Boston Woodard

Exposing Prison

There is no shortage of matters of importance that need to be brought to the attention of the public from inside California’s prison system. Its difficult to prioritize what is more important to write about. As prisoners, we do not have access to the Internet for research or sources available to free world journalists. Many of the articles I submit to my editor Mike Rhodes of the Community Alliance newspaper are written as the story unfolds, on the spot. Uncensored, unfettered, as genuinely true and accurate as it happened. For going on six years, I’ve submitted a segmented record of events to the Community Alliance that would have otherwise never been brought to the public’s attention. Mike understands the importance of what we as prisoners, as humans, have to say about our milieu behind prison walls. I encourage more prisoners to write the media.

Writing about multiple instances of abuse of power and authority by prison staff may not seem important to some, but to the countless prisoners throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the arrogant acts of abuse are distressing and anti-rehabilitative.

The illegal confiscation of prisoners’ personal property and legal materials, a scandalously run prisoner appeals system, due process rights stomped on, piss poor or no medical relief, forced to live in cramped/overcrowded unsanitary housing units, made to lie or stand for hours (nearly naked at times) in the blazing sun or sub-zero weather (tortured), chained and shackled then forcefully shipped off to private prisons (in other states) for profit, men and women put behind bars for exorbitant amounts of time (or life) for non-violent/petty crimes, elderly prisoners suffering from inadequate or the lack of geriatric care, ethnic groups targeted with racism, prisoners beaten, crippled and killed and the list is long. The public should know how their tax dollars are being abused.

No one’s crying victim here; the abuses are a reality of life behind bars. The abuses continue even with (some) public exposure. In the California prison system, there is no such thing as an honest, non-biased “internal investigation.” It’s almost impossible to remonstrate the abuses due to the inherent course of retaliation that follows.

A typical response (to the public especially) from an upper hierarchy prison official came recently from the CDCR’s “corrections under-secretary for operations” Scott Kernan when he blurted (to Sacramento Bee journalist Charles Piller) that  “Corrections is the most investigative law enforcement organization in the State” and one that continually “roots out misconduct as diligently as we possibly can.” If you believe that crock, you’ll believe just about anything.

Daniel Johnson, a recently retired state prison research analyst, was assigned to analyze 10,000 employee misconduct appeals filed by prisoners in five years. Johnson told the Sacramento Bee that virtually every complaint filed against a correctional officer was rejected by prison officials, including hundreds of appeals alleging physical abuse “even when medical records supported the complaints.” There were many “clear instances,” he said, of manipulation by officials “in what I would say is a criminal manner.”

I intend to publish a book of articles that clearly shows the many violations, which demonstrate the pattern of abuses by prison officials in Sacramento (CDCR headquarters), to low-level rogue prison staff who have free reign to run rampant throughout the prison system, violating state and federal laws with impunity.

The forthcoming book would not be possible if not for the ardent support, faith and trust given to me by Mike Rhodes and the Community Alliance newspaper in Fresno California. An introduction to the book is impending and will be forwarded to the Community Alliance.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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