Things here have gone from bad to worse.
By Hank Skinner
January 12, 2002

Well, I guess I'd better tell you what happened. Things here have gone from bad to worse.

Yesterday they ran-in (or "cell extracted") Richard Cartwright 999224. After they subdued him, had him on the floor of the cell handcuffed and shackled, Sergeant Phillip D. Griggs, 2nd Shift, who was the point man (first in) on the team, got on top of Cartwright and began punching him in the face with his fist; according to Cartwright he hit him five (5) times. I saw his face and he's busted up pretty good.

Griggs is a kind of gung-ho type. Even in a cell extraction they're not supposed to beat you with closed fists and especially not after you've been subdued with the capture shield, lying prone on the floor, cuffed behind your back and helpless with a five (5) man extraction team on you and shackled.

Griggs was up here talking to us the other day and telling us about his workouts. He's a big ol' dude, about 5' 10", 240 pounds, weight lifter built. But I've never known him to do something like this. Not until now.

This morning they ran-in on Cartwright again. They took him out of the cell after gassing him three (3) times. They took him to the shower, cuffed, clothed and shackled, to decontaminate him. All they did was get him soaking wet. They did not turn on the gas purge while he was out of the cell. They put him back in the cell with all that gas. Since the gas settles to the floor and he was soaking wet, the effect is worse than having gas sprayed on you and more like being painted with liquid gas. The pepper gas is a skin irritant.

See, what they are supposed to do when they run-in on you is get you out of the cell, put you in the shower and uncuff you through the bean hole, strip you out, and let you wash off the gas. But they're afraid he would've "jacked" (refused to come out) of the shower, so they just keep him cuffed and shackled, with the door opened, let 2 members of the team hold him and run the water on him for a minute, clothes and all. It's an easy way to get drowned. Since you can't use your hands to shield your face and can't move out of the spray, if one of them punches you and makes you gasp, you get a lung full of water, quick.

They always come out of there spittin' and sputtering. The gas soaked clothes rubbin' against your skin turns it raw and red. It burns like hell for days afterward. Draws blisters which fill up with water. It ain't pretty.

They have all kinds of little ways to make it more painful on you and these kinds of things aren't readily apparent to someone who doesn't know the procedures and doesn't understand the effects of failing to follow them.

When they do it right, within 24 hours you'll be half way O.K. again. But when they do it wrong, intentionally, it's what we call a "fuck job" and when they put one of those on you, you're lucky if you get over it in a week or two. That's what they did to Cartwright, twice in less than 24 hours.

Paul Colella 99045, Rick Rhoades 999049 and Brian Davis 999036 tried to call for Rank to get something done for Cartwright and wouldn't come down here.

At lunch time Paul "jacked" the bean hole (stuck his arm out of the hole and wouldn't let them close it) to get some Rank. Warden Chance and Lt. Roach came down here and got shitted down (feces thrown on them) and were told that it was because Sgt. Griggs hit cartwright in the face with his fist five (5) times after he was cuffed, shackled and helpless on the floor. Roach and Chance left.

A little while later, about 20 minutes, they came back with a team and gas. Paul hollered out that he was surrendering and submitting to a strip search and cuffs. They took him out of the cell and took all his property, everything and threw it out on the run into the shit, on the floor. Paul's legal papers, books and other property got feces all over it and then they just kicked it down the stairs so it flew out of the bags and blanket it was wrapped in, went everywhere all over the run on 1 row. Then they put Paul back in his cell.

About 30 minutes later they came and turned off all the water and ventilation.

Warden Chance came back after he'd cleaned up all the shit off himself and started cussing at Paul, calling a "punk" and saying "Yeah, bitch, you ain't done nothing." He said that we're all here for a reason and it's all our fault we're on death row, that when we let them run-in on us we can expect to get beat up, they're here to enforce the policy in all areas and that's what they're going to do, etc. It was the usual blame-shifting speech: No matter what happens to us it's never their fault but ours and we deserve it anyway.

Chance's words are very revealing. He didn't say "comply with", "adhere to" or "follow" the policy, but "enforce the policy". Condemnation and punishment, "accepting personal responsibility," he says.

All of these southern Bible-belt red necks preach the same message. Since a jury convicted us it's O.K. for him to go ahead and punish us a little bit 'til they kill us. Never mind that he should "accept personal responsibility" for his improper actions or those of his officers who violate the Use Of Force Plan policy on a regular basis. Just another bigoted hypocrite in a big pile of them. They think it's their patriotic duty to mistreat us, make everything as hard on us as possible, etc. etc.

As Nietzsche famously said: "Beware all those in whom the urge to punish is very strong." They think a use of force is the answer to everything.

You know, when they run-in on you it's understood that it ain't no game. They mean business and one way or another you are going to get subdued. Still there are certain unspoken rules observed. Those officers on a team are "suited up" in riot gear: helmets with visors and caged face shields, gas masks, body armor, chest, knee, and shin guards, stab proof vest, combat boots. Some of them wear leather drivers' gloves. There are few ways to hurt them. They use a "capture shield" which is a big resin shield that's see through and concave with handles on the outside edges. Like that.

[Note: at this point in the letter a drawing of the "capture shield" was inserted.]

The "point man" (or first man in line) grabs it by the handles and holds it in front of him and to his chest.

All the other members of the team line up single-file behind the point man. After they gas you 2 - 3 times at 5 minute intervals, they line up and the Sergeant or Lieutenant stands by the door to give the signal to the picket officer to "roll the cell door!" (Open it. It slides open to the side, doesn't swing on hinges. All the electric mechanism does is release the lock, so the Sergeant has to slide the door on open).

When the door opens the team takes off, like a football team off the line of scrimmage, except they're like a train. All the men behind the point man push forward - momentum. They have their shoulders in the posterior of the one before them. Five 200 pound men or more, that's 1,000 pounds of rolling momentum coming at you through the cell door.

The idea is to use the capture shield to pin you to a wall, the bunk, the floor. Once they pin you, they throw the shield to the side then grab your arms and wrestle them behind you to cuff you. Then they shackle you at the feet. Each man on the extraction team has a number on the back of his helmet which corresponds to a specific function he is expected to perform once they got you down. They do it like bulldoggin' at the rodeo (steer wrestlin').

What happens when they come through that door is always chaotic. You've got five guys all over you, they've got all the protective gear while you're barefooted and in boxer shorts. Since they don't feel it when they crash and smash all over everything, it might be hard to tell if they're hurting you. It's much more dangerous than professional football because those guys are on a soft turf open field with no obstacles and still they get hurt bad all the time. Careers get ended in the blink of an eye.

In these cells it's concrete and steel with obstacles everywhere. If you slip and fall on the corner of a steel bunk, the table welded to the wall, the stainless steel toilet or sink, you could easily get your skull crushed, your spine severed, chest caved in (as happened to Rick Rhoades the other day when the tip of the toilet bowl was driven into the center of his chest, when all 5 of them piled on top of his back and while they were drivin' him to the ground he went into the toilet bowl full force.

In any event, they are there to subdue you and take you out of the cell without hurting you. The unspoken rules are that you can tussle with them but you don't go at them with a weapon; you don't: kick them in the nuts, yank their helmets back, jerk the canister off their gas masks.

It's a chase game. You're tryin' to elude the shield and get out the cell door, but you've got to get past the 5 guys to do it. If you make it out of the cell you consider that "a win." A prisoner who makes it past the tackle is one who knows how to "go hard", who "stays down for his."

If you start swinging fists on them, setting up traps in the cell, trip wires, etc.., they you're "taking it to the next level." Some of the guys "take off" from different positions in the cell - whatever they believe will give them an edge, an advantage, a better chance.

You can block the windows and lights with paper so they have to run-in in the dark and they can't see you too well. You can wait right by the door crouched down to take off or at the back of the cell or by the toilet, etc. Put shampoo or baby oil on the floor in the doorway to make 'em slip and fall. All this stuff is acceptable. The team is not supposed to kick, stomp or pound you with fists. But that's what they've been doing. It shows us you've got some guys on the team who hate death row and want to hurt us.

It's escalating and getting worse and worse. It's not necessary. You can pound them with your fists and feet but they don't even feel it. You just bust your knuckles on that protective gear. If one or more of them hits you though, your ass is had because all you've got is your boxer shorts or jumper on. Those fists and boots with knob treat hurt like hell. They kick you, it's likely breaking bones in your face, feet or hands, ribs, they know what to go for - that's part of a "fuck job."

This dumb ass Warden Chance is mad at Paul for slinging shit on him. But Paul told him, "If you come up here you know what it is" - he was warned. Twice. He came on anyway, no raincoat, no protective gear. "Watch me, I'm the Warden, I can do this."

I just feel bad because he was coming up here to try to talk to Paul - at least that's what he said. The problem was, by the time he finally decided to get off his ass and come down here, it was too late because all the talking was over and they'd done beat Cartwright to a pulp. Where was Chance then?

What started all the shit slinging? Captain Selester Bacon. Before he did the ho ass things he did, nobody was slinging shit. But he carried his jive ass out there and told the media that's why the guards were welded over the windows of the cell doors, because we were throwing urine and feces.

Since we're being falsely accused and punished for it, we might as well be getting the good out of it. That story appeared in the Houston Chronicle November 21st, 2001. Prior to that story no ship was slung.

Warden Chance said he couldn't understand why a prisoner would let a 5 man team run-in on him and take all that gas, etc. We call it "in-cell recreation." I'm not exactly sure how to explain this, but the conditions here cause you to do it and like it, to some extent.

The constant sensory deprivation, isolation and sleep deprivation leaves you feeling dull, depressed, lifeless but aggravated and tense.

Some of the officers disrespect us on a daily basis. Like the other night they did a cell inspection on me and this female officer climbed up on my bunk to check the window slit. She stepped on my bed and I'd just put clean sheets on it! She looked down and what she was doing and twisted her foot back and forth like she was trying to get dog shit or mud off the sole. Then she looked and me and said, "Oh, I didn't mean o do that," while being real sarcastic and pissy. The threw a few things in the floor. She left two nasty, greasy, black foot prints on my clean bed. I wanted to throttle that whore. I wanted to smack that smirk off her face and drop-kick her right in the ass with a running start! But, of course, I said nothing. These kinds of things just build up and build up.

You become numb in here from lack of social interaction. Guys start doing things just to feel something, to get a few minutes of some kind of attention. It's like the guys who cut on themselves. They do it in order to feel something, even if it's only pain and hurt.

I've heard it said by psychiatrists that children who get no attention, no love from their parents, will start doing little bad things to get spanked for. Because, to a human, even negative attention is better than no attention at all. It's something similar at work here. All we get is the negative attention. Dysfunctional.

The other day, when I got gassed and run-in on, I had no choice. Lt. Bolton was doing all those retaliatory shakedowns, 20 times in 16 days. I got tired of it. The only resistance I could offer was to refuse to come out, refuse to comply, make it as hard as possible on them. They'd been tearing up my stuff and taking things they knew they weren't supposed to take: I'd just had all I could stand.

When they ran-in on me after gassing me twice, even though they knocked me smooth out, unconscious, afterward I felt really great. I had my feeling back for a little while. I felt invigorated. All the stress and tension was gone for a little while. Everybody was excited. We talked about it for hours, picked it apart and dissected every action of every participant, every word said.

When I finally went to sleep, I slept good. The next day, though, I went right back to numb and miserable like I was before. I tried to get them to run-in on me again but they wouldn't do it. But then they decided to leave me alone so I just decided to be content with that. Like Fortune News said, these places (control units) breed monsters.

I'm kind of ashamed of how I felt and want I wanted to do. I think I should not feel that way, but this place and the way these people run it, make you feel things, whether you want to or not. It's just what they teach, by the reactions they give to whatever you do - it's always something negative or stressful.

It's really weird how they run these levels and discipline overall. They expect you to reach to it in relation to the policy, but it's not a human reaction and if you're dealing with an officer or Rank who's shooting straight with you, they'll tell you that they would not react the way it's stated either. I say, "So if you admit that you, yourself, wouldn't do it, how can you expect me to?" Then they go right back to, "Well, a jury convicted you and this is how the state and the prison board says we are to treat you, I've got a job to do and so I do it, it's nothing personal".....

This place.... it does the same to the officers. They teach them this perverted, anti-human logic, they chant it like a mantra, "It's nothing personal, I've got a job to do." They (the administration) convince them we are not human. Once they buy into that logic they convince themselves and it helps to deal with the human feelings of guilt an officer has from mistreating his fellow human beings this way. Then the officers become hardened and uncaring. From there, it's but a short few steps to sadistic and brutal.

It's the scariest thing you could ever imagine to see an officer trying to subdue an out-of-control prisoner with a choke hold, trying his best to break the prisoner's neck. Smiling all the while and telling the prisoner, "Quit resisting"..... the prisoner is unconscious already.

01-13-02... I talked to Sgt. Griggs yesterday, late. He admits that he punched Cartwright but says that Cartwright was not in restraints (cuffs and shackles) when it happened, that "Cartwright was still struggling" when they ran-in on him and "I had to sting him a few times in order to subdue him" He also said, "I was point man on the team. You already know, this ain't no game. If you're still standin' when I come through that door, I'm gonna sting ya a few times 'til you go down, simple as that" "Sting ya," what kind of euphemism or analogy is that, for "I'm gonna beat your face into pulp with my fist?"

What Griggs failed to mention here is that, while Cartwright may or may not have been cuffed when it happened, he was still restrained by the four (4) other officers on that team - "still struggling" - Cartwright could not have been "still struggling" unless they'd already taken him down and he had someone to "struggle" with. The other 4 officers on that team were holding him while Griggs punched him out.

Well, Warden Chance ordered us all to be cell searched (shake down) and placed on container restriction. Meaning that they take everything from us which could hold liquid, including our plastic drinking cups. Try living life in this little tomb without a cup to drink from. It's a reprisal/ retaliation for the Warden getting chunked on and shitted down yesterday. He put the whole pod, (all 3 sections of Death Row but not the Ad Seg population sections) on container restriction.

The only way to be placed on container restriction is if you chunk on an officer, which none of us did. Only Paul threw shit on the Warden and he (Paul) is the only one they should have put on container restriction. Think about how bad this is. All the things which come in a container: KOP medications in plastic bags, shampoo, antiperspirant, other hygiene items - lotion, hair grease, vitamins, baby oil, baby powder, etc., toothpaste. All gone.

I've talked to two Lieutenants and four Sergeants since yesterday and they all agree that the Warden (Chance) is violating written policy and has no authorization for what he has done. If you want to understand how hard this is on us, try living one day without a container of any kind.

Let me show you what a bigot and hypocrite Chance is: Yesterday he preaches about "accepting personal responsibility for your actions" and tells Paul that is why he's suffering what he is, because he couldn't accept responsibility for his actions out in the world and that is what led him to be on death row. (Paul, besides me, is one of the few people down here who has a colorable claim of actual innocence of the crime he was convicted for and sentenced to death).

Yesterday, when Paul jacked the bean slot he chunked on the officer working the floor. So Lieutenant Larry Roach and Associate Warden Robert Chance come down here. Chance knew the situation when he walked into it: "You've got a prisoner up on two row who has chunked on the floor boss and is holding the food slot (bean hole) hostage, refusing to let the officer close it" - that's exactly what the Sergeant told him. When you have a prisoner acting out like this, he's upset and past being very rational. So, you either talk to him from a safe distance or you wear protective gear (goggles and a rain slicker) when you come up here to talk to him. Just common sense. They usually just gas him, run-in on him and "sting him a few times."

To prisoners, shitting down a warden is a grand trophy. The higher the rank you get, the better it is. More points. Chance knew all that before he ever stepped a foot in here.

Chance made the decision himself and came in here with street clothes - T-shirt and jeans, sneakers - brought Roach with him, in uniform only, with no shield, no gear. They started up the stairs. Paul told them, not once but twice, in warning: "Don't come up here. If you come up here, you know what it is." Warden Chance made a second personal decision and came on up those stairs anyway. He and Roach both got hit right in the face and all over with shit.

Now Chance, instead of accepting personal responsibility for his own actions, orders all of us punished for it, instead. He knew the risk. He let his arrogance deceive him: "I'm the warden! He wouldn't dare throw shit on me!" Wrong. He's at the very top of the shit list. Right next to that lying snake-ass Larry Fitzgerald. Why punish us who had nothing to do with it? Because we all laughed at him and Roach. They looked like Red Skelton after gettin' hit with one of those shaving cream pies. You couldn't help but laugh. Roach panicked and lost it, ran to the crossover door and started banging on it, like he expected someone to open it. (It's electronically locked from the picked and there's no one on the other side, just another section).

Of course, when the stench hit and we realized how terrible for them it was, we all felt badly for them. It didn't take me long to quit laughing.

Usually prisoners just throw soapy water on the officers, if it's a run-in they want. It's the chunking that triggers the protocol, not the substance. If you throw anything you get run-in on so they can take your containers. But so many guys started doing it that they started using the team just to get the slots closed and leaving. Then you feel really cheated.

Shit and pee are reserved only for the ass holes who have really mistreated someone badly. Like punching Cartwright in the face.

Container restriction can be initiated by a warden (on a weekend) when there's no committee here. But first thing Monday morning it must be reviewed by the D.R.C.C. (Death Row Classification Committee). That's why the I-203 is a two-part form. But this applies only to the individual prisoner who has thrown something from the cell, not a whole pod (42 prisoners) who've done nothing wrong.

This is the second hypocrisy Chance has shown us this weekend. Not only does he fail to accept personal responsibility for his actions, he's openly violating the policy he swears he's here to "enforce". Chance has no I-203 or other policy conforming paperwork to support his decisions. He's just doing it. As the Lieutenant explained to me, "We cannot respond this way when I or one of my sergeants get chunked on, so why should Chance be able to get away with it, just because he's a warden?"

But, it's a perfect example of what we've complained of all along: none of these wardens follow or "enforce" any policy unless it's one they can "interpret" or use to mistreat or take from us. The policies which operate in our favor in any way, they ignore.

Nine times out of 10 they just do whatever the hell they want to do and when one of us files a grievance then they look at policy to try to find some justification for what they've done already. That's why you get all these stupid and illogical "interpretations" of what the policy allows or calls for - they're trying to conform the policy to their actions already committed rather than conforming their actions to the policy. Well, just another day in hell.

If this stuff isn't "atypical and significant", what is? They teach "behavior modification" and employ it in all they do, but are blind to see what they modify one into. They're just tinkering and winging it as they go.

01-13- 02 late evening. Additionally, here's an update to put with it: 01-13-02 late evening:

Warden Chance came up here again 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. today to taunt Paul and told him that he just wanted Paul to know he wasn't going to forget this, but he wasn't going to jeopardize his career by pulling Paul out and beating his ass. He believes justice will be served and Paul will be executed for squirting that shit and other things he's done - and he (Chance) will be there to see it. He intends to be one of the state's witnesses when they kill Paul.

To top it all off, they let Chance sit on the D.R.C.C. this month and Level III'd me yet again for nothin'. I have no cases for any assaultive offense. See grievance enclosed..


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