Incarceration Nation

Pennsylvania Prison Brutality Exposed

By Kerry Shakaboona Marshall

The following are excerpts of an August 5th letter from Shakaboona, a prisoner serving a life sentence he received as a juvenile. Shakaboona is an editor of The Movement, a publication of the Human Rights Coalition in Pennsylvania—Carole Seligman

In mid-July, this prison, State Correctional Institution Rockview, was under emergency lockdown because a sexual predator prisoner raped a woman counselor (Black male raped a white female). With about 60 percent Black prisoners and 25 percent white prisoners and 15 percent Latino prisoners, in contrast with 99 percent white male prison administrators, guards and staff, although prison rape against female staff is rare, maybe you can understand (with racial stereotypes at the forefront of these guards’ minds) when I tell you the venom that the prison administration and guards unleashed on prisoners— African-American prisoners in particular! In retaliation, many false misconduct reports were written on prisoners that will ultimately place them in solitary for months and have their parole denied; many prisoners were thrown in solitary for frivolous things. They took the rapist’s photo and went to different blocks showing his photo to prisoners, using racial slurs, threatening and attempting to intimidate all prisoners; they had the entire prison locked down for 24 hours for three days. (That normally doesn’t happen; usually they just lockdown that particular block.) And then, after the lockdown was over, when they released prisoners to conduct normal activities, they had gauntlets of many guards dressed in black military outfits (like Special Ops!) where prisoners had to walk through everywhere they went throughout the prison grounds to intimidate all prisoners for what one prisoner did. This is their “security” after the fact, as if all prisoners are the problem.

But here’s the kicker; the prisoner was a convicted serial rapist from Philadelphia. In society he raped mostly, if not only, Black women. He was in the sex offender program of this prison, and he was nearly up for parole release. The prison administration knew this, but here’s what they also knew: The woman counselor had just started working in the Pennsylvania DOC a month ago and she made complaints via email to the prison officials of how that prisoner kept sexually harassing her by writing sexually explicit love letters and stalking her (she even gave the prison officials the xxx-rated love [sic] letters!) But they did nothing to protect her from this guy. Next thing you know, this guy sneaks into her office and attacked her from behind; choked her and raped her for 45 minutes! They are responsible for her being raped.

So, to do damage control, in order to save their jobs, they go on a two-week rampage and unleash their venom on prisoners, and their racism on Black prisoners. All of this is done after the fact of that woman getting raped by some sick-minded prisoner, when that incident could have been prevented beforehand if they’d just done their jobs of protecting her when she informed them about that guy. Now the local state representative for this county is calling on an investigation in the matter and for heads to roll—firing from the job!

My point in mentioning this to you is to show you the prison officials’ (all of them!) ineptness, corruption, racism, and violence. All the Departments of Corrections across the country possess the same diseased mentality of “valuing” the lives of DOC employees and “devaluing” the lives of prisoners, although we are all human beings. The brutal rape of this woman counselor was a horrible, detestable, criminal act. However, it has received the media attention and state response that the violent deaths of two prisoners and the violent rape of one prisoner by guards this year at this prison have never received!

In November 2012, the guards murdered a juvenile prisoner serving Life, named John Carter, in solitary after they beat him and suffocated him to death with the toxic OC spray. Marlin E. Freeman forcibly raped a prisoner for four years. And in June 2013, mentally ill prisoner Steve Huston was sent to solitary for being mentally ill, placed in a cell with another prisoner (mentally ill prisoners are to be single-celled and closely watched) and his cellmate beat him to death. That’s one Black prisoner and two white prisoners, respectively. But all of that has been swept under the rug. No prison official or public outcry for those three lost souls. The message or inference here is clear: violence against prisoners is okay because they are not human beings. But violence against PA DOC employees is wrong and intolerable because they are human beings. There lies the contradiction and utter hypocrisy of PDOC officials, who actually train their guards to think this way!

Write to Shakaboona:

Mr. Kerry Shakaboona Marshall BE-7826

SCI Rockview, Box A

Bellefonte, PA 16823