Another day of the hostage crisis. I have much to share in this latest update. For one, I’m just recovering from COVID. And yes, I was still in Solitary (the Hole) even though I was not supposed to be. When this is published, I may still be there. Believe me, “hell hole” named Cell House 3 is a horrible place to have COVID.
As I write this, it is well over 100 degrees in my cell. There are rat droppings in the corner despite my just cleaning the floor and plugging the holes in the walls last night. I came to the hole 8 weeks ago for a minor disagreement with another inmate (reminder: this is prison) The extent of my stay was to last 15 days. One the 15th day a staff member tested positive for COVID and despite my “hole time” being up, I was handed a detention order claiming that my stay in 3 Cell House would be extended “indefinitely due to COVID related issues.” To the staff, this is actually a blessing in disguise. The security staff works 12 hour shifts 7 days a week. A positive COVID test is an automatic 10 days paid leave.
I’ve already had COVID in 2020 and that was after the vaccination and the booster. Once COVID enters a prison however, there’s no way not to get it. We all breathe the same air; it’s like being in an airplane except with no adequate filtration. What’s frustrating for me (although not surprising in the least) is the double standard of playing fast and loose with policy when convenient for this Warden Scott Jordan. In a moment I’ll get into the grievance process and the Warden’s unethical and illegal behavior there, but for now let’s talk about the extreme staff shortages due again to COVID, leading to a complete breakdown of the system (if there e really ever was one to begin with). There’s been no rec in over a month. 24 hours a day in our stifling miserable cells (the law says an inmate in isolation must get an hour outside of his/her cell a day). We have gone more than a week without showers, and again showers are mandatory as per rules/requirements—an inmate in isolation is supposed to get 3 showers per week. Cell leaning and hygiene is nonexistent and when it’s hotter, all the vermin, insects and birds are worse-there was even a possum in here a week ago—A Possum! You should have seen them running around trying to catch this thing!
As in most situations like this, when basis human needs are not met, people start acting out in disturbing ways. The suicide rates have skyrocketed again, one case struck particularly close for me. I call him “Face” because his last name is Facen. We’ve played music together in the Yard. He’s an extraordinarily talented drummer, pianist and gospel vocalist and adds a really unique vibe to my originals when he sits in. He has an old school jazzy way of speaking, like “hippity, diggity, ya buggity waggity..” He never comes to the hole, 2 years clear conduct, legal aid job, and lives in the Honor dorm. One corrections officer decided he didn’t like him and had him locked up for nothing. This same CO was fired for sexual harassment a week later. Face never even got a write up but he got stuck in the Hole for COVID. A few weeks ago, he decided he couldn’t do it anymore and hung himself in his cell. He hung for 3 hours before he was found. Somehow he survived.. and he described watching the CO walk by twice as he hung until he lost consciousness. Now, he cannot speak. He can only write. His is one story of dozens.
The other acts of “acting out” are less..noble. They include violence. Somehow inmates have gotten into other inmates cells and stabbed each other. They weren’t even taken to the hospital (something I’m familiar with—see update https://www.justiceforjohnbuckley.com/october-2019-update/ ). There have been riots and both inmates and guards have been seriously assaulted. But the worst one has been inmates (mostly mentally ill ones) throwing poop on each other. Most of the time, the feces is not cleaned up. Many inmates in 3 Cell House have spent a decade or more inside its disgusting walls. For them, it is the only form of “combat” they can achieve, shooting bodily fluids through the crack of their door as an enemy passes by. There is even a 3 Cell House “gang” of “check-ins” who cannot walk the yard but are quick to throw feces on someone. This practice has skyrocketed…the smell in this place! The vermin are in heaven.
So the grievance process is the inmate’s way of informing the Administration about issues. As part of Clinton/Biden’s 1994 “Crime Bill”—the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), it is required that an inmate “exhaust his/her administrative remedies” before they are allowed to seek relief from an outside court. It is the ultimate trump card for a corrupt prison. Tampering with the grievance process, which prisons have become EXPERTS at, automatically gets the inmate procedurally barred from Litigation. Here’s an example: I filed this grievance: “while being housed on 14R in 3 Cell House, I observed human feces caked to the wall of the walk of 13 & 14 R. I also saw them on the walls of the walks 11, 12 & 13 L. I am in shock as to why this has been allowed to remain when this facility exploits slave labor in the form of “inmate walkmen/janitors” and would not have to exert ANY effort or expense to remove human feces from spaces I am forced to occupy. This is a hazard to my health and along with the many other health hazards is inexcusable” On the Grievance form under “Action Requested”, I wrote: “For this facility to comply with Federal and State Health laws as well as A.C.A. and Correctional sanitation Standards for inmate Health and Safety. Cell House 3 need to be cleaned daily—the feces need to be removed and walls sterilized.” That was Grievance #22-06-077-G. It was denied because the Grievance Coordinator wrote back that “No specific incident occurred to You” and “You are Grieving on behalf of others”. Out of 36 Grievances I filed on the conditions of confinement in 3 Cell House in the past year, only 2 were NOT outright dismissed. My lawyer and my Aunt have copies of every Grievance. The first dozen or so I filed were just thrown away and never responded to. When I began sending my lawyer copies and let them know that, THEN they responded and summarily dismissed each grievance in the exact above fashion.
I have filed grievances on every subject you can imagine—rats, roaches, toilets, fire safety, lack of air & HVAC, the mentally ill and on and on..It was all dismissed outright. Recently in an effort to get Ms. Massey, the Grievance Coordinator, to respond to these legal forms–many of them months old—I filed an Open Records Request. In retaliation, the Warden himself sent me a memo claiming that I was filing “harassing grievances” (about not wanting to live with vermin & feces) and placing me on “Grievance Restriction”. I am not allowed to file any for 6 months. Just one more way the Warden and his agents can tamper with the process as empowered by the P.L.R.A.
To “exhaust my remedies” would mean to go all the way through the Grievance process which has 3 steps: Grievance Committee, Warden, and Commissioner. And very tight deadlines for each. What has happened is that the inmate is held to the deadlines but the staff is not. Once you get through each of those steps you have exhausted your remedies and THEN you can seek relief from an outside court. It’s rare. Like a Leprechaun riding a Unicorn rare. However, recently I’ve read an opinion by the presiding 4th Federal Western District Judge over this area where an inmate was severely assaulted by 2 staff members. He filed a Federal Civil Rights & Section 1983 Suit. KY DOC General Counsel responded (in typical form) asking to procedurally bar the inmate (Michael Padgette) due to failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Now most Judges side with the state and 99.9% of the time inmates lose that motion. But this Judge actually ruled that he doesn’t believe that the administrative remedies are available to inmates at the KY State Penitentiary—and he’s right! Very simply put, the Grievance system is in place to deal with issues at the Institutional level, to inform the Administration of problems and injustices without having to burden the courts. But when the Institution has been informed, has full knowledge, takes active steps to carve up human rights and civil rights abuses and tampers with the Grievance process so they cannot be sued—WHAT THEN?
The legal term for what the Warden is doing is “deliberate indifference”. To knowingly place others in harm’s way and leave helpless people in these conditions is a crime. My hope is that this Federal Judge sees that when I bring my suit against this system, that I did everything I could to navigate the process despite dealing with these outrageous Administrative roadblocks.
I know it seems I’m always full of good news! Maybe besides getting out of prison, this can be something good I can do in here: exposing this evil place and the people who run it.
Ranger Buckley from the Frontlines, Out!
RLTW! (Rangers Lead the Way)