Follow by Email

Friday, June 29, 2012

Voices from Solitary: High Tech Brutality

Voices from Solitary: High Tech Brutality
by Voices from Solitary

Robert "Saleem" Holbrook is serving life without parole in Pennsylvania for a crime committed when he was a juvenile. When he was 16, Holbrook was recruited by adults to serve as a lookout during a drug deal that escalated to robbery and then murder. Under the state's mandatory sentencing laws, he was given LWOP--an experience he describes in an essay called "Crushed Against the Law: A Child Offender’s Encounter with Blind Justice," published on the blog maintained for him by friends on the outside. It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court's recent decision banning mandatory juvenile LWOP will affect his sentence. Holbrook has now been in prison for 17 years, and has spent many of those years in solitary confinement. He is a member of the Human Rights Coaltion, which opposes solitary confinement and other forms of abuse in Pennsylvania's prisons. He wrote the following piece, titled "Control Units: High Tech Brutality" while in the "Special Management Unit" (SMU) at SCI Greene. -- Jean Casella

A prisoner’s whole existence, especially one in a control unit, is defined by numbers, statistics, and information transferred through an endless process of paperwork. When I go to the Program Review Committee here in the Special Management Unit (a control unit) at SCI Greene, my release to general population is repeatedly denied, they claim, because of a history of assaultive behavior. It is useless to defend myself against their rationale, yet I do to probe the predictable response of my captors.

Their justification for the continual confinement of myself and others in the SMU is based on the rational of a separate committee that determined I am an assaultive prisoner who has demonstrated the potential to harm others. Never mind the fact that this determination was made in another prison. Since a separate Administrative Committee determined that I am assaultive, I must therefore be assaultive. Their system of paper- work and statistics is never wrong; their committees are omnipotent and all knowing.

We the prisoners are mere spectators and captives to the process. Our presence is only necessary to secure our signatures on their paperwork or to say something that can be documented and used against us in future hearings. Our signatures place our consent on their paperwork. They permit us to seal our fate by certifying our consent of their process.

Every step of our day in the control unit is reduced to a methodical and omnipotent numbers system. I am housed in cell 23 on the 2nd tier. I receive 3 meals a day, 3 showers a week for 5 minutes each with 1 bar of soap, and 3 shaves a week with 1 razor that must be turned in after 15 minutes. I go to the yard 5 days a week for 1 hour a day with 1 prisoner per cage. I can only have 1 box in my cell containing only 2 pairs of socks, 2 t-shirts and 2 underwear. I can only have 4 books that must be exchanged on a 1 for 1 basis. I can only have 1 jumpsuit, 1 towel, 1 washcloth, and 1 toothbrush and toothpaste that are exchanged every 30 days on a 1 for 1 basis. I can only have 1 visit for 1 hour every week with only 1 visitor. The SMU Committee reviews my status every 30 days.

The prison officials tolerate no alternation in their process. There is no room for negotiation or compromise. The system must run smoothly. Dissent or resistance is crushed by the Correctional Response Teams dressed in futuristic battle fatigues. It is a ruthless war of attrition de- signed to grind a man down to his breaking point.

The previous method employed by the prison system to break prisoners was to break “bones.” They relied on brute force and unrestrained violence. This method did not sit well with the American public when it was exposed. It also tarnished America’s image in the world as a nation of high standards and values. The method was flawed in that it usually only strengthened prisoners’ resistance and made them stronger men. The prison system therefore directed its resources to develop a method of confinement that would destroy a prisoner’s mind and his will to resist.

The new assault was directed not against a prisoner’s body, but rather his mind and senses. The concept of a complete sensory deprivation and isolation was developed. This concept revolved around the ideas that if a prisoner is deprived of mental, physical, and emotional stimulation, his mind will inevitably turn inward and feed upon itself. With no outlet in an isolated environment, the mind is left to its own devices. The result is that a prisoner’s thoughts run out of control. Concentration becomes difficult and prisoners invent fantasies or images of themselves which they cocoon themselves in.

Some never emerge from this world they create. The mind will seek any relief available. It is not uncommon for men to talk to themselves for hours on end. Insanity and madness rule in a control unit. The units are filled with prisoner’s screams, outbursts and pleas for communication. A man’s nerves deteriorate right in front of his eyes. Each prisoner suffers his own personal hell. Everyone is affected in one way or another. Whether the experience affects him for the good or the bad depends upon the man. Read more of this post

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teens 170 Years For Crimes That Did not Include Murder

*Sent Away*

Nathan Jordan, (bottom right as a child) who is serving a 170-year sentence
for crimes committed as a juvenile, his sister Allysa Jordan and their
mother. This is the last family picture available as his belongings were
lost after his mother's death .
Photo courtesy of Allysa Jordan

Nathan Jordan is serving a 170-year sentence at Sterling Correction
Facility in Colorado for aggravated robbery, motor vehicle theft and
possession of a weapon.

But most of his crimes, which did not result in anyone’s death or injury,
took place in in the late 1990s, before he was 18 . According to Colorado
law, he was a juvenile offender.

So how did Jordan end up with the kind of sentence that might be meted out
to serial killers or career criminals?

. . . . .

More on Colorado find in
*A photo essay from Time Magazine.*.... *Fremont County, Colorado, has made
incarceration a local specialty industry.* Read more:,29307,2009197,00.html#ixzz0wyOMv3Gm

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Help Amber Come Home

Alot of you know me as I have been fighting the system for 15 Years: I am asking you to please help us in our fight now. Amber deserves to come home & without this reduction in sentencing she may not make it home while I am still here.
We humbley ask for your help. Please read my blog on her case & then decide if you feel she deserves another chance at life free & with us.
We are also asking for letters of support to be sent to Governor Brown.
If you would like to write Mr. Brown in support please add her Commutation Log #(Com-878-12)
The staff at CCWF has submitted a request for him to consider her for this because she has a positive history, and has worked hard for this. For 15 years she has worked on her education gaining her GED,She has almost completed a AA in Social and behavioral Science, as well as a Certificate in Business. She currently is training dogs for the Mentally and physically disabled through the Little Angels Service Dogs Program, & is starting this week to Mentor At Risk Youth from the new Youth Diversion Program. She wants to make a difference in their lives & her own. Please take minute and go to & sign her petition.
Thank you & God Bless You & Yours (Earleen Austin)
You can read about Amber's case & trial at>
You can also write to her if you wish: Email for her address:

Governor Edmund G. Brown
C/O State Capitol Suite 1173
Sacremento Ca. 95814

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Amber Requests Evidence Pertaining To Her Case, That She Never Receives


Amber writes a letter to the persiding Judge:
To The Honorable Judge Bylesh
I am writting to you because I am a defendant in your court
room and I am having some trouble obtaining copies of my reports.
When I was arrested and booked into juvenile hall I filed
a rape report against my co-defendant. and photographs were taken
of my badly bruised thighs and burns & bruises and cig burns were on my
arms, where he burnt me.I know my investagator got copies of these,
I am fighting a very serious case and I am about to go to trial. My Co-defedant
has copies of these as he is pro per.
These reports are very important to my case, and I feel this
is an injustice to me to be kept from my own evidence
while the person who did this to me is allowed to have and carry
my evidence with him.It is against my personal rights .

I will be back in your court room Dec. 2010 & Truely hope
you will have these here for me. ( For My Case)
I have been requesting these reports & pictures for a very long time, please this
is unfair to me & my to my trial.
Thank you for your time
with respect, sincerly
Amber Riley
Please if you get time can you check (Holman V. Superior
Court (1981)29 Cal. App. 3d 1302,1310 (246 cal.Rptr.
775) Thank you very much.