-494-4200 ext 4206. Email the warden at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 870-494-4496. Contact your Congressman. You can even write to me direct. I am a lawyer with lots of time on my hands who is willing to do the hard work required to change things for the better.
Oscar Stilley 10579-062 Federal Correctional Complex (Low) P.O. Box 9000-Low Forrest City, AR 72336