April 20th, 2020
Hello everyone! It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these despite my aunt’s urging. To be honest guys, I try not to bombard you with my negativity. Unfortunately it seems that my life is mostly negative—although to be fair, I shoulder it well.
I can’t remember if I’ve done an update since I was attacked. Since I can’t recall (a line I recite more and more often these days), I’ll just mention it. Back at the end of August last year, I was sitting in my cell at the privately owned Core Civic (formally CCA) Lee Country Adjustment Center (LAC) crocheting a beanie for one of my gals (yes, this Alpha Ranger crochets and I plan on becoming a world-famous crochet Ranger) when my cell door was unlocked by a staff guard and 6 young black men rushed me in my cell. The attack was brutal. I consider myself a pretty game dude for a fist fight but in a cell– 6 on 1, and they were armed—there was little I could do. I hit the first guy solidly and he went down, but the second guy stabbed me and the third guy hit me in the head with a pad lock fastened to a belt. It’s hard to describe the next 90 minutes. I was tortured. These guys were all junkies (drugs are very bad in the prison system) and in the last few years as many brown and black guys have turned to the needle as white guys—who typically hold the monopoly on the method of drug use. They targeted me because I was white and they heard that I had a sex case. (targeting those convicted of sex crimes is typical). For 90 minutes, I was beaten in and out of consciousness and stabbed repeatedly. For one extended episode, I had boiling water poured on my genitals. All of this was an effort for me to give up drugs that someone convinced them I had. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do drugs but these guys would not believe anything I said. After about 90 minutes and some talk about whether or not I was dying, they finally accepted that there were no drugs and robbed me of all my property.
Trust me when I tell you that it pains me to admit these things. I am a warrior and a Ranger bloodied many times before, I have killed people for my country, more times that I care to remember. Yet, I was overcome, tortured and brutalized by 6 cowards who have probably never been in a one-on-one fight before in their lives. As a final act of disgrace, one of the attackers who had a portrait of Osama Bin Laden tattooed on the side of his neck crudely cut off my hair and beard which I had come to view as a symbol of my struggle against oppression and tyranny. I then lay in my bunk for 3 days—I did not want to say what happened—until I was finally discovered. But up until now isn’t even the worst part: I was refused medical care by Lee County Adjustment Center despite having multiple puncture wounds, lacerations, severe burns, 2 broken ribs, a broken jaw, fractured wrist, fractured orbital socket (along with other bones in my face) and severe head trauma. It took my dad and aunt coming to the prison, from hundreds- thousands of miles away and raising bloody hell with official letters to the prison warden to even get me sent to the emergency room to receive cursory care. Almost immediately I began to develop some extremely disturbing symptoms. My ears constantly ring, my hands go numb—centralizing in my index, middle fingers and thumbs of both hands. The vision in my right eye began to come and go. Sometimes I am completely blind in my right eye to this day.
I spent a total of 11 days in the medical “wing” of the prison at which point they moved me to the hole—solitary confinement. I refused to identify my attackers because I don’t hide behind—or tell on other men, I am no rat. (And to tell would have put me in even more danger). But this frustrated the administration, and even though I was technically the victim, moving me to the hole was penal on 2 counts. First—they wanted to punish me for refusing to cooperate. Second, they were facing serious issues of negligence and liability. Not only did they open the door for my attackers, but they are supposed to do security checks on the cells (by stated Policy and State Law) every 15 minutes. A supervisor is supposed to do a check every 30 minutes. This means that while I was being tortured, they missed 6 security checks and 3 supervisor walk-throughs.
Being in the hold at LAC was a singular hell for me. Not only had I just suffered a pretty physically and emotionally traumatic experience, but the prison has door that the Correctional Officers have to open and slam shut on their walk-throughs so it was 11 doors in constant loud motion. Every time they slammed a door the entire hallway shook. Next thing I knew, in my mind I was back on Haditha Dam, helpless as a babe as incoming round after merciless round pounded us to dust… to a combat veteran who’s been diagnosed with severe PTSD, my triggers are bright lights and loud noises. Next thing I know, I’m having seizures. Keep in mind, I was the one attacked here. While this is difficult to admit, I felt no shame. I took my beating for whatever the reason was—that is the man that I am. It probably won’t be the last beating that I’ll take, but I felt no fear, only disgust for the coward that they were—as they congratulated each other on their “lick” and beat each other on the back. Nothing is worse than a coward, and even while I was at their mercy they were beneath me.
I spent over 2 more months in the hole at Lee County, the theory being that the more I healed the less culpability they had. In the entire time from when I was attacked until I was finally transferred, I never once saw the medical provider–the Dr. whose job it is to treat the inmates. One day the Psychologist came to see me. He brought me into the office because he had confirmed independently how horrific the attack had been. I asked him to remove me from solitary confinement –back to Medical or anywhere that the mortar rounds would cease in my head triggered by the constant noise in the hole. He said he couldn’t, only the medical provider could do that. It happened at that same time that the woman doctor/provider just happened to come into the main foyer of the hole and the psychologist asked her to come to talk. She was loudly cursing and berating him as she came in and stood before me. After being jokingly told by the psychologist that “Mr. Buckley here thinks you don’t like him” (I had made that statement to him) she said “And why should I give a shit what he thinks?” In prison you get used to staff berating each other and treating prisoners like they are a lesser form of life, but I became incensed. I said “Ma’am, what have I done to you for you to wish me such harm?” She didn’t even answer me, just turned to the psychologist and said “Is that all?” He said, “No. Mr. Buckley wanted to know if he could be transferred back to medical where it’s quieter. All of the noise in here is really antagonizing his PTSD, and since he’s not doing disciplinary time, it could be allowed if you were ok with it.” Without missing a beat, she said “Absolutely not. As a rule, I don’t allow any inmate to stay in medical beyond 72 hours, not matter what their problem is. You pushed the limits as I was!” I could not contain myself any longer, I asked “Ma’am your my provider, why haven’t you ever seen me, your patient? Have you read my medical file? Are you aware that I have a previous combat-related Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)? Are you aware that I haven’t had a seizure in 2 years until this attack, which caused further cranial trauma? Are you aware that I’ve had 3 seizures in the last 10 days all relating to loud noises and that I am experiencing blindness in my right eye as a result of this attack and that I still can’t fully breathe because of my broken ribs? What on earth have I done to make you treat me this way? Get beaten? Is this the kind of caregiver you are? Compassion costs you nothing ma’am especially when it’s your job and the core tenant of your profession.” She smiled coldly and left the room.
After several more weeks in Hadith Hell-the hole– and several seizures later, I was finally transferred to Northpoint Prison. Of all of the prison medicals I have been to, Dr Clifford at Northpoint Training Center (NTC) is the only one who has ever treated me like a human being and not some filthy piece of desiccated flesh. It took several months, but Dr Clifford finally got me an MRI. I don’t fully understand what she told me about what it revealed, something about a pocket of air that was caught between my organs during the blunt force trauma to my body. The air pocket somehow travelled to my brain and may be (but not definitely) causing the blindness. I may not understand all of the medical jargon but I did understand the next thing she said, “It is a miracle of God that you survived. All this thing had to do was move one millimeter more and you would have died.”
But according to the LAC doctor, it wasn’t’ all that serious. They did make me a Neurologist appointment –for the combat-wounded Ranger who is 100% service-connected TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) who had just had his skull beaten in again—but for NOVEMBER 2020—almost a year after the ATTACK! Since the Veterans Administration refused to treat vets in prison, claiming that “for profit” prison medical care is good enough, I guess patience is a virtue. Hell, combat veterans who have been wounded FOR their country don’t have special needs when they’re in prison! Going to prison erases all the sacrifices they made! FT! If you guys only knew. But hey, maybe one of these days I’ll have a real good seizure and die and maybe they can find a way out of giving me that free veterans burial plot—After all, I came to prison, I don’t deserve it!
Blows my mind, I didn’t even treat the POWs in my charge—men who had tried to kill me and my brothers—with such malice and disregard. Here I am in my own country, a country I fought for, being treated like a dog just because I have a prison uniform on, a uniform I don’t deserve to wear!
As icing on the cake, while I was in the hole, LAC combed through what little property I had left and sanitized it for any trace of my presence in their prison. Six months later, I’m still discovering missing items, files, legal work, and paperwork. I made sure to file two Grievances (on advice of counsel): 1) A medical grievance for negligence in refusing to treat me and 2) An Administrative Grievance on the officers for opening my cell door for the attackers and for missing several security checks per their own policy. While I’m not a fan of filing Grievances—Administration most always retaliates for legitimate complaints—but because of Bill Clinton’s Prison Litigation Reform Act, if an inmate does not exhaust his Administrative remedies, then he cannot seek relief from the courts. This has given corrupt prison officials another level of insulation from relief as all they have to do to avoid court is tamper with the grievance process, which is what they did here. Not only did they sanitize my grievances from my property, they also removed other records of me as well. Last year, after the attack, an NPR investigative reporter filed an FOIA request to LAC for any records they had of this attack. After about 6 weeks, they got back to him and said there was no record of any attack or incident with me at all. None. It’s a conspiracy straight off the silver screen. As a final pre-retaliation for threatening to sue them to attain medical care, my visits were taken away for 1 year without a word to me or to my case worker. We didn’t find out until my amazing aunt and a journalist coming to interview me–who drove hours from Nashville–arrived at Northpoint prison for a scheduled visit and were turned away.
So here I am, 37 years old. Beard a little more salt than pepper (almost). Combat tested, tried, wounded and decorated. Still on the front lines. Still talking my licks—but I’m taking them like a man. I desperately miss my babies. It’s not fair to me or them that I don’t get to watch them grow up. Instead I’m still in the trenches, it’s like I never came home. I guess that makes sense. Because home never made much sense to me anyway…. But I sure do miss it.
Thank you for reading!
Ranger John Calvin Buckley IV
Editor’s note: For more on this attack, please see the update from October 2019. There has been a lot going on in the last many months—John has been moved twice since the horrific attack and is now at Green River Correctional Center. His no-contact visitation extended with him and that won’t be over until October of this year. At this point, there is no recourse to challenge this–prison automatically accepts any restrictions placed on prisoners being transferred without question. There seems to be an endless array of options to traumatize inmates and their families. Now we have the Corona Virus Pandemic, and Green River Correctional has had several diagnosed cases as of this writing, both prisoners and guards. So far, John has not been diagnosed with it and is in general population. But they are in lockdown most of the time to minimize contact and all visits were cut off weeks ago. So you can imagine the frustration and depression in that situation.
As you can imagine, in the middle of an appeal of John’s case and now trying to hold prison officials accountable for a horrific attack on John which has left him with multiple untreated injuries, there is the added stress and worry about John’s health in the midst of Covid-19. Please pray—for him, for all those in jails and prisons right now. These are powder kegs just waiting to be lit; there is no way to social distance, sanitizing is a joke and most prisoners already have compromised immune systems and sicknesses. It’s so easy to not see what isn’t in front of our eyes, but these are real human beings. And there are many like John that should not be in prison at all.