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CCWF Conditions Deteriorate: CCWP’s Open Letter to Prison Officials – Continued Action Needed

CCWF Conditions Deteriorate: CCWP's Open Letter to Prison Officials - Continued Action Needed

Please continue calling & emailing, updated demands below and target contacts available at: 

bit.ly/CCWF-Action

We are extremely concerned by how CCWF is handling this explosive outbreak of COVID-19. In just two weeks, COVID-19 cases rose to over 500, making CCWF among the top cluster of cases in CDCR prisons. The prison’s ineffective protocols and gross negligence have put many people in danger and caused unnecessary stress, confusion, and fear. For many of the people incarcerated at CCWF, their everyday experience is now one of chaos, extreme discomfort, and terror, where policies appear inconsistent and in many cases non-existent, and where there appears to be nothing in place to alleviate suffering and the very real threat of death. 

In particular, we are concerned about the following:

  • People in quarantine are not receiving regular medical check ups, including those who are returning from the hospital. This is a priority need. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 need regular medical attention. We demand that CDCR provide urgently needed healthcare, including mental health care, to people in quarantine at CCWF.
  • Across the institution, CDCR is implementing  chaotic moves, moving people from room to room, across units, and across yards with no clear plan or communication and often without any warning. Some people have been relocated as often as three times in two days. These moves mix the sick with those who have tested negative and cause panic and disorientation among people who are already sick and overwhelmed. CDCR must implement a clear plan that minimizes movement and allows people to recover in a more calm environment with adequate health care services.
  • With each move, people are forced to pack quickly and abandon their property, including legal paperwork, with reports emerging of staff removing belongings from people’s rooms in their absence without clear mechanisms for retrieval. These displacements can seriously impact individual’s BPH hearings and legal cases.
  • We have heard multiple accounts of staff harassing, mocking, and shaming people who have tested positive. People have also experienced threats of retaliation and have been issued 115s for speaking up about the conditions that they face. We demand an end to retaliation against incarcerated people who are fighting for life-saving changes to their quarantine conditions.
  • People in quarantine are not being provided consistent access to communication. This includes access to phones as well as to electricity to charge tablets, both of which are critical to maintaining contact to support networks outside, and critical to mental health during a crisis. CDCR must ensure access to telephones, tablets, and electricity so that those placed in quarantine can maintain contact with their loved ones.
  • Conditions inside quarantine units are dusty and filthy. CDCR must provide access to showers, laundry, clean N95 masks, gloves, and sufficient amounts of disinfectant and cleaning supplies for people in quarantine.
  • We demand that CDCR do everything possible to expedite releases for medically vulnerable and elderly people regardless of conviction. In light of the worsening outbreak, CDCR must also enforce mask use by all staff and mandatory sick leave for staff who show any symptoms of illness and/or who test positive for COVID-19.

We urge you to seriously consider these issues and to implement increased oversight of staff in all units during the pandemic. We are particularly concerned about treatment in the COVID-19 quarantine units, where staff bias and fear may be contributing to mistreatment. We are also concerned about the risk of retaliation for incarcerated people who are reporting mistreatment.

Since CDCR’s  announcements in March and July of 2020 that they would reduce the population to prevent the spread of infection, we have been troubled that there is no significant action to expedite releases for the most medically vulnerable people in CDCR prisons, including CCWF. We ask you to make every effort to convey this urgency to Governor Newsom and CDCR leadership, and to do everything in your power to support expedited releases. In particular, we encourage you to make full use of the 1170(d)(1) resentencing process by encouraging your staff to make recommendations, especially for those most at-risk to the deadly impacts of COVID-19.

This is an urgent situation that must be addressed. We have continued to document these problems and concerns since the onset of the pandemic and now, nearly a year later, find that very little has been done to prevent the spread or mitigate the impact of this deadly pandemic within CCWF. We urge you to act immediately given the increasingly dire situation that people face in your facility.

Below are more detailed accounts of the unacceptable and unsafe conditions.

COVID-19 QUARANTINE CONDITIONS AT CCWF

Conditions in COVID-19 positive units:

  • Ongoing emergency mental healthcare is not being provided to everyone in COVID-19 quarantine.
  • Across shifts, correctional officers are not rapidly responding to urgent calls for help in COVID-19 units (i.e. medical & mental health emergencies).
  • In some cases, people who have been experiencing symptoms for as long as a week have not yet been provided any medication by medical staff. 
  • People are not being given their prescribed medication, menstrual products, or personal hygiene products.
  • In some rooms, all eight inhabitants are sick and manifesting COVID-19 symptoms thus ensuring constant and prolonged exposure to the virus over a prolonged period.
  • The conditions inside the quarantine units are filthy. Rooms have not been cleaned prior to relocation of people who have tested positive. People sent to quarantine have been placed in units with trash, feces-filled toilets, etc. and were forced to utilize used cleaning supplies from common areas to make the rooms liveable. In many cases there is a thick dust coating the surfaces in the living quarters. People are sleeping on torn mattresses and rusted bunks. This filth and dust exacerbates breathing difficulties for people already struggling to breathe and with reduced lung capacity because of the virus.
  • There is little to no access to cleaning and disinfectant supplies. When people are able to access cleaning supplies, the substance is diluted to the point of being ineffective; there is a pervasive lack of access to hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap.
  • Access to commissary is restricted thus severely limiting access to critical items including soap, laundry detergent, and food, as well as over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms like fever. In some cases, commissary is being capped at an arbitrary figure with no explanation.
  • People are not consistently being provided showers. This situation is particularly dire given the filthy conditions of the rooms as well as the fever and sweating associated with the COVID-19. 
  • People are not being provided access to communication. This includes access to phones as well as to electricity to charge  tablets, both of which are critical to maintaining contact to support networks outside, and critical to mental health during a crisis. The only access to electricity that people in the quarantine units have are electrical strips running through the hallways. This is not an adequate source of electricity for the many people currently being housed in the quarantine units and it also  poses a significant fire hazard. 
  • There is no ongoing, on-site oversight of staff working in the COVID-19 units. This ensures that there is no effective monitoring regarding guard behavior and actions. 
  • We have heard multiple accounts of staff harassing, mocking, and shaming people who have tested positive. 
  • People have experienced threats of retaliation as well as rules violations for speaking up about the conditions that they face.

Housing & property:

  • Rooms where people who tested positive lived are not properly disinfected after people are taken to quarantine. CCWF needs to put additional protocols in place to ensure that proper sanitation can occur given that much of the incarcerated workforce assigned to do janitorial labor is quarantined.
  • People were forced to leave their property in their cells before being taken to quarantine. Staff are now bagging up people’s property from their rooms and taking these belongings to an undisclosed location, regardless of whether the person signed a chrono requesting their property remain in their original cell. In some instances, new people are being assigned to cells where the original inhabitants property has been left. These practices of separating people from their belongings not only cause additional disruption and stress, but prevent people from accessing legal paperwork.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Access):

  • According to stated policy, incarcerated people are given five masks and can easily request additional masks from staff. However, there are multiple accounts of people who have been unable to access masks, including if their only mask breaks. Likewise, distribution of masks is infrequent. It is often several days before replacement masks are made available.
  • It is unclear if there is a policy in place to ensure that requests for much-needed supplies – i.e. masks, PPE, cleaning & disinfecting supplies – are being acknowledged and addressed. This is particularly concerning given the numbers of both incarcerated and free staff who are unable to work. It is also unclear whether high-risk prisoners (COVID-19 positive or essential workers) have access to any N95 or equivalent masks.

Staff Practices:

  • Staff are frequently seen without masks; overall, the practice of wearing masks among staff is inconsistent.
  • Staff frequently do not wear gloves or do not just change their gloves with a frequency consistent with good hygiene practices for preventing contamination. 
  • Testing of staff is infrequent to the point of negligence and endangerment. Many staff are only being tested once a week when they work 5 – 7 days a week.
  • We urge CCWF to perform daily rapid response COVID-19 tests on staff upon entering the prison in order to prevent further spread of the virus. We urge CCWF to enforce mandatory sick leave for staff who have tested positive or are showing COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • CCWF must implement an enforcement mechanism or consequence for staff not following guidelines. 

Medical Access:

  • Adequate measures have not been taken to ensure that medically vulnerable people, including elderly and immunocompromised people, are protected from infection. This must be addressed immediately.
  • Special medical services must not be disrupted for medically vulnerable and quarantined people, and there must be a consistent procedure for ensuring continuity of care for people with special dietary and chronic health conditions.
  • Quarantine procedures must be followed consistently. For example, we are concerned that some people have tested negative but are still in COVID-19 quarantine, while others are still waiting on test results, but allowed out of quarantine. Given that current COVID-19 testing has a wide margin of error, we are concerned that those whose tests are “inconclusive” could be kept in quarantine indefinitely, creating an endless experience of isolation.

Information Access: 

  • There is lack of information made available and circulated to incarcerated people about COVID-19 (prevention and precautions, symptoms, best practices when sick, etc.) as well as a lack of information on the CCWF’s protocols for ensuring the health and safety of those in its custody. The policies and regulations appear disjointed, arbitrary, random, unevenly applied, and inconsistent thus increasing feelings of terror, isolation, disorientation, and confusion among the population.
  • Family members and advocates are facing delays in receiving urgent medical updates and information about people with COVID-19. 
  • CCWF must increase access to information for people in all units about COVID-19 prevention, risks, symptoms, etc. The lack of information in the quarantine unit is particularly problematic, as people with COVID-19 navigate symptoms without basic health education. 

Food Access:

  • CDCR is currently feeding incarcerated people very little and dinner is now being delivered late in the evening.
  • We have received multiple reports that food served is moldy and outdated.
  • There are severe limits on commissary spending (down to $55 a month) resulting in a drastic cut in supplemental food (and hygiene), essentially forcing incarcerated people to choose between eating and trying to maintain hygienic practices to protect themselves during the pandemic.
  • Quarterly packages which also contain food are in the warehouse but are not being distributed. Thus, boxes with food items that have already been paid for at great expense by family and loved ones are currently sitting in the warehouse and getting old and moldy. There are no plans in place to deliver or to replace the items that are going bad.

CONTACT:

Bay Area Chapter
4400 Market St.
Oakland, CA 94608

info@womenprisoners.org
415-255-7036 ext. 4

CONTACT:

Los Angeles Chapter
P.O. Box 291585
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Advocates Demand Action as Largest Women’s Prison Experiences COVID-19 Outbreak

Advocates Demand Action as Largest Women's Prison Experiences COVID-19 Outbreak

PRESS RELEASE:

For Immediate Release:
January 5th, 2021

Contact:
Kelly Savage – 435-559-4093, kellysav2018@gmail.com
Courtney Hanson – 916-316-0625, courtney@womenprisoners.org

Advocates Demand Action as Largest Women’s Prison Experiences COVID-19 Outbreak 

CHOWCHILLA, California – There is a life-threatening massive outbreak of COVID-19 at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), California’s largest women’s prison. In the past two weeks, there have been 500 new COVID-19 cases, representing 25% of the population at CCWF. The prison’s ineffective protocols and gross negligence have directly fueled the spread of the virus. Conditions at CCWF continue to rapidly deteriorate, putting hundreds of lives at risk.

Despite having ten months to prepare for a potential outbreak, CCWF administration did not have effective plans or protocols in place to deal with this surge. After receiving positive COVID-19 test results, some cellmates continue to be housed together for hours on end, inevitably spreading the virus in crowded cells that house up to eight people. The units designated for quarantine are filthy, exacerbating breathing problems for those with COVID-19. Quarantine units do not have access to much needed disinfectant and cleaning supplies although these items are absolutely essential to reduce the spread of the virus.

People with COVID-19 are not being provided consistent access to medical care or daily prescribed medications. Anxiety and depression are rapidly increasing without the availability of mental health services. People are being denied communication with family and other life-saving support on the outside just at the time when it is most needed. Some women who asked for access to the phones and for electricity to use their tablets to email their families were hogtied and placed in cages as punishment. “Correctional staff have verbally mocked and degraded people who have tested positive,” says Kelly Savage of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. “They are implying that incarcerated people are to blame for their own illness, despite the outbreak being fueled by COVID-19 transmission by staff.”

Advocates at the California Coalition for Women Prisoners continue to demand expedited release for all medically high risk people and swift action by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and CCWF to contain the virus as quickly as possible and save lives. People in quarantine need immediate access to health and mental health care, access to all means of communication, and an end to retaliation for protesting negligent conditions.

  • Provide urgently needed healthcare, including mental health care, to people in quarantine.
  • Ensure access to telephones, tablets, and electricity so that those places in quarantine can maintain contact with their loved ones.
  • Enforce mask use by CDCR staff and mandatory sick leave for staff who show any symptoms of illness and/or who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Provide access to showers, laundry, clean N95 masks, gloves, and sufficient amounts of disinfectant.
  • Expedite release for medically vulnerable, and elderly people regardless of conviction.
  • Stop retaliation against incarcerated people who demand life-saving changes to quarantine conditions.

###

CONTACT:

Bay Area Chapter
4400 Market St.
Oakland, CA 94608

info@womenprisoners.org
415-255-7036 ext. 4

CONTACT:

Los Angeles Chapter
P.O. Box 291585
Los Angeles, CA 90029

URGENT ACTION: COVID Outbreak in CCWF

COVID cases are rising rapidly at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) with over 500 people testing positive as of January 4. We are hearing from incarcerated people that conditions are rapidly deteriorating. CDCr staff continue to not wear masks and more and more people are being sent to filthy cells in Covid quarantine where they are unable to communicate with loved ones or report on conditions to the outside world. Further, Covid-positive people who are demanding better conditions are facing additional isolation and punishment.

Download & share social media graphics!

PLEASE USE THE PHONE/EMAIL SCRIPT BELOW TO CONTACT THE FOLLOWING OFFICES:

PHONE NUMBERS:

  • CCWF Warden Pallares: (559) 665-5531 ext. 6002; Mike.Pallares@cdcr.ca.gov
  • CCWF Health Care Access: (559) 665-5531 ext. 5530
  • CCWF Associate Warden for Housing: (559) 665-5531 ext. 5148
  • CCWF Custody Captain: (559) 665-5531 ext. 5565
  • Federal Healthcare Receiver Clark Kelso: (916) 739-7000
  • CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison: (916) 324-7308, press 8 & leave message 

SCRIPT

My name is _____ and, alongside incarcerated people at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), I have serious concerns regarding the rapid increase of COVID at CCWF. In less than one week, the number of positive cases has increased to over 200 people and counting. I strongly urge you to take the following crucial steps:

  • Provide urgently needed healthcare, including mental health care, to people in quarantine.
  • Ensure access to telephones, tablets, and electricity so that those placed in quarantine can maintain contact with their loved ones.
  • Enforce mask use by CDCR staff and mandatory sick leave for staff who show any symptoms of illness and/or who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Provide access to showers, laundry, clean N95 masks, gloves, and sufficient amounts of disinfectant.
  • Expedite release for medically vulnerable, and elderly people regardless of conviction.
  • Stop retaliation against incarcerated people who demand life-saving changes to quarantine conditions.

Thousands of our community members’ lives are on the line. We urge you to use your power to intervene and save lives.

#StopCCWFOutbreak

Statement from Lisa Montgomery’s Following her Execution

Update from Lisa’s organizing team 1/12/21 [source: instagram @herwholetruth]

image sourced from @herwholetruth instagram 1/13/21 with caption “Not a monster, not a saint. A person who deserves to live.”

“We are devastated and outraged. SCOTUS denies #LisaMontgomery her request for a stay of execution so that the district court can hold a hearing to determine whether she is competent to be executed. Her execution can go forward, even though she has a tenuous grasp of reality.”


Attorney Statement: 1/12/21

The following is a statement released by Lisa Montgomery’s attorney late last night. The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight. Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame. No one disagrees that Mrs. Montgomery was the victim of unspeakable torture and sex trafficking. No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease – diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors. Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand her execution. The current administration knows this. And they killed her anyway. Violating the Constitution, federal law, its own regulations, and longstanding norms along the way. The government stopped at nothing in its zeal to kill this damaged and delusional woman. After we, her attorneys, contracted COVID-19 during our travels to visit her after her execution was scheduled, the government fought tooth and nail against any delay to allow us to recover so we could represent her effectively. Then they violated the law in multiple ways in rescheduling her execution for the final days of the Trump Administration. As courts agreed Lisa’s case presented important legal issues warranting serious consideration – including whether she was competent to execute – the government hammered onward with appeals. By insisting on an execution during a pandemic, this administration demonstrated its reckless disregard for human life of innocent citizens. Executions are super-spreader events. The government knows this. Yet, they put the lives of every single person who must participate in these “events” as well as every one of those persons’ friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, and who knows how many other people. Because this administration was so afraid that the next one might choose Life over Death, they put the lives and health of US citizens in grave danger. In the midst of all this litigation, Lisa’s request for clemency remained before President Trump. It was supported by thousands of organizations and individuals – faith leaders, anti-violence advocates, conservative leaders, international organizations, and many more. But the President did nothing. He had not even the decency to formally deny – or even acknowledge – Lisa’s clemency application, though it is hard to imagine a case more deserving of executive intervention than this one. Lisa Montgomery’s execution was far from justice. She should never have faced a death sentence in the first place, as no other woman has faced execution for a similar crime. And Lisa was much more than the tragic crime she committed, a crime for which she felt deep remorse before she lost all touch with reality in the days before her execution. Lisa was also much more than the horrors inflicted upon her, the sexual violence and abuse she endured at the hands of those who were supposed to love, nurture, and protect her. Lisa was a loving mother, grandmother, and sister who adored her family. She was a devout Christian who loved Christmas and created beautiful angels for those lucky enough to receive her gifts. Lisa often became trapped in the prison of her mind, losing touch with reality for periods of time. But when not gripped by psychosis, she was a gentle and caring person whom I was honored to know and to represent. Lisa Nouri, Amy Harwell and I represented Mrs. Montgomery for eight years. We loved her very much and she loved us. She honored us with her truth and trusted us to share it in a way that not only told her story, but that could help other women. Even though President Trump could not be the hero we asked him to be, we are here to say to every woman and girl who has been the victim of violence and degradation: You matter. Your pain matters. You are more than a victim. You are a survivor. Do not let anyone humiliate or shame you. You deserve to be loved. In the past week, we have seen just how far President Trump and his administration will go in their disdain for justice and the rule of law. This failed government adds itself to the long list of people and institutions who failed Lisa. We should recognize Lisa Montgomery’s execution for what it was: the vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power. We cannot let this happen again. -Kelley Henry, attorney for Lisa Montgomery-January 13, 2021

The following is a statement released by Lisa Montgomery’s attorney late last night. The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight. Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame. No one disagrees that Mrs. Montgomery was the victim of unspeakable torture and sex trafficking. No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease – diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors. Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand her execution. The current administration knows this. And they killed her anyway. Violating the Constitution, federal law, its own regulations, and longstanding norms along the way. The government stopped at nothing in its zeal to kill this damaged and delusional woman. After we, her attorneys, contracted COVID-19 during our travels to visit her after her execution was scheduled, the government fought tooth and nail against any delay to allow us to recover so we could represent her effectively. Then they violated the law in multiple ways in rescheduling her execution for the final days of the Trump Administration. As courts agreed Lisa’s case presented important legal issues warranting serious consideration – including whether she was competent to execute – the government hammered onward with appeals. By insisting on an execution during a pandemic, this administration demonstrated its reckless disregard for human life of innocent citizens. Executions are super-spreader events. The government knows this. Yet, they put the lives of every single person who must participate in these “events” as well as every one of those persons’ friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, and who knows how many other people. Because this administration was so afraid that the next one might choose Life over Death, they put the lives and health of US citizens in grave danger. In the midst of all this litigation, Lisa’s request for clemency remained before President Trump. It was supported by thousands of organizations and individuals – faith leaders, anti-violence advocates, conservative leaders, international organizations, and many more. But the President did nothing. He had not even the decency to formally deny – or even acknowledge – Lisa’s clemency application, though it is hard to imagine a case more deserving of executive intervention than this one. Lisa Montgomery’s execution was far from justice. She should never have faced a death sentence in the first place, as no other woman has faced execution for a similar crime. And Lisa was much more than the tragic crime she committed, a crime for which she felt deep remorse before she lost all touch with reality in the days before her execution. Lisa was also much more than the horrors inflicted upon her, the sexual violence and abuse she endured at the hands of those who were supposed to love, nurture, and protect her. Lisa was a loving mother, grandmother, and sister who adored her family. She was a devout Christian who loved Christmas and created beautiful angels for those lucky enough to receive her gifts. Lisa often became trapped in the prison of her mind, losing touch with reality for periods of time. But when not gripped by psychosis, she was a gentle and caring person whom I was honored to know and to represent. Lisa Nouri, Amy Harwell and I represented Mrs. Montgomery for eight years. We loved her very much and she loved us. She honored us with her truth and trusted us to share it in a way that not only told her story, but that could help other women. Even though President Trump could not be the hero we asked him to be, we are here to say to every woman and girl who has been the victim of violence and degradation: You matter. Your pain matters. You are more than a victim. You are a survivor. Do not let anyone humiliate or shame you. You deserve to be loved. In the past week, we have seen just how far President Trump and his administration will go in their disdain for justice and the rule of law. This failed government adds itself to the long list of people and institutions who failed Lisa. We should recognize Lisa Montgomery’s execution for what it was: the vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power. We cannot let this happen again. -Kelley Henry, attorney for Lisa Montgomery-January 13, 2021

Advocates Say Conditions At Women’s Prison In Chowchilla Remain Poor Following Huge COVID Outbreak

KVRP
By Madi Bolanos 

LISTEN TO THE STORY HERE

Aminah Elster is the policy coordinator at the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and a formerly incarcerated person. She says the women inside the Chowchilla facility continue to tell her about unsafe living conditions even after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported the highest number of positive cases, 512, at the facility on Jan. 3. 

“The conditions are filthy. There’s dust everywhere, torn mattress, rusted bunks,” Elster says. “There’s little to no access to cleaning supplies.” 

Elster says the women inside the quarantine unit are also not receiving adequate medical treatment. In addition, Elster says, the facility doesn’t quarantine every patient who tests positive.

“In unit 512 for instance, if individuals test positive in that unit, there have been instances where they have been allowed to go back into that unit and coexist with other people that haven’t tested positive,” she says.

In a statement to KVPR, a spokesperson for CDCR denies these allegations and says isolated patients are given appropriate medical care and cleaning supplies.    

But Eugene Hernandez says his granddaughter, who is incarcerated at the facility, tells him otherwise.

“She tells me they’re not providing any medical care for the women who are quarantined,” he says. And he says his granddaughter is afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation by the prison staff. 

The conditions at the facility have also taken a serious mental toll on the women inside, Elster says, including her own mother-in-law who told Elster she was frightened she would catch the virus.

The CDCR spokesperson says incarcerated individuals may request mental health services at any time. 

US government executes woman for first time in nearly seven decades

Press TV
January 13, 2021

The United States executed Lisa Montgomery, a convicted murderer and the only woman on federal death row, early on Wednesday, making her the first female prisoner to be executed by the federal government since 1953.

Montgomery was convicted in 2007 in Missouri of kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery cut Stinnett’s fetus from the womb and tried to pass off the child as her own.

After Montgomery was strapped to a gurney in the government’s death chamber, a female executioner asked if she had any last words. Montgomery responded in a quiet, muffled voice, “No,” according to a reporter who served as a media witness.

Federal judges in multiple courts had delayed her execution to allow for hearings on whether she was too mentally ill to understand her punishment and whether the government had given insufficient notice of her execution date under law.

But around midnight the US Supreme Court’s conservative majority summarily dismissed the final obstacles, and Montgomery was pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m. EST (0631 GMT) at the Department of Justice’s execution chamber at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Some of Stinnett’s relatives attended as witnesses but declined to speak with the media, the Justice Department said.

Montgomery’s execution was opposed by United Nations human rights experts, several dozen former prosecutors, and multiple groups against violence to women, prompting debate over the role past trauma can play in some of the most horrific crimes prosecuted by the justice system.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the execution was “an indefensible use of government power,” coming only a week before the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, a Democrat who takes office on Jan. 20 and says he will seek to end the federal death penalty.

Montgomery was the 11th person executed on federal death row since the practice was resumed last year under outgoing President Donald Trump, a Republican and an outspoken proponent of capital punishment. Before Trump, there had been only three federal executions since 1963.

Kelley Henry, Montgomery’s lawyer, called the execution “vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.” Some doctors who examined Montgomery testified that her brain was structurally damaged and she suffered from psychosis, auditory hallucinations and other mental illness, exacerbated by the abuse and rapes she suffered at the hands of her mother and stepfather.

“No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease — diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors,” Henry said in a statement. “Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand her execution.”

Until this week, she had been held for many years at FMC Carswell in Texas, a federal hospital prison for female inmates with mental illness.

It was one of three executions the US Department of Justice had scheduled for the final full week of Trump’s administration. Two other executions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been delayed, for now at least, by a federal judge in Washington, to allow the condemned murderers to recover from COVID-19.

Source: Reuters

Lawsuit says New Mexico prison officials allowed guard to assault inmates repeatedly

santafenewmexican.com

Phaedra Haywood
phaywood@sfnewmexican.com


Allegations of guards sexually assaulting prisoners at the state-run women’s prison in Springer continue to mount.

Albuquerque attorneys representing several inmates who say they’ve been sexually assaulted at the facility have filed another complaint in federal court, saying a supervisor who still works there turned a blind eye while a former guard sexually assaulted their client and other women.

The New Mexican is not naming the plaintiff because she is making allegations of sexual assault.

Chief of Security Robert Gonzales — who was also the prison’s acting warden when some of the alleged assaults occurred — and former corrections officer Christopher Padilla have been named as defendants in at least two other lawsuits, including one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

“Gonzales knew Padilla had a predilection for abusing inmates,” the complaint says, but “actively facilitated” Padilla’s abuse of more inmates by whitewashing his prior abuse of prisoners.

Neither man could be reached for comment.

The plaintiff says in her complaint that officials at the Springer Correctional Center knew based on a 2015 background check that Padilla had been accused of inappropriately touching a child in California before coming to New Mexico but hired him anyway.

Since then, the lawsuit says, at least seven prisoners have accused Padilla of sexually assaulting them at the sprawling 22-building facility in the northwest corner of the state. The suit says some of the alleged assaults occurred in his office, a boiler room and a shed.

New Mexico State Police documented one prisoner’s allegations in 2016. As chief of security, Gonzales “was unquestionably aware of the allegations,” but did not discipline or reassign Padilla and even promoted him to a supervisory position, according to the suit.

In March 2017, when state police were investigating another claim against Padilla, the complaint says, Gonzales told the reporting officer he “had never had any problems or issues with Padilla” in the past.

Another inmate made similar allegations against Padilla later that month, the complaint says.

“Gonzales could not have missed the familiar pattern repeating itself in these allegations,” the lawsuit says. “Padilla would groom the inmates he supervised, would bribe them with food and other goods in exchange for sexual favors and took advantage of his knowledge of the facility and access to private locations to assault them in private and outside the view of the facility’s cameras.”

From October 2018 to March 2019, Padilla repeatedly sexually assaulted the plaintiff, touching her body, masturbating in front of her, making vulgar comments and forcing her to perform oral sex in exchange for food and cigarettes, the lawsuit says.

To discourage her from reporting the assaults, the lawsuit says, Padilla told the woman he had “beaten six PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] complaints” made by other inmates and said his military training had prepared him to beat polygraph tests, “meaning that she would never be able to prove that he had abused her.”

Prison officials learned about the accusations in August 2019 — after the woman had been released and incarcerated on a parole violation at the women’s prison in Grants — while monitoring one of her phone calls.

Prison officials opened an investigation, the lawsuit says, and Padilla and the plaintiff were administered polygraph exams.

Padilla failed the test, the lawsuit says. The inmate passed, her allegations were substantiated and, in February 2020, Padilla was terminated.

New Mexico Corrections Department spokesman Eric Harrison confirmed Gonzales is still employed at the prison, but said in an email “the department will not comment on active litigation.”

The plaintiff is accusing Padilla and Gonzales of subjecting her to cruel and unusual punishment and suing Gonzales for negligent operation of a public facility.

She is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount in damages.