#FreeAlex

It is with both sadness and rage that we announce today that our friend and fellow organizer, Alexander Phillips, has been denied his petition for compassionate release. Out of respect for Alex and his family, we have been withholding releasing a statement for several months now, as state officials had given promises and reassurances they never intended to fulfill to Alex and his loved ones. It is clear that this was designed simply to minimize public pressure.

Over a year ago, Alex developed severe, crippling pain in his abdomen, around his intestinal tract. Given the frequency and severity of gastrointestinal problems in a facility whose water is loaded with rust and heavy metals like manganese, nursing staff and guards dismissed Alex’s severe pain up until about fourth months ago, when Alex was finally allowed to see a qualified physician outside of the Department of Correction. This physician discovered nearly immediately that Alex had stage 4 metastatic pancreatic and colon cancer. Upon prognosis, he was given six months to live.

Immediately after this discovery, his mother, an oncology nurse, appealed directly to the warden and the state. State officials said that Alex was a possible candidate for the new law that ostensibly offers compassionate release to dying prisoners. While waiting, Alex’s pain has become so severe and debilitating that he has lost the ability to walk freely and has been confined to a wheelchair, receiving aggressive chemotherapy treatments. At the compassionate release hearing, DOC Commissioner Thomas Turco cited Alex’s ability to still walk (on days that he is not confined to a bed) as evidence that he is “not impaired enough for release.”

It is important to understand that this judgement comes from a system wholly responsible for Alex’s situation. While it would be difficult to prove a causal relationship between the toxic water at MCI-Norfolk and the cancer, it is important to know that Alex was in excellent condition upon being sentenced to prison. This means that it almost certainly developed in the interceding 8 years that Alex has been incarcerated.

Oncologists and public health officials have long noted the survival rate rapidly rises for those who are able to get cancer diagnoses quickly and early in the first stages of the development of the disease. This same survival rate drops rapidly the longer someone is forced to wait to access qualified medical care. Aside from the fact that the toxic conditions at MCI-Norfolk almost certainly put an added strain on Alex’s already struggling gastric and immune systems, the sheer wait ensured that no matter how aggressive the treatment, an eventual diagnosis would be a death sentence.

Alex is 31. As of right now, he has 3 more years to serve on his sentence.

We are calling on everyone in our networks, and those with whom we have yet to work and struggle to join us in a collective cry of rage and anger at a system that does not believe in its own hollow mandate for rehabilitation. This is a system that routinely and intentionally fails people like Alex and his family in its utter inability to see the people they incarcerate as human beings. We focus our rage as well on the Baker administration, whose recent signing of the compassionate release provision can only be seen as yet another publicity stunt for an administration with an abysmal record of “criminal justice reform.” But we also focus our rage on the larger system— the meta-system that treats human beings as disposable, not worthy of love or care. A system that believes it holds the ability to steal people from their lives and murder them with impunity while in the same breath condemning those it rips from the community for the same things. This is the carceral state. Uninterested in healing, incapable of reform.

Last week, Alex graduated with his closest friends from Boston University. Emaciated but standing strong, this photo is likely the last happy memory we have of a man we all love so dearly. Join us in our grief.

Then get ready to fight.

Please join us by following us on Facebook or join our mailing list here: https://lists.people-link.net/mailman/listinfo/deeperthanwater

 

more coming soon...

Get Romano to a doctor now!

Thank you to everyone
who called! We are currently 
holding off to see if the DOC
does the right thing. We will 
keep you posted. Get ready to 
fight some more. -DTW

 

From time to time, we get requests from folks inside that a particular prisoner has been the victim of medical neglect. Such is the case with Romano Newball. Here is the text posted this morning via Facebook

We received word last night about Romano Newball, a 77-year-old at MCI-Norfolk with a terrible flesh-eating rash all over his body. The prison medical has given him an anti-fungal cream but it is not helping at all. The prison is refusing to let him see an outside doctor to diagnose and treat him. Romano is in a great deal of pain and needs proper medical care.

We know from past experience that your calls are effective and necessary. Please call MCI-Norfolk today at 508-660-5900, extension 299 and ask to speak to the superintendent. Demand that the prison allow Romano to see a doctor outside of the prison to receive proper medical care!

 

 

Update: Thank you to all the amazing folks who have called in already! Callers are reporting back that the DOC is insisting that Romano receives “the same medical care” as all prisoners. We don’t dispute this: Romano is a victim of a system that is deliberately understaffed and underfunded. Our Coalition has received first-hand accounts from folks inside, corroborated by dozens of people, of medical ailments that started out small, but have grown in severity due to non-treatment. By the time the DOC refers prisoners out to proper treatment, often the disease has progressed to do irreversible damage. DOC medical staff are often underqualified, and there are frequently single staff members for entire facilities.

 

In the news

Spare Change News – May 9, 2018
Inmate Spends Ten Days in solitary Confinement to Protest Lack of Clean Water

WBUR, NPR All Things Considered – March 30, 2018
Drinking Water Remains A Concern At Norfolk Prison In Mass.

Democracy Now! – March 30, 2018
Punished for Distributing Clean Water, MA Prisoner Enters Hunger Strike

The Boston Globe – March 24, 2018 – by David Abel
“In protest of foul water, prisoner starts hunger strike at MCI-Norfolk”

Spare Change News – December 7, 2017 – by Zach Mobrice
“Coalition Pushes for Clean Water and Justice in Massachusetts Prisons”

The Sun Chronicle – June 17, 2017 – by Stephen Peterson
“Norfolk prison water still an issue”

The Boston Globe  – June 17, 2017 – by David Abel
“Water at state’s largest prison raises concerns” [ see full text here ]

History

On May 19th, 2018, people from over a dozen organizations converged on the grounds of MCI-Norfolk, where Malcolm X was incarcerated between 1946-1952. May 19th would have been Malcolm X’s 93rd birthday. MCI-Norfolk is the largest prison in Massachusetts, where over 1,500 human beings are held against their will.

MCI-Norfolk is a medium security prison which stands next to the now defunct Bay State Correctional Center. Between the two lies a sea of concertina wire, fences and concrete walls. There are three facilities in this short two-mile expanse: MCI-Norfolk, MCI-Cedar Junction (formerly known as MCI-Walpole), and Pondville Correctional Center. Over 2,000 people are held on this small stretch of land.

Since the late 1980’s, MCI-Norfolk and the land that it sits on has been the center of controversy, including lawsuits brought by the towns of Walpole and Norfolk against the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. At the time, the Army had approved construction of a wastewater treatment plant that would process wastewater from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Boston Harbor cleanup efforts and provide a landfill for residual waste. This landfill was constructed at MCI-Walpole (now Cedar Junction), which sits south of Norfolk, and Pondville.

In the early 1990’s, prisoners at MCI Norfolk began to report that their drinking water began to smell strongly of chlorine. Water used by prisoners is locally sourced from wells operated by the Department of Correction. Prisoners have since likened the experience to trying to drink from a swimming pool; at times the potency of the smell has been enough to make people recoil from glasses of it and activated gag reflexes. Several prisoners reported that their hair started to change colors in the light to shades of green.In the interceding decades between then and now, the water at these prisons has turned from heavily chlorinated to sulfurous. Over time the color of the water has changed from clear, to beige, to brown and eventually black. This water is used by prisoners for drinking, washing, preparation of food and all sanitary functions.

The DOC has a long history of failing to comply with laws governing safe drinking water. In 2012, the state Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) issued an Administrative Consent Order, in which it found that two of the three water supply sources for the DOC facilities exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant level for iron and manganese, which prevented the delivery of “safe, fit, pure drinking water.” The DEP also found that the DOC did not “currently have any treatment to remove the high levels of iron and manganese from its sources.” The DEP ordered the DOC to activate a filtration system capable of handling iron and manganese by November 1, 2015. Despite the immediate need, the DOC has yet to fully comply with this order. Organizers have tracked the flow of millions of dollars in the past year towards construction of the filtration system, however prisoners report that the water remains worse than it ever has been. Recently, amidst the first hot days of late Spring, the water had to be completely shut off. Prisoners were told that the water coming out of the pipes was not potable and given gallon jugs of water.

In 2015, prisoners inside MCI-Norfolk, fearful of the dangers the water posed to their health and safety, began to collect data from their fellow prisoners. The data was compiled into a Water and Health report that was released in 2016. Since then, prisoners have continued to update the report. The 2016 report, which contained a list of ailments ranging from gastric cancers to skin lesions, was supplied to David Abel of The Boston Globe. In June of 2017, Abel published an expose documenting the ongoing failure of the DOC to provide prisoners with safe, clean water. In this article, Abel chronicled reports from prisoners that the DOC had instructed guards at the facility not to drink the water from the tap and had instead supplied guards with bottled water. NEADS dogs, service animals at the facility, were also provided with bottled water as were dogs from the K-9 unit.

In coordination with members inside, the #DeeperThanWater coalition was formed in June of 2017 to support the efforts of prisoners at MCI-Norfolk. The outside membership is comprised of a group of local organizations ranging from prison abolition organizations to socialist groups, public health researchers, and environmental justice activists. Much of the catalyst for this work came from two primary sources: ongoing contacts with loved ones inside who spearheaded the organizing efforts that led to the court order and the expose in the Globe, and the recent release of Timothy J. Muise, a powerful organizer who for decades pushed against the injustices of the DOC from inside the prison walls. Muise’s work can be seen on Solitary Watch and Between the Bars.

In response to ongoing organizing around the water, the state has ramped up efforts to build the filtration system required by the terms of the consent order with the DEP. Despite the requirement to do so, the state sat on their hands until 2016, when they put a contract out to bid. Actual construction didn’t start until after public pressure began. To date, prisoners inside have decreasingly safe water. In response to statements by state agencies that the problem was being tended to, activists have re-analyzed the EPA’s data so far collected on the water supply. When isolated by well, all but one (which remains fairly stable) shows an upward trend of manganese contamination, now severely exceeding action levels.

Statement from Wayland Coleman on the events of March 21st

#Deeper Than Water Report

On March 20, 2018, I was called to the administrative building by Captain Andrew Rego. When I got there, Captain Rego threatened me, telling me not to pick up my weekly canteen order, which I was scheduled to pick up the next morning. The reason for the threat—according to Captain Rego—was because I had too much bottled water in my cell, and I had six more cases coming the next morning. The water was purchased legally from the canteen, and they had taken the money out of my account. Canteen sells 16oz. bottles of water for 50¢ per bottle, and there were no limits at the time, on how much water we could purchase, up to the $85 spending cap that we have for weekly canteen orders. I had ordered six cases (24 bottles per case), which cost $72. I was told by Captain Rego, that if I picked up my water, that I would suffer serious consequences.

Different units are called to pick up canteen at different times. I lived in unit 4-1, which picked up canteen on Wednesdays around 10:00AM. On March 21, 2018, shortly after 9:00AM, I was isolated from my unit, and called over to the canteen building alone, ahead of my unit schedule by officer DeOliveira. When I arrived, DeOliveira called me into his office, and demanded that I refuse my purchase of water, and that I only sign for the three bars of soap that was ordered with my water. He told me that if I didn’t sign for the soap, that I would be refusing my entire canteen. I rejected his offer to sign only for my soap, and I told him that I wanted the water that I had purchased. The money for the water was already taken out of my account. DeOliveira demanded that I refuse, and stated that he could not sell me the water, and that I wasn’t allowed to buy anymore.

Considering that he is D.O.C. security staff, and not Keefe canteen staff, I told him that I wanted a written notice stating that he could not sell me water, and a written notice stating that he had the authority to force me to refuse my canteen. He became furious, and told me that he was sending my canteen order back because I had refused, and that was it. I told him that I was not refusing, and that I wanted my canteen order, and he walked away. I left his office and was leaving the building, when a friend—who had also purchased water—asked me to help carry his canteen. I went over and grabbed one of the cases of water. When officer DeOliveira saw me with the case of water, he was in flames, and he began to yell for me to leave the building. I began to leave, and on my way out, I encountered the actual canteen staff person next to the exit door.

I attempted to explain the situation to her, and asked her whether or not the security staff had the authority to force me to refuse my canteen order. She appeared to not know what was going on, and when officer DeOliveira saw me talking to her, he rushed over, and physically attempted to push me out of the door. I looked him in the eyes, and demanded that he not put his hands on me. I left the building and was walking away, and the officer decided to call for a response team. Within seconds, there were about fifteen officers surrounding me. I placed the case of water on the ground, and stood non aggressively with my hands in front of my groin. One of the responding officers, CO Tessier, approached me aggressively. I attempted to explain what was going on, when suddenly, Tessier grabbed me and attempted to toss me to the ground, causing other officers to jump on me. Officer DeOliveira saw an opportunity to vent, and placed me in a guillotine chokehold, cutting off my ability to breathe.

I attempted to yell “I can’t breathe!” but I couldn’t get any words out. I kept attempting to say, “you’re choking me!” but all I heard from the cops who were pinning me down, was, “shut the fuck up.” “Fuck you.” I worried about dying. Even if by mistake. My mind kept asking, are they killing me? DeOliveira was finally ordered to let go, and after that, I was placed in solitary confinement.

On March 22nd, I was issued a disciplinary report for possession of contraband in my cell (the 14 cases of water). The d-report was issued as a category 3 offense. On March 23rd, the d-report was dismissed, and reissued as a category 4 offense, which is the lowest level of offense. By this time, #Deeper Than Water had already began to pound the D.O.C. with concerns and demands. Officer Cortes—after reissuing the category 4 ticket—gave me an opportunity to plead guilty, so that we could “clear this whole thing up.” I refused the offer, since I am not willing to accept that clean drinking water, sold to me via canteen, is contraband. On March 24th, The Boston Globe wrote an article about the water, and my placement in solitary confinement. On March 27th, I was issued a second disciplinary report for the incident at the canteen.

The second disciplinary report, which I received a week later, was the department’s attempt to justify my placement in solitary confinement. It’s embarrassing for the Department of Corrections to be exposed putting someone in solitary confinement for buying clean drinking water for everyone, so DeOliveira had to falsify his report in order to make it look like something else. The Department needs to discredit me somehow. The problem is, I didn’t respond to their use of force with violence. The d-report issued by DeOliveira, shows you the extent that they will go to in order to save face. They can’t just admit that they overreacted.

As of today, April 21, 2018, I’m awaiting two disciplinary hearings, of which no dates have yet been scheduled.[1]

They’ll never place fear in me, because I’m willing to die for what I believe in. I just don’t want to die not fighting back. I don’t want to be one of the ones who submit peacefully, but gets killed anyway.

In the struggle,

Wayland “X” Coleman

 

[1] Date has since been scheduled for May 1st, 2018. More here.

Demand a fair hearing and dismiss the tickets!

Wayland was thrown in solitary for 10 days in March for having “too much” clean, bottled water in his cell, which he had purchased at canteen.

Although the DOC denies that they would put him in solitary for this, Wayland’s initial disciplinary report labeled the water he had stored as “contraband” and now, he could face further punishment if found “guilty” of accessing clean water. More details on our website.

His disciplinary hearing is at 9 am on Tuesday, May 1. The DOC has already limited the number of witnesses Wayland could call for testimony and the number of reporting officers he and his lawyer are allowed to question, setting him up for an unfair hearing.

Flood the prison and the DOC with calls on Monday! Demand Wayland’s disciplinary tickets be dismissed and clean water to provided to all MA prisoners.

 

CALL TODAY!! Script below:

MCI Norfolk: 508-660-5900, extension 219 to reach Heather Beckler, Deputy Superintendent. If that doesn’t work, hang up and call back 508-660-5900, extension 299 (operator)

Thomas A. Turco III, Commissioner: (508) 422-3330
Fax: (508) 422-3385
Thomas.Turco@massmail.state.ma.us

Hi, I am [name], and I am a loved one/family member/concerned citizen calling about Wayland Coleman, W65484. I heard his disciplinary hearing is tomorrow morning and I am calling to demand his disciplinary charges be dismissed! The DOC must immediately stop retaliating against prisoners who organize for clean water and immediately provide clean water to all MA prisoners.

Will you commit to dismissing Wayland’s disciplinary charges and provide free, clean, safe, sufficient, and healthy water to all MA prisoners? Will you commit to ending retaliation against prisoner organizers?


OTHER NUMBERS TO CALL:

Bruce I. Gelb, Deputy Commissioner 
Tel: (508) 422-3495
Fax: (508) 422-3385
Bruce.Gelb@massmail.state.ma.us

Kevin Anahory, Director of Central 
Inmate Disciplinary Unit: (508) 660-5981

Christopher Langlois, Deputy Director: 
Tel: (508) 660-5990

 

Update: disciplinary ticket

 

As those of you who participated in our call-in campaign will recall, the DOC has been adamant about the fact that Wayland would “never have been put [in solitary] merely for hoarding water.”

Wayland has been issued two disciplinary tickets as a result of the action. The first ticket, issued by Sgt. Antonio Servello, was written and signed on March 21st, 2018 at around 10:43 in the morning. This ticket was the only document provided to Wayland for the majority of his confinement to solitary. It was signed at 3:15pm on the same day by the shift commander, and at around 10pm, was approved by disciplinary officer Eric Cortes. The timestamp on the bottom of the page denotes that it was accessed and printed one minute after being signed.

As you will see below, the initial ticket explicitly names Wayland’s transgression as having fourteen cases of water, which were seized by Inner Perimeter Security (IPS) officers.

Six days later, amidst a massive call-in campaign that reached the Commissioner, Deputy Superintendent, the Governor, state senators and US congress members, the DOC issued a second ticket which was retroactively dated to the day Wayland was put in solitary. The timestamp at the bottom of the page reveals that contrary to the timestamps on both signature lines, the final document was not completed until 5:24 pm on the evening of March 27th, six days later.

There are a couple of important takeaways from this document, which is why we have chosen to share the original ticket here. The first, is that Wayland really was disciplined for “too much water.” While it is true that there is no rule in the DOC handbook that defines the maximum amount of canteen items a prisoner can have, nor is there a limit on the quantity of water, the fact is that the state put a man in solitary confinement for having clean drinking water inside a prison where the water runs black.  

 

Joseph DeOliveira Timothy McLaughlin

 

The second point is the name of the brand of water. As we have released before, the DOC spends over $90,000 USD on bottled water alone in their annual budget. As you can see, this is purchased either through Nestle or their subsidiary Poland Springs. The brand of water impounded was from Niagara, one of the few bottled water distributors outside of the Nestle Waters empire. This means that the entire ninety-plus thousand dollars spent a year on bottled water goes exclusively to guards, corroborating years of prisoner contentions. Just during the time Wayland was in solitary, over two thousand dollars of bottled water was distributed through the Massachusetts DOC to guards.

The third point is a matter of due process. As an abolitionist coalition, #DeeperThanWater is committed to the belief that there has never been and cannot be true due process afforded to prisoners in a system that was never intended to do so. We believe that the toxicity of incarceration lays in its deep ties to social control and racial violence. Relying on the belief that the DOC would not have to answer to anyone outside of Wayland and his counsel, Sgt. Servello’s ticket gives an honest account of why Wayland was initially put in segregation. Under public scrutiny, the system did what the system always does: it re-wrote the narrative to justify the repressive actions it had already taken. The original documents serve to highlight prison official’s prevailing belief that their actions never be scrutinized and that they would never have to answer to anyone. This is false. They have to answer to us.

As we enter into the next phase of continuing to support our incarcerated friends and family in the endless pursuit of basic human necessities, we need you to join us in making sure that the state is never again under the belief that it can act with impunity, away from a public that will hold them accountable each and every time.

A message from Wayland Coleman

We received this letter on March 27th. As of right now, Wayland is out of solitary, but please continue to send him letters of love and support, as this is far from over. Also please stay tuned to the #DeeperThanWater hashtag in case there is further retaliation. Thanks for everyone who called and made noise in the service of human rights.

3/22/18, Thursday

#DeeperThanWater,

I want to thank you, and express my deepest appreciation for you, in your desire to care, make time, and stand up for the incarcerated members of our society. Abolitionist dialog is centered around the complete elimination of cages, especially the cage called the prison industrial complex. Some of our veterans of abolition — such as Rachel Herzing — has mentioned that the PIC is so powerful, that it cannot be destroyed in one shot. But that if we can take a screw here and a cog there, we can effectively weaken it.

I think that any good idea needs action in order to make it a reality. You represent that action. We are the pliers and screwdrivers, and if we can loosen enough screws, nuts, and bolts, then this oppressive & repressive machine will collapse upon itself. Any time that we are able to put an act of inhumanity on public display, we have taken a screw. Clean drinking water is a basic human right, so when the system refuse to give incarcerated humans clean, safe, water, and moves to punish the incarcerated for having it, then I say to you, that is inhumanity.

I’m fine — with the exception of being very hungry. I haven’t eaten or drank anything since 7:30 AM Wed., which I had a bowl of wheat flakes for breakfast. My concern right now is the lack of water. I fear that they would let me die before they give me bottled water. They treat you as if they are negotiating with a terrorist, instead of an American human being. And the word “terrorist” is only used here to make the argument. “Terrorist” is a label that’s intended to dehumanize Muslims and other revolutionary fighters, so that it would be ok in the eyes of society to kill them, so that is a label that must be destroyed. Ok, so, I guess the hunger, thirst, and isolation has gotten me to babble. So I will close here.

In love & solidarity!

I am in the struggle,
Your comrade,
X

Original JPG 1 | Original JPG 2

Wayland: day seven update

Update: As of late 3/30, Wayland has been released 
from solitary confinement. He is still being 
charged with organizing (which is a "crime" in 
prison) and has been hit with two disciplinary 
reports for which he may face consequences. 
Please fill out our contact form to get on our 
emergency mailing list if there is further 
retaliation.

 

TODAY: CONTINUE CALLS TO GET WAYLAND OUT OF SOLITARY

MCI Norfolk: 508-660-5900, extension 299 (operator) ask to speak to the superintendent

Thomas A. Turco III, DOC Commissioner: (508) 422-3330

Today is Wayland’s seventh day in solitary confinement for accessing clean, bottled water from the canteen. Wayland’s brother was denied entrance to visit yesterday and told to call the superintendent today. Wayland has also asked us to call the commissioner on his behalf. Please call TODAY to add your support. We cannot stop until Wayland is released from solitary!

**Sample script when calling the prison**

Hi, I am [name], and I am a loved one/family member/concerned citizen calling about Wayland Coleman. I am calling with the demand that he be released from solitary confinement and that the DOC documents all use of force, including officer names, in taking Wayland to solitary.
He is being punished for having bottled water in his cell while the prison continues to provide only toxic, discolored water to prisoners.

We know that Wayland’s family was not allowed entrance to check on his health yesterday. We demand that his family, especially his mother Rose Coleman, is allowed in to see him immediately. Can you confirm this will happen?

We also know that MCI-Norfolk officers used excessive force on Wayland to take him to solitary. We demand that this use of force be documented and the involved officers names be released. We demand that you release Wayland from solitary immediately and until that time, provide him with 6 bottles per day of clean water to drink. Can you confirm this is being done?

[If it’s a message, leave your call back information]