Torment of prison inmate lawyer Eric K'napp escalates as he is rapidly moved to Chino dormitory K'napp is taken out off single cell status after eight years by Warden Frank X. Chavez and sent hundreds of miles away from his family as punishment
Since my last column exposing the lies told to the media journalists by Warden Frank X. Chavez about the 150 person riot that happened on September 15, 2010 at Sierra Conservation Center, numerous developments have taken place. Correctional officers and families are filing complaints with the Inspector General's office and Tuolumne County Grand Jury to expose abuses.
Since my last column exposing the lies told to the media journalists by Warden Frank X. Chavez about the riot that happened on September 15, 2010 at Sierra Conservation Center, numerous developments have taken place.
I can only share the reports sent to me by prison employees, UNION family members and inmates who write to me. These events need to be reported in the mainstream news, but due to the media restrictions and lack of access to specific prisoners, important developments too often go beneath the radar.
There is rarely, if ever, any accountability of rogue wardens and prison employees by our illustrious Attorney General Edmund "Jerry" Brown which is the reason that I voted for Laura Wells, Green Party for Governor instead of for him. With Whitman and Brown, who has taken obscene amounts of money from CCPOA, there is only a choice between worse and worse.
The candidate who is most likely to call out rogue wardens such as Frank X. Chavez is Laura Wells, the Green Party candidate. Brown and Whitman will not fix the humanitarian and fiscal crisis taking place due to mismanaged prisons. It's a big mistake to elect either one of them because they are not smart on crime and have no understanding of the needs of mentally ill prisoners. With all the work that we did during the Prop 19 campaign to register "Decline to State Party" voters, a vote for a third party is not wasted this election. We won't know the new DTS tally until October 29 when the Secretary of State releases the required 15 day report.
We had teams out everywhere in California doing the DTS voter registration and a number of cities were already near 30% according to the April 2010 Secretary of State reports. All that said, I would like to update my readers on what's taking place at Sierra Conservation Center now as more brave people step forward to protest the unlawful abuses of Warden Frank X. Chavez and Dr. Rusty Otto.
Inmate families are now writing to and filing reports with the Tuolumne County Grand Jury insisting on investigations in cases of torture and medical neglect of their loved ones. Since my last article which gave an overview of the horrific abuse of six inmates, Warden Frank X. Chavez and Dr. Rusty Otto decided that inmate lawyer Eric K'napp needed to be removed from the prison and "punished."
K'napp suffers from well-documented Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has been single-celled for eight years and has a classification which recognizes this condition, along with other medical problems. I appealed to Warden Chavez for about 18 months dozens of times to rectify the prison staff's numerous violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and copied lawmakers, attorneys including Prison Law Office and key journalists. Warden Chavez ignored every single appeal, even those politely asking for the most basic compliance with state and federal laws.
In 2008 a lawsuit had to be filed, Cate vs. K'napp, because civil appeals were not enough to illicit a response that produced results or even attempted to correct problems. Warden Chavez, with the full support of Dr. Rusty Otto, forcibly double-celled a special needs CCCMS patient Eric K'napp in retaliation for filing this lawsuit and because they think he is the only source of information for myself and other journalists. If the laws were being followed by these prison officials, so much energy wouldn't need to be spent on covering up. Warden Chavez claims that K'napp's central file doesn't contain medical diagnoses by many doctors for the past decade that recommend single-celling him, not only for K'napp's own mental health and safety but for anyone put in his cell. This is not the truth. There are numerous communications and evidence that the medical and custody staff at SCC are fully aware of K'napp's medical needs and have long ignored them.
The list of people who have been following this prime example of deliberate indifference know that K'napp was moved to SCC because family ties is important to his treatment. When he was moved there in 2008, his doctor at the previous prison made telephone calls to the SCC medical and custody staff, sent letters, and elaborated on his treatment and medical history to make sure that he would be properly celled. Many officials were advised when this happened. So when Warden Chavez makes the lame and untrue excuse for double-celling and transferring to him to a dorm at Chino that the "C File isn't documented with K'napp's medical history", Chavez is simply making a public spectacle out of himself. If the medical history isn't there now, it's because Warden Chavez and/or Dr. Rusty Otto removed it so that they could manipulate the system and in so doing have compromised the mental and physical health of a prisoner just to cover themselves and to stop the flow of news information.
Warden Chavez decided to punish K'napp for suing him and for passing on information about inmate abuse and riots to me and to other journalists and agencies. So even after eight years of doctor's recommending otherwise, Warden Chavez put a mentally ill inmate with a history of cell fights into K'napp's cell.
A wrong-celling decision is literally a matter of life and death for every prisoner, and especially for those with CCCMS classifications. A prisoner dies almost every day and thousands are maimed for life due to careless double-celling decisions.
That unwise and unethical move predictably triggered symptoms of PTSD and K'napp had to be rushed to a San Quentin crisis bed where he spent two weeks undergoing intense evaluations and treatment because SCC doesn't have one of its own. The very capable mental health team there made an evaluation that confirmed what ten other CDCR physicians have said for the past decade, that Eric K'napp should not be double-celled because doing so triggers flash-backs of traumatic events.
Dr. Paul Burton, head of the San Quentin crisis team minced no words in making his recommendation when K'napp was sent back to Sierra Conservation Center. Yet Warden Chavez and the medical staff completely misconstrued and ignored what the crisis team's evaluation told them and put K'napp exactly back in the cell with the same person whose presence caused the crisis bed to be necessary in the first place.
Talk about cruelty. Talk about unbearable incompetence. But often treatments at outside hospitals are ignored at many prisons in California, which often ends in preventable death or permanent disabilities. Warden Chavez put a different person in the cell with K'napp after considerable outside pressure was applied to return him to single cell status. The latest cellmate is a young man who will be released within two weeks. Again, both prisoners are in danger. Warden Chavez knows this fact and Dr. Rusty Otto knows it but they are more intent on "punishing" and getting K'napp out of the prison than on doing the right thing. Numerous people from the community who have no one in prison called and wrote the warden and Dr. Rusty Otto asking that K'napp be single-celled and treated humanely.
Instead of backing off this power game, Warden Chavez wrongfully told the guards to pack K'napp and his legal materials up, that he will be now be a "Level 2" prisoner who must live in a dormitory in Chino hundreds of miles away from his family which is the opposite of what should be taking place. This stealth move is happening overnight in order to divert focus off K'napp who has done an excellent job at documenting and reporting these abuses for several years, in spite of his own immense suffering. I've seen this type of retaliation many times to inmate lawyers and whistleblowers and there is no intervention at any of the 33 state prisons. In this case, the course of events were very well documented but that has made no difference so far.
The recommendations of the San Quentin Crisis team were totally ignored, and laws were broken, and are still being broken in this and other cases at the prison. Warden Chavez and Dr. Rusty Otto both know that Eric K'napp's work as an inmate lawyer is his life. They also know that he has three important cases on legal deadline and that moving him, shaking his concentration by double-celling him, harassing and forcing him to work in the prison kitchen with an injured back will impede his access to the courts.
Warden Frank X. Chavez blocked K'napp's emergency appeals, his mail to the courts, delayed signature only certified mail that I sent by four weeks and often makes sure that he doesn't get his mail at all. He also claims that K'napps medical history of why he requires single-celling isn't in the file. The goal is denied court access and Frank X. Chavez is a master at achieving that blockage. These common practices at SCC and other prisons cost the taxpayers millions, deny due process to the prisoners and cause overload on the court system. Still, there is no accountability for this kind of dirty play.
Warden Frank X. Chavez should be arrested and the doctor fired for what they've done just because both are named as defendants in a lawsuit that didn't have to be filed if not for their deliberate indifference and violation of ADA, state and federal laws. There are other defendants named in the lawsuit who should also be fired such as Sgt. C. Koenig, Dr. Jack St Clair and Patricia Quinn. They had multiple chances to right the wrongs which they are still refusing to do in all six inmate's cases. Somehow they believe that they are above the laws. Whose fault is that arrogance of people operating on our taxpayer dollars?
An emergency restraining order to stop the forced double-celling which would have prevented K'napp from ending up in the San Quentin crisis bed, was filed with Judge Sheila Oberto on October 1, 2010 and an updated addendum added on October 20, 2010. The courts move so slowly, if and when they move at all, that they are ineffective at best. By the time Judge Oberto gets around to this urgent situation, K'napp will already have been moved to a dorm in Chino which is a very unhealthy place for him and all those surrounding him to be. But in the Warden Chavez' eyes, it makes him powerful to break laws and defy the Coleman/Plata rulings. With so little accountability for this type of unspeakable cruelty and manipulation of a corrupt system running amok, Chavez isn't worried about consequences.
I have a number of sources within SCC and am aware that besides several families filing complaints with the Grand Jury that correctional officers have filed a complaint with Inspector General David Shaw. Riots happen due to gross mismanagement and a number of correctional officers have taken a stand against Warden Chavez. There is almost no intervention by Secretary Matthew Cate or Inspector General David Shaw when inmates and their families complain, but when it comes from the guards, this might prompt some action.
I am filing complaints with the United Nations on behalf of inmates who were carelessly double-celled at this prison which resulted in two rapes, and for three elderly inmates who are very ill and very much in pain who are being denied medications. I am filing a very detailed report with the United Nations over the long term torment of Eric K'napp. I am also filing complaints with the Tuolumne County Grand Jury because it is their sworn duty to investigate the operations of prisons and jails. I would like to emphasize that while there are rogue administrators and medical staff at SCC who aren't following laws, and more who do not even know the laws, let alone follow them, that I have met a number of very kind regular line correctional officers there. The reports these correctional officers gave me on the lies told about the riot made it possible for me to communicate the truth to other journalists.
The Public Information Officer at the time of the riot, C.O. Kevin Wise, has reportedly "retired." I think that whatever was falsely released to the public about the riot is the full responsibility of Warden Frank X. Chavez and that there should be consequences for him lying to the media about a much bloodier riot with at least six hospitalizations which no one would have known about if not for the integrity of the regular prison employees who reported to me. K'napp has been treated in a very cruel manner. Laws have been broken and the move to a Chino dorm is just despicable. He has a family who loves him very much and nine hours away makes it impossible for him to receive the visits that are so important in his life. Moving him will not take my eyes, ears and focus away from the inhumane practices taking place at SCC.
I am hoping that the Judge Oberto intervenes rapidly and puts K'napp back at SCC in a single cell, that Senator Darrell Steinberg who oversees this prison will take a stronger stand about all events and abuses taking place there, and that Inspector General David Shaw and the Tuolumne County Grand Jury respond rapidly to the forthcoming complaints.
But in thousands of cases that I have reviewed over the past 13 years as the UNION director, I know that there is very little justice and custody is given full power over the medical staff. In many instances, medical staff thinks that they are punishers, instead of healers, and they are often more a part of the problem than any type of healing influence. The prisoners statewide are treated as if they have no more value than livestock.
Too many wardens and correctional officers are literally getting away with torture and murder at most of the 33 prisons and none of them are held accountable for double-celling decisions. Inmate lawyers, whistleblowers and those who file complaints are tormented and A.G. Jerry Brown does not hold them accountable. It's a huge mess and the suffering is great. It is no surprise to me that the prisoners and correctional officers are agitated at this facility and that at least two reports of wrongful deaths are probably the tip of the iceberg. The three elderly inmates who are being denied pain medications, the two preventable rapes, and the torment of Eric K'napp are reasons enough for immediate intervention but will it happen when officials have sold their souls to the heavy-handedness of the guard's union?
There is no place to go for help which is why the families must get their complaints on record and assist me in bringing in the United Nations and other federal agencies to put a halt to these inhumane practices. A few complaints do not matter, but 50 or more complaints delivers the message that there is a big problem taking place at this prison. The riot should have been enough of an indicator but the extent and cause of that uprising was mostly covered up and blamed on the prisoners, instead of putting the blame where it should rest, on the prison administrators.
Prison employees are public servants and they should not be able to get away with such abuses, which are taking place in our names, paid for with our tax dollars because the public outcry against these practices is not loud enough. Anyone with a loved one inside SCC should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and get your complaints on record with the Tuolumne County Grand Jury.
Hopefully they are not so stacked with law enforcement that the members from the community who comprise it will ignore a situation that has already erupted in violence due to extremely poor management practices. The Grand Jury has a duty not to expose who complained, but there are so many in the process of being submitted that it is best to allow the truth to surface.
It is always better when families and prison employees file the complaints, but make sure to name a date, a person and a time. Cockroaches like the darkness and will run from sunshine, which is precisely what these prisons need. It is very important for us to elect no one to office who has taken large amounts of money from law enforcement labor unions and speak out about the torture and murder taking place to the Grand Jury in the area where the prison is located. We have found some of them to be very responsive and helpful, even though it can take several months.
This is the link to the actual complaint form for the Tuolumne County Grand Jury.
Here is the mailing address, phone number and email. .
Tuolumne County Grand Jury
41 West Yaney Street
Sonora California 95370
Fax (209) 533-6572
Copy me on your complaints at
B. Cayenne Bird
P.O. Box 340371
Sacramento, Ca 95834
If you lose this information, use google.com.
Every county where a prison is located has a Grand Jury who is sworn to investigate problems in these taxpayer-financed institutions but making a complaint is strictly up to those people having the problems.
B. Cayenne Bird is a 45-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. A descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln, and General Andrew Porter, she is passionate about human rights and criminal justice issues. A mother and grandmother with advanced degrees in Journalism, Liberal Studies, and Humanities (Cultural Anthropology) she has focused on prison reform making great strides in Calif. supporting the landmark Plata-Coleman case for a decade which resulted in major prison reform. She writes scholarly articles too but prefers op-eds.