First Amend This!: An IDOC Newsletter, Jan. 2020

WELCOME to the January issue of First Amend This!: An IDOC Newsletter that addresses Idaho Corrections concerns.

Brought to you by The Captive Perspective and presented in alliance with the Book of Irving Project. Available at bookofirving82431.com — for your rightfully disgruntled loved one’s reference!

This publication provides an insider’s look at issues affecting our Idaho Department of Correction’s community. Because the editor’s an asshole, he enjoys the right to censor as needed. If you wish to assist this effort, share our link, cut and paste, or print and send this copy to another.

Our Mission: To better develop our current state of Corrections.

The Idaho legislature shares our mission and welcomes your comments! Feel free to send them your thoughts, attached to a copy of this publication.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Guess who didn’t get a black-bag midnight session after our last newsbrief? That’s right: Good ol’ 82431. Which either means we’re flying under the radar, or the powers-that-be agree it’s in our offenders’ best interest to network their concerns and petition directly for public involvement. Hmm.

In the interest of science, I vote we continue the effort to discover an answer. But before we move along, please remember this:

Should you note my disappearance or any disruption in my activities, know the universe favors both peaceful responses AND diligent inquiries: The best weapons are the questions that come with phone calls. Unleash them in every direction if and when the time comes.

Also know that I owe you, Society, and this is how I’ve decided to pay: as an apolitical self-educator that voices concern for others. So while the Constitution still protects my civic duties, let us enjoy another issue of First Amend This!

THE VIEW INTO the day room from window B54 at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution hasn’t changed much in the last two years. The same eight desks have been sitting empty in front of a television, with shackles attached, to remind us that while they are fully capable of safely seating inmates for programming opportunities, such luxuries may inadvertently include social interaction, and therefore will not be tolerated.

Or maybe the shackles are for political show.

Several times throughout the year a facility wash notifies us in Administrative Segregation of an upcoming tour group. And when the foreseeable crowd of visitors amasses in the guard bubble (an elevated window of vantage), at least one finger per group inevitably points to the empty desks with a question our inmates welcome: “What are those used for?” The guide’s typical, animated, lengthy response always exceeds “We don’t use those” — the honest, four-syllable answer.

For some time now our Restricted Housing Units have heard of plans to utilize what taxpayers have already provided: the materials needed for offering programs to offenders, prior to their reintegration into neighboring communities. And for the same amount of time, we’ve wondered what stories IDOC is feeding these tour groups.

Have they been told that people from our unit are being released from prison directly out of a 23-hour, daily lockdown — with no correctional programming or tools learned for transition? Or how the lack of these opportunities restricts our ability to meet parole-eligibility requirements? Meaning: IDOC’s highest-risk population may one day return to the community with no form of parole oversight to keep tabs on their activities.

We suspect not. And for that reason I’m happy to call Bullshit.

The estimate is two years. That’s the time it’s been since our RHU inmates haven’t had programs.

Instead they’re allowed one hour a day to stand outside, in a weathered rec cage, barring the commonly occurring staff shortages that repeatedly shut down the facility.

The “rec modules” — made of concrete slabs — have only recently received a steel-grated cutout that allows inmates to view one another. A neighbor in my vent describes them: “The dividers are new. You use to have to yell through the cracks to talk to the person next to you. It was weird, finally being able to look them in their eyes while speaking to them. It took a while to adjust.”

It’s on a cold, drizzly afternoon that I join the others in standing outside, to be locked tight in a concrete cage. The rain invites itself in, but not before mixing with rust from the overhead enclosure, ensuring more spots on the nicely-stained jacket that finds itself shared between 95 others.

A speculative conversation is taking place about how the decision was made to install the new dividers. “It had to have been the tour — they never brought [the tours] out to the cages before that. We saw them come out that once, and the next thing we knew, they were putting dividers in for us. Someone must have asked them to explain themselves: They freak out whenever people ask questions.”

Remembering how my neighbor had to “adjust” to the sight of another inmate, it’s easy to wonder what difficulty can be expected from disposing one directly into the community — following their years of deprivation in Restrictive Housing. And it’s equally easy to imagine that even the slightest consideration has the potential to prevent the largest catastrophe.

But with the conversation for Ad-Seg reform legitimizing a level of nationwide concern, some states have been slower than others to take action.

IDOC recently limited disciplinary punishments to 15 days in RHU, a cut in half from what it was before. But IDOC’s use of Ad-Seg classification typically results in a stay from somewhere between one and two years — with no set limits on the actual duration. “Five years isn’t out of the question,” says a source who will soon qualify for a minimal-security institution, but expects to receive his annual classification override.

According to IDOC Standard Operating Procedure 303.02.01.001 (Classification: Inmate), while any facility administrator can authorize a classification override for one level of security — up or down — the Prisons Division Chief must authorize a move from minimum to max. An authorization apparently made with a minimal amount of scrutiny.

A cell shared in Max introduced me to an offender whose security level allowed him to work in the community. As he spent every day in a potato plant before returning to a work center, he was shocked one evening to learn he had received a two-level override. Preparing for parole with no disciplinary issues made it hard to understand the sudden reclassification. When his family moved to investigate the matter, they were met by a response typical of IDOC: “He knows what he did.”

The Division Chief of Prisons’ approving a move without a reason on paper certainly raises the question of intent. And with disciplinary infractions being IDOC’s primary method of recording offender behavior, that they’re not needed to administer punishment as reclassification calls for additional forms of oversight.

Further along this line of concern, we have minimum-custody inmates placed in RHU who attempt to dispute their placement, only to be told that Ad-Seg isn’t a classification, and can’t be disputed as such. Which seems counter-intuitive, considering they’ve been relocated to a dark abyss when they’re eligible to work in the community.

For those who receive a Restrictive Housing Order, periodic hearings with multiple individuals are required to keep it active. These individuals are expected to possess the qualifications necessary to assess an offender’s level of risk to the facility’s general population. But with the hearings held privately, it’s not uncommon to hear questions of where the requisite staff were hiding.

Perhaps most frustrating is having to speculate on RHU requirements, because in July of 2018, IDOC revised the 2011 Restrictive Housing Policy (319.02.01.001) to reflect only short-term arrangements. Conveniently noted in the updated policy’s Revision Summary is this mysterious tidbit: “This is a new document. Information regarding other forms of specialized housing was placed in separate standard operating procedures.”

The separate procedure they are alleging to use for Long-term Restrictive Housing is SOP 319.02.01.003, and this is the eighteenth month it will have been unavailable for anyone wishing to reference it.

A recent request I made to be provided with this policy was denied on account of staff’s inability to access it themselves. Which suggests that since July of 2018, RHU staff have been operating blindly. (I.e. a large population of our prison employees are unaware of the commitments IDOC made on their behalf when reporting this 2018 policy as active, but only if the Disclosure of Idaho Department of Correction Records Under The Idaho Public Records Act was followed. If IDOC didn’t report the policy active, then the short-term policy is falsely listing it as such.)

This opens the long, redundant and boring conversation of whether or not IDOC is exhibiting criminal behavior, which I will here sum up for you: Yes.

According to Idaho Code Sections 18-3201 and 18-3202, it is a felony to steal, mutilate or falsify a public record, and we can confirm multiple examples of falsification taking place.

One of these examples is how our entire Ad-Seg population currently possesses RHO’s listing them as active participants in a Long Term Restrictive Housing Step-Up Program. With no such program existing — and the empty desks to prove it — if, say, there’s funding involved for those statused as mentioned, then that may qualify as fraud. (That IDOC had programs in the past to prepare Ad-Seg offenders for facility reintegration doesn’t go unmentioned. Nor does the fact that those programs — meant to place offenders back in population within six months — took up to a year to get enrolled in. And during that year, those wait-listed were publicly enrolled as active participants.)

In another example, inmates whose RHO’s have them listed as “Transit” are being held for months at a time in the same 23-hour-lockdown Ad-Seg. This despite the revised, available version of policy 319 requiring Transit offenders to see 3 hours out of their cells, daily. (While it’s purported that ALL Ad-Seg inmates are to be allotted this same daily increment, it can’t be confirmed without the revised 2018 policy made available.)

With the lack of administrative attention, some inmates have been moved to make efforts for others in RHU themselves.

The residents of IMSI’s Unit B2 recently petitioned to hold a hygiene drive for their unit. They suggested donations be collected anonymously among their unit and redistributed accordingly. The effort was stated “in the interest that [their] small, segregated community be able to help provide [their] neighbors with the mental health benefits that accompany using quality hygiene products.” Warden Yordy denied the request based on the need to direct his focus towards institutional matters more pressing.

Among matters more pressing: replacing three working cameras with more expensive versions to supervise the same unit, whose population can’t be seen unless you view them through their cell door’s window.

If IDOC wasn’t so intent on watching inmates sit idle, they could have spent that money helping our offenders enrich their human capacity.

Which brings the mention of how Ad-Seg inmates aren’t the only ones being denied programming opportunities. Many in our facility at one time had tentative parole dates, reliant upon the completion of programs that IDOC has a history of not offering in Max.

If it seems counter-intuitive not to offer the programming required to release inmates while we’re still housing a large offender population out-of-state, consider that prison lobbyists need to frame an argument for their $500,000,000 request to build a new facility.

And when the new facility fills with people pulled from their community work assignments — with classifications adjusted — they’ll be able present another threat greater on paper than what truly exists. Which should be good for at least another $500,000,000.

Because as any dummy will tell you: Humans don’t just traffic themselves.

DID YOU KNOW

The GEO Group’s Eagle Pass Correctional Facility is required by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to have an RHU capable of holding 10% of the inmate population. They currently only meet half that requirement.

Perhaps that’s why EPCF failed to provide our inmates the day room requirements stipulated by Texas Minimum Jail Standards §271.1(12).

When the issue of noncompliance was presented to Assistant Warden Martinez and his staff, the response was “Texas Commission Guidelines [§285.1] states each inmate shall be allowed one hour of supervised physical recreation at least three days per week,” which they were meeting.

But the concern wasn’t §285.1, it was §271.1(12). Or as the appeal put it: “[Day room] is in addition to [rec], not instead of it. You must comply with both.”

When Deputy Warden of Virtual Prisons Tim Higgins was asked to address the issue, he stated: “Texas Jail Standards allows for the facility to follow state policy for state sentenced inmates. The facility is required to follow IDOC policy. Administrative Segregation inmates are allowed 3 days of outside recreation and two days of day room recreation each week meeting IDOC policy requirements. (See: Idaho Department of Correction, Inmate 82431 Concern Form, 2-27-19)

Tim’s not completely wrong here, just mostly. Because everyone knows that TMJS §297.14(f) required IDOC and GEO Group to present the policies outlined in their Agreement Number A18-002 before populating the Texas facility. And if the policies were presented to the Commission for approval, then they weren’t provided to inmates, as required by TMJS §283.2: “A copy of the [facility’s] institutional rules and regulations shall be made available to each inmate…The rules and regulations, as provided to the inmate, shall be submitted to the Commission for approval.”

Because the EPCF Inmate Handbook fails to reflect the policies IDOC outlined in their GEO Group agreement, we can be certain one or both of the aforementioned standards were violated.

Additionally, the policy Timmy claims to have presented to the TCJS is 319.02.01.001, which — as we’ve already discussed — doesn’t apply to Long-term Restricted Housing anymore. What he should have lied about was presenting policy 319.02.01.003.

A result of failing to operate by the policies provided to ALL inmates in Texas is that Federal Disciplinary Due Process violations may now proceed as class. There is also class potential for anyone denied a grievance for using the instructions in the handbook. As filing limits take their time to expire, the extent of the damage is anyone’s guess.

(The TCJS investigation of EPCF is presumed to be ongoing. Ref. IDOC Grievance Number CF 190000071, Violations of Texas Minimum Jail Standards, Book of Irving 82431.)

Where's Policy 319.02.01.0903 - Inmate Concern Form
Where’s Policy 319.02.01.0903 – Inmate Concern Form

This month’s Just for Fun has been sponsored by Glenn “Hightop” Zamboni.

Zamboni Insurance is proud to now cover suspicious farts: “We repair your drawers AND your social standing.”

JUST FOR FUN

Contract Monitor Monte Hansen acknowledged IDOC was unable to maintain adequate records of inmate concerns from Texas, due to their being outsourced to The GEO Group. I’m happy to quote his direct response to a question I asked of whether or not IDOC knew they weren’t meeting The Idaho Public Records Act requirement: “Yeah, we’re still not really sure how that works.”

For some reason, Monte, no one’s surprised.

IN ENTERTAINMENT NEWS, there will be a one-man theatrical rendition of The Human Centipede on IMSI’s C-Block this month.

The musical score, an acappella, is to be provided through the vents by the Civil Commits. You may remember them from the Turtle-Suit Tour, where they debuted their hit single, “Batteries Aren’t for Eating (Everyone Knows They Go In Your Butt).”

COMMENTARY

With the winter solstice comes an annual appearance from the always-lovable Medieval Patrick. And due to a long-standing arrangement, whenever he’s even remotely-behaved throughout the year, he’s allowed to exercise one choice commentary in any Book of Irving production. For this year, he’s chosen to play First Amend This! into the new decade.

Love him or not, he’s going nowhere soon. Without further ado, here’s Medieval Patrick:

WE’LL BE OKAY in Ad-Seg. It’s not lost upon us that we have each other. I spend The Patrick’s 40th birthday here, enjoying a multi-cultural experience, welcoming the ever-changing tide.

To the gravitating forces that catalyze our Here and Now, we will become better at evolving our means. That is simply the way of Survival. But is it with or without you that we become better? When we finish our race, will we remember you at our hurdles, or will you have been the hurdles themselves? And what do you expect our numbers to one day be? — the same numbers your hard work is taxed to maintain.

This is a race whose finish has no clear winner, a race where we finish together — in a phrase — nonetheless. If we’re not for a cause then we’re against it. Our cause is betterment. What would be yours?

Let it never be said you fought an enemy unknown.

“Uprising” by Muse

Thanks for reading. Please share us with another.

See you soon!

AFTER THIS ISSUE WENT TO PRESS:

Idaho Maximum Security Institution
MEMORANDUM

Date: December 31, 2019
To: IMSI Ad-Seg Population
From: Warden Keith Gordy
RE: Step-Up Program 2020

Many of you are asking about a step-up program that is slated for early 2020. Here’s the plan we want to roll out.

First and foremost, all inmates in Administrative Segregation will be afforded three-hours out of cell time a day. This will be accomplished by offering 1 1/2 hours outside recreation and 1 1/2 hours inside structured activities in soon to be built indoor enclosures. The inside enclosures will be similar to our kiosks but bigger (5′ x 7′ with a shelf and stool). They will be big enough for up to four inmates to sit at a table and play cards, board game or study.

Everyone placed in Ad-Seg will be in the step-up program (Level 1 through 4). At initial placement, each inmate will be given a pathway or plan how to get out of Ad-Seg. They will be assigned specific cognitive-behavioral treatment curriculum to address the issue(s) that led them into Ad-Seg. Drug and Alcohol, Socialization, Relapse Prevention and Criminal (amp) Addictive Thinking.

Level 1 — In cell programming only, complete the first workbook specified to them. With successful completion and at 60-90 days, move to the next level.

Level 2 — In cell programming only, complete the second workbook specified to them. With successful completion and at 60-90 days at this level, move to next level.

Level 3 — In and out of cell programming, secured in programming chairs. This will be with “your level group” and may entail both hard and soft walks and multiple STG groups mixed together. With successful completion and at 60-90 days at this level, move to Level 4(asterisk)

Level 4 — Out of cell programming, unsecured and living in two-man cells. Groups will be very much like close custody. Hard and soft walks separated, attention paid to rival groups, etc. With successful completion and at 60-90 days at this level, moved back to general population based on current classification.

Frequently asked questions…

There is no de-briefing. Inmates will not be asked to come out and speak with Investigations. Our only expectation is that the offender changes the behavior that put them in segregation, not to drop out, debrief or anything that looks like that.

What’s the asterisk for above level 3? Our expectation is that most inmates placed in Ad-Seg would be moving to Level 4 at the 6 to 9-month mark and eventually back to general population in the area of a year. However, there are no guarantees an offender will be released from Administrative Segregation. If they are a repeat Ad-Seg offender or the act was so egregious, we may decide not to move them beyond level 3. This will be a subjective decision on the agency and based on the risk factors we believe an offender poses if released back to general population.

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