Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Message from Hank Skinner, April 01, 2009

Hey y’all,

I’m not sure whether this would be an actual New Hell Hole News or not. Mainly it’s just a reply to y’all’s comment on my New Hell Hole News #8 and 9. I was rather shocked and appalled by some of the things y’all have said. Let me set a few things straight. First of all, nothing I have written is for Ms. Karin Elsea, so she doesn’t need to respond to any of it. She’s not someone I care what she thinks.

Lesley, I appreciate all you said. It’s nice to see someone with intelligence and intellect put things in perspective. Thanks for taking up for me. I’m glad someone does and that goes for Gloria as well. If y’all like what I write, thank my advocates, Mary who types / posts it and Sandrine who distributes it in Europe.

Next, I am not an agitator or instigator. I do not “delight in causing mayhem”. I haven’t “caused” anything. I only respond to sufficient provocation. So no, Sue Miller, I don’t just want to be treated this way; I rebel only when I’m put in a position where I feel I have no other choice but to rage against the machine; when I see things my conscience won’t tolerate. Like a 6’ 2”, 215 lb. white man slamming and punching a lil’ 5’ 3” Mexican kid who doesn’t weigh 120 lbs soaking wet ---that “sort of thing”, regardless of the alleged reason for it, tends to make me want to “rebel”. I’m 100% sure it would anyone of you, as well.

As to whether anyone here or, all of us here, are being tortured under any definition of that term, you better damned believe we are, on a daily basis. Psychological torture is likely in the long run more debilitating than a physical beating.

Overview: Neuropsychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement by Dr. Stuart Grassian

My observations and conclusions regarding the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement havebeen cited in a number of federal court decisions, for example: Davenport v. DeRobertis, 844 F.2d 1310, and Madrid v. Gomez, 889F.Supp.1146. I prepared a written declaration for Madrid describing the medical literature and historical experience concerning the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement and of other conditions of restricted environmental and social stimulation. I have prepared the general (non-institution specific) and non-redacted (non-inmate specific) portions of that declaration into a general Statement, which I have entitled APsychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement@; a copy of this statement is attached hereto. It describes the extensive body of literature, including clinical and experimental literature, regarding the effects of decreased environmental and social stimulation, as well as specifically, observations concerning the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners. I offer there a general overview of the issue:

It has long been known that severe restriction of environmental and social stimulation has a profoundly deleterious effect on mental functioning; this issue has, for example, been a major concern for many groups of patients including, for example, patients in intensive care units, spinal patients immobilized by the need for prolonged traction, and patients with impairment of their sensory apparatus (such as eye-patched or hearing impaired patients). This issue has also been a very significant concern in military situations and in exploration - polar and submarine expeditions, and in preparations for space travel.

In regard to solitary confinement, the United States was actually the world leader in introducing prolonged incarceration - and solitary confinement - as a means of dealing with criminal behavior; the Apenitentiary system@ began in the United States in the early 19th century, a product of a spirit of great social optimism about the possibility of rehabilitation of individuals with socially deviant behavior. This system, originally embodied as the APhiladelphia System@, involved almost an exclusive reliance upon solitary confinement as a means of incarceration, and also became the predominant mode of incarceration - both for post conviction and also for pretrial detainees - in the several European prison systems which emulated the American model.

The results were catastrophic. The incidence of mental disturbances among prisoners so detained, and the severity of such disturbances, was so great that the system fell into disfavor and was ultimately abandoned. During this process, a major body of clinical literature developed which documented the psychiatric disturbance created by such stringent conditions of confinement. The paradigmatic disturbance was an agitated confusional state which, in more severe cases, had the characteristics of a florid delirium, characterized by severe confusional, paranoid and hallucinatory features, and also by intense agitation and random, impulsive violence - often self-directed.

The psychiatric harm caused by solitary confinement became exceedingly apparent. Indeed, by 1890, in In re Medley, 10 S.Ct.384, the United States Supreme Court explicitly recognized the massive psychiatric harm caused by solitary confinement. AThis matter of solitary confinement is not .... a mere unimportant regulation as to the safe-keeping of the prisoner ..[E]xperience [with the penitentiary system of solitary confinement] demonstrated that there were serious objections to it. A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community@. 10 S.Ct. at 386.

The consequences of the Supreme Court=s holding were quite dramatic for Mr. Medley. Mr. Medley had been convicted of having murdered his wife. Under the Colorado statute in force at the time of the murder, he would have been executed after about one additional month of incarceration in the county jail. But in the interim between Mr. Medley=s crime and his trial, the Colorado legislature had passed a new statute which called for the convicted murdered to be, instead, incarcerated in solitary confinement in the State Prison during the month prior to his execution. Unhappily, simultaneously with the passage of the new law, the legislature rescinded the older law, without allowing for a bridging clause which would have allowed for Mr. Medley=s sentencing in the older statue.

Mr. Medley appealed his sentencing under the new statute, arguing that punishment under this new law was so substantially more burdensome than punishment under the old law, as to render it=s application to him ex post facto. The Supreme Court agreed with him, even thought it simultaneously recognized that if Mr. Medley was not sentenced under the new law, he could not be sentenced at all. Despite this, the Court held that this additional punishment of one month of solitary confinement was simply too egregious to ignore; the Court declared Mr. Medley a free man, and ordered his release from prison.

Dramatic concerns about the profound psychiatric effects of solitary confinement have continued into the twentieth century, both in the medical literature, and in the news. The alarm raised about the Abrainwashing@ of political prisoners of the Soviet Union and of Communist Chine - and especially of American prisoners of war during the Korean War - gave rise to a major body of medical and scientific literature concerning the effects of sensory deprivation and social isolation, including a substantial body of experimental research.

This literature, as well as my own observations, has demonstrated that, deprived of a sufficient level of environmental and social stimulation, individuals will soon become incapable of maintaining an adequate state of alertness and attention to the environment. Indeed, even a few days of solitary confinement will predictably shift the electroencephalogram (EEG) pattern towards an abnormal pattern characteristic of stupor and delirium.

This fact is, indeed, not surprising. Most individuals have at one time or another experienced, at least briefly, the effects of intense monotomy and inadequate environmental stimulation. After even a relatively brief period of time in such a situation, an individual is likely to descend into a mental torpor - a Afog@ - in which alertness, attention and concentration all become impaired. In such a state, after at time, the individual becomes increasingly incapable of processing external stimuli, and often becomes Ahyperresponsive@ to such stimulation; for example, a sudden noise or the flashing of a light jars the individual from his stupor, and becomes intensely unpleasant. Over time, the very absence of stimulation causes whatever stimulation is available to become noxious and irritating; individuals in such a stupor tend to avoid any stimulation, and progressively to withdraw into themselves and their own mental fog.

An adequate state of responsiveness to the environment requires both the ability to achieve and maintain an attentional set - to focus attention - and the ability to shift attention. The impairment of alertness and concentration in solitary confinement leads to two related abnormalities.

The inability to focus, to achieve and maintain attention, is experienced as a kind of dissociative stupor - a mental Afog@ in which the individual cannot focus attention, cannot, for example grasp or recall when he attempts to read or to think.

The inability to shift attention results in a kind of Atunnel vision@ in which the individual=s attention becomes stuck - almost always on something intensely unpleasant - and in which he cannot stop thinking about that matter; instead, he becomes obsessively fixated upon it. These obsessional preoccupations are especially troubling. Individuals in solitary easily become preoccupied with some thought, some perceived slight or irritation, some sound or smell coming from a neighboring cell, or - perhaps most commonly, by some bodily sensation - tortured by it, unable to stop dwelling on it. I have examined countless individuals in solitary confinement who have become obsessively preoccupied with some minor, almost imperceptible bodily sensation, a sensation which grows over time in a worry, and finally into an all-consuming, life-threatening illness.

In solitary confinement, ordinary stimuli become intensely unpleasant, and small irritations become maddening. Individuals in such confinement brood upon normally unimportant stimuli, and minor irritations become the focus of increasing agitation and paranoia.

Individuals experiencing such environmental restriction find it difficult to maintain a normal pattern of daytime alertness and nighttime sleep. They often find themselves during the day incapable of resisting their bed - incapable of resisting the paralyzing effect of their stupor - and yet incapable at night of an restful sleep. The lack of meaningful activity is far compounded by the effect of continual exposure to artificial light, and diminished opportunity to experience natural daylight. And the individuals= difficulty in maintaining a normal day - night sleep cycle is often far worsened by the constant intrusions on nighttime dark and quiet - steel doors slamming shut, flashlights shining in their face, and so forth.

There is, of course, substantial differences in the effects of solitary confinement upon different individuals. Those most severely affected are generally individuals with evidence of subtle neurological or attention deficit disorder, or with some other vulnerability; this includes, for example, individuals with psychopathic personality disorders, who appear to experience a chronic underarousal of their central nervous system, leading them to have a pathological need for external stimulation. When such particularly vulnerable individuals are exposed to conditions of solitary confinement, they are especially likely to descend into states of florid psychotic delirium, marked by severe hallucinatory confusion, disorientation, and even incoherence, and by intense agitation and paranoia; these psychotic disturbances often have a dissociative character, and individuals so affected often do not recall events which occurred during the course of the confusional psychosis. Other individuals - generally, individuals with more stable personalities and greater ability to modulate their emotional expression and behavior, and individuals with stronger cognitive functioning - are less severely affected. However, all of these individuals will still experience a degree of stupor, difficulties with thinking and concentration, obsessional thinking, agitation, irritability and difficulty tolerating external stimuli (especially noxious stimuli).

EEG studies have corroborated these findings. Such studies , using volunteers, have demonstrated that even after a few days of solitary confinement, the EEG will characteristically shift in the direction of stupor and delirium. Moreover, one study from the Balkan conflict demonstrated that even after release from solitary confinement, there are continuing EEG abnormalities; the EEG shows excessive spike reaction to environmental (in that case, visual) simulation. In other words, the Ahyperresponsivity to external stimuli@ which is found clinically in individuals exposed to solitary confinement, is also seen in EEG recordings, and this disturbance continues for some unknown period of time after release from solitary. END


I have a longer affidavit from another expert, Dr. Terry Kupers who, along with Dr. Grassian, are arguably the country’s two leading experts on “SHU Syndrome” and SHU conditions. Kuper’s affidavit is 26 pages long. To whoever would like to see it, just write me and ask.

Additionally, the A. I. head office a year or two ago filed a formal complaint letter with Nathaniel Quarterman and Brad Livingston indicating that the current conditions extant on death row constitute torture and inhumane, unacceptable treatment under the International Covenant on Human Rights from the United Nations, to which the United States is a signatory.

What’s going on here with me is that Simmons, Lester, Hirsch, Lacox, et al are punishing speech, which is illegal. Just this morning Nancy sent me a certified parcel containing the grievance appeal of my wife’s being taken off my visit list and copies of a letter and I’d written Warden Simmons about that matter. The grievance was filed 02-13 but probably not received in the grievance office until 02-16 – Monday morning. Tuesday, 02-17 they sent the Region 1 shakedown team to tear up my cell. On 02-23 I wrote the letter to Simmons and somewhere around in there he was probably served a copy of the certified follow-up letter we sent to DRC about the denial of priority mail although the mail rules specifically allow us to utilize priority mail. On 02-26 they sent the Region 1 shakedown team down on us again. This morning when Nancy’s letter arrived the two officers working the pod were instructed to shakedown no one but me and take my commissary if I had any----I didn’t. Major Joe Smith and Sgt. Ray Newberry also told them to be sure they got it done before 6:30 AM – the very time the mail room delivers certified mail. Ha/ha! So right after the shake down comes the mail room with my parcel of legal material …………..get the picture? Right.

To put in proper perspective the severity of the conditions here we’ve recently had four (4) serious suicide attempts in a 2 month period. In a population of less than 350 people that is outrageous and insane! We had one of those guys here pull out his only remaining eye and eat it rather than continue to witness what goes on here. Do you think he “felt tortured”?

Ryland Tyner and Deon Jackson are Ad Seg prisoners. Half of this pod is Ad Seg. I called them “my boys” only as a term of endearment, because they are men after my own heart. They were protesting the conditions here, yes, it is civil disobedience.

I do not have a “group” of anything anymore and have not had for years. I do not solicit, provoke or encourage other prisoners to disruptive behavior, but I do sometimes talk about what I see here. And be the first to admit my view of it is severely jaded. Do you know how many people I’ve watched die in the last 13 years? Almost 350. I think 328 – 331, to be more exact. Somewhere in there. Know how many I’ve watched go insane and literally, physically “self-destruct” right before my eyes? 35. 40. 50. Somewhere in there. A guy who cuts himself to ribbons, I mean strips of meat gristle, veins and gore hanging off him, who rubs feces in his gaping wounds. You think he just wants attention? Think he “feels tortured”? Hmmmm.

I no longer operate any organized brand of resistance here and haven’t for years. Keep in mind that from 2004 to the middle of 2008 when we had good wardens and Major Nelson was here I barely wrote anything except about the L. I. issue itself. It wasn’t until this new warden reinstituted the punitive policies and mistreatment that I began to voice any opinion of it or “complain” as some call it. Ha/ha. Even at that it was only after myself and others were subjected to repeated retaliatory shakedowns, “run-ins” and worse over a period of months.

Y’all do not understand the dynamic at work here. Look at the timing of this Tabler incident – virtually 10 years to the day. Look at the way the media was employed. All the exact same sort of Hegelian flim-flammery Carey Steve Staples employed 10 years ago to effect the attempted escape from Ellis. These situations are crafted, manufactured and then manipulated to achieve the desired effect. You folks can’t see that?

Another thing, I do not provoke the officers here. I get along with most of them well. Most all of us do. There are one or two exceptions. The correctional officers who work with us on the floor every day do not mistreat us. I never said they did. When it hits the fan it’s the rank doing it and ordering the officers to do it, under threat. The rank, particularly Lester, is trying to provoke an incident of serious nature so they can laud it in the media to gain public support for their ridiculous 66 million dollar “security package” -- that’s your tax dollars they’re trying to jive you out of, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Q. Public Taxpayer. This property officer D. Smith is roundly despised by almost all the officers and rank – they put her in that position and have her acting the idiotic way she does to try to get her hurt, I think. She, herself, told us the warden and major told her to confiscate and destroy as much property as she can.

Thompson vs McNeil #08-7369 03.09.08 Supreme Court case “As he awaits execution, petitioner has endured especially severe conditions of confinement, spending up to 23 hours a day in isolation in a 6x9 foot cell. Two death warrants have been signed against him and stayed only shortly before he was scheduled to be put to death. The dehumanizing effects of such treatment are undeniable. See People vs. Anderson, 6 Cal 3d 628, 629; 493 p2d 880, 892 (1972) the process of carrying out a verdict of death is often so degrading and brutalizing to the human spirit as to constitute psychological torture”. So, yes, we are tortured.

I didn’t start this, they did. I had nothing to do with Tabler or his antics, yet they conveniently made me a target just because of who I am. Ever since June of last year when my wife began filing complaints over the mail situation, they have been retaliating with every grievance. But that hasn’t stopped me and it’s never going to. Thanks for the support Gloria, it means a lot.



E-mail: hwskinner@yahoo.com

999143 Polunsky Unit

H W Hank Skinner

3872 FM 350 South

Livingston TX 77351-8580

P. S. By the way, it’s not just me this property officer is terrorizing. On four separate occasions she’s destroyed Marlin Nelson’s property, took his electric razor, his clothes, tennis shoes, typewriter and other property and just destroyed it. He’s one of the four recent suicide attempts and Smith destroyed all of his remaining photos and boots and other property, claiming falsely it was “bloody” while he was in the hospital. He came back to the unit on Level III with nothing. Empty cell. He’s already suicidal, or, was. So you destroy his meager possessions what few are left. Deny him the comfort, if any he finds, in even that bit of stuff?

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