By: Boston Woodard
(Editor’s note: This is the first article Boston Woodard has sent to the Community Alliance since he was put into solitary confinement in Solano State Prison in July 2009. Since that incident, he has been sent to a remote prison in northeastern California and had his typewriter taken away. Boston says he is being punished for telling our readers what is going on inside the Prison Industrial Complex.)
On July 9, 2009, I was handcuffed, placed in leg irons, and escorted by prison guards to a segregated isolation cell in the Administrative Segregation Unit (SHU) inside Solano State Prison in Vacaville, California. My crime? Writing about a few of the rogue prison staff/predators operating in the guise of public servants behind the security fences at Solano.
For approximately five years, I have written dozens of articles for my editor Mike Rhodes of the Community Alliance newspaper in Fresno. Mike also posts my articles about prison life on Indymedia [http://www.indybay.org/centralvalley/] as well as the observations and opinions of other prisoners.
My accounts detail facts and information for anyone interested in what prison officials intentionally suppress from the general public: their dirty little secrets. I write about episodes, circumstances and conditions inside the prison system that would otherwise be kept secret by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The public has a right to know what goes on in state prison and to hear the prisoners’ side of the story.
Media forums such as the Community Alliance are important. This progressive publication allows me, as a prisoner, to exercise my constitutionally protected right to define my surroundings while affording the taxpaying public the whole story. For that, I am honored and grateful.
Four weeks after I was illegally isolated and my personal property (including my typewriter) was confiscated by Solano’s (then) warden John W. Haviland and other rogue prison staff, the retaliation leveled against me was put on the fast track. I was expeditiously transferred to the California Correctional Center (CCC) state prison in Susanville, California. This isolated prison is hundreds of miles from where I had been housed (and “programming”) near my friends and attorneys for years.
Despite my diligent efforts to obey all rules and participate in rehabilitative programs and remain disciplinary free, warden Haviland allowed several of his cohorts to harass and threaten me because I am a Jail House Journalist. The intent was to silence me and to intentionally cover up the despicable behavior of dirty guards such as Lieutenant C. Ferguson and Sergeant M. Bradley. These rogue prison employees continuously harangued and threatened me because I continued to write about Solano State Prison matters. I also would not be intimidated by Ferguson and Bradley to drop citizen’s complaints I filed against several scandalous guards for flagrant rules violations and misconduct.
The violation of my First Amendment rights is a blatant demonstration of arrogance and abuse of authority by warden Haviland and company. After Solano’s appeals, coordinators M.D. Corioso, S. Cervantes, L.N. Flores and T. Moore ignored the merits of the complaints filed on specific staff violators, CDCR officials did nothing to stop the corruption by Solano’s dirty staff.
On September 10, 2009, a preliminary injunction (hearing) was held on my civil suit in the Eastern District Court of Appeals in Sacramento. The injunction seeks an order for me to be transferred back to Solano and to have my usurped property returned, including my typewriter. My case, Woodard vs. Haviland, is pending a ruling from Judge Lawrence K. Karlton.
I testified via teleconference from Susanville, California. I explained to the federal magistrate that I was silenced because of the punishment leveled against me by warden Haviland. My typewriter was stolen by prison staff, as well as all my manuscripts, including a novel I had been working on for a number of years.
I have had three surgeries on my writing hand and it is painfully difficult for me to write. Prison officials were fully aware of this. Warden Haviland was also aware that my typewriter would be confiscated upon my arrival at Susanville because the type I had was not allowed there. I was forced to send it home.
Two of the primary staff perpetrators, Lt. C. Ferguson and Sgt. M. Bradley, concocted false documentation and placed it in my Central File (“C-File”). They claimed my article about their misconduct was a danger to them and their families. (See “Rogue Prison Staff,” Community Alliance, May 2009). These two guards are a danger to themselves, their co-workers, and the prisoners in their charge. They need heavy monitoring, or else they should be removed from “guarding” anyone.
Ferguson and Bradley were not called by the state attorneys to testify at my preliminary injunction hearing. Testifying under oath would have subjected them to a barrage of questioning by my attorneys. This brings to mind the old adage: “Raise your hand if you’re scared.”
Warden Haviland lied under oath when he testified that the confiscation of my property and subsequent transfer to Susanville were “not adverse” actions.
Haviland also testified that I violated California Code of Regulations (CCR), title 15-3005 “conduct.” I was never issued disciplinary action regarding these false claims by the warden; this too was a lie. Warden John Haviland, in an arrogant attempt to silence me from reporting the dirty inner workings of Solano State Prison, punished me because he was abjectly afraid that I would continue to detail him and his rogue staff.
Mike Rhodes testified on September 10 at my preliminary injunction. Mike explained to the federal judge the importance of articles contributed by prisoners for the Community Alliance. What prisoners have to say is the all-important other side of the story. Defense attorneys (the Attorney General’s office) for warden Haviland and his cohorts suggested that the Community Alliance was using prisoner’s articles to “sell papers” until the judge pointed out that the newspaper is free. Mike also expressed that it is important for the public to know what goes on behind prison walls.
Also testifying was my friend Denis Telgemeier, who explained that it would be detrimental, a hardship, if he and others had to travel hundreds of miles to visit me. They are being punished also.
The defendant’s council did not cross-examine me. I wish they had. I am looking forward to speaking in open court at trial and defending what I’ve written about the CDCR and those who run it. A jury and the public need to know the truth.
In 1996, I was thrown into isolation (the first time) on false charges for months because warden William A. Duncan did not like what I was writing about at that time. With the help of a pro bono attorney, my civil suit, Woodard v. Duncan, was settled after more than three years. When the Department of Corrections learned that a federal judge had ordered my case to trial, the state dropped the concocted charges against me and afforded me compensation.
In an effort to compel the rogue prison staff at Solano State Prison into compliance with the law, I chose to exercise my right to file grievances, further infuriating prison officials. I was threatened by the very same staff, over and over, while they attempted to intimidate me into dropping the complaints against several very dangerous individuals. Because I’ve always complied with prison rules, attempts were made by some staff to besmirch my good behavioral record with false charges and allegations.
This is about the essence of reporting the news to the public from the field, a firsthand account of what occurs behind prison walls during a specific episode, event or condition.
I will continue with deliberate intention to define my surroundings and share those observations and facts with the public. What I or any prisoner writes about from the field has an intrinsic value regarding what truly goes on inside the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Unlike prison officials and public information officers, I exclude the use of loopholes and tricks, end runs and flat-out lies when writing an article. The CDCR is dancing with an agenda that is out of step with reality. More to come.
You can read Boston’s earlier articles here:
Indybay Journalist in “The Hole” for Writing Article about Prison Conditions
Wednesday, Aug 5th, 2009
Zip Gun II
Tuesday, Jun 16th, 2009
A Snow Job Is No Job!: What’s in a Report?
Tuesday, Jun 16th, 2009
Rogue Prison Staff: Breaking All The Rules
Thursday, Apr 16th, 2009
Don’t Pick up the Soap!
Saturday, Aug 30th, 2008
It Ain’t So Funny When the Rabbit Has the Gun
Wednesday, Aug 13th, 2008
Arts in Corrections
Tuesday, Jul 1st, 2008
Appealing the Impossible
Sunday, May 18th, 2008
published: Wednesday, Apr 23rd, 2008
Published: Friday, Apr 11th, 2008
The Shell Game
Published: Thursday, Mar 27th, 2008
Medical Snafu, Ongoing Prison Problem
Published: Thursday, Feb 14th, 2008
Parole Board Pillory
Published: Sunday, Dec 16th, 2007
Hog-Tied (The Transferring of Sophanareth Sok)
Published: Thursday, Oct 4th, 2007
Foreign National Prisoners, Targeted For Out-Of-State Transfers
Published: Saturday, Sep 1st, 2007
” H0RRIFIED ”
Published: Sunday, Aug 19th, 2007
Published: Friday, Jun 8th, 2007
The Parole Conundrum
Published: Monday, Dec 18th, 2006