CORRECTIONAL ASSN. OF NY RELEASES “VOICES OF CLINTON: FIRST-HAND ACCOUNTS OF BRUTALITY, TORTURE, AND COVER-UP FROM PEOPLE INCARCERATED AT AN INFAMOUSLY ABUSIVE NEW YORK STATE PRISON”

Print Friendly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE           

CONTACT:  Annette Warren-Dickerson, Director of Communications, 212-254-5700/646-539-5911/646-924-5244

Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, 212-254-5700, ext. 305-617-905-7623

Jack Beck, Director, Prison Visiting Program, 212-254-5700, ext. 310

CORRECTIONAL ASSN. OF NY (CA) RELEASES “VOICES OF CLINTON: FIRST-HAND ACCOUNTS OF BRUTALITY, TORTURE, AND COVER-UP FROM PEOPLE INCARCERATED AT AN  INFAMOUSLY ABUSIVE NEW YORK STATE PRISON”

Report reflects ongoing and widespread abuse by prison guards — escalating after June 2015 escape — and calls for greater transparency, accountability, and oversight

New York, NY (June 9, 2016): Today, a year after the 2015 escape of two men from Clinton Correctional Facility, the Correctional Association of New York, the oldest criminal justice reform organization in the state, released a  new 36- page report on Clinton Correctional Facility, featuring first-person narratives  from those incarcerated at the prison. The report, issued by the CA’s Prison Visiting Project, (PVP), is a scathing account of violence and abuse at the hands of prison guards – before and following the escape -- and reveals a culture of utter disregard for basic human rights and an atmosphere of cruelty, racism, and dehumanization that has been allowed to persist unabated, unchecked and unpunished. In 1846 the CA was granted authority by the NY State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the public.

Entitled, “VOICES FROM CLINTON: First-Hand Accounts of Brutality, Torture, And Cover-Up from People Incarcerated at an Infamously Abusive New York State Prison,”  the report is a follow-up to the CA’s 2014 and 2015 monitoring reports which found that, “… officers at Clinton have engaged in the most horrific violence against incarcerated people long before the June 2015 escape.”   “VOICES FROM CLINTON” is based on over 40 interviews and correspondence with over 75 people at Clinton.  The first-hand narratives describe:

  • Suffocation of people during interrogations
  • Severe and widespread brutality in the aftermath of the June 2015 escape
  • Longstanding and ongoing brutality to this day
  • People with special needs targeted for abuse by staff
  • Widespread use of solitary confinement, including for years and decades
  • The denial of the most basic rights and living conditions, with a lack of transparency or accountability

The CA report also identifies “racism and dehumanization to be at the core of all abuses.”

Erik Jensen, who was incarcerated at Clinton from 2011 to 2012, said, “Clinton is cold and callous. There is an aura of negative energy that hovers over the facility like a nimbus cloud moments before a torrential downpour.” Jensen, an author, producer and advocate for prison reform who speaks publicly of his experiences, continued:  “There is not a scale large enough that I could use to weigh the rampant use of archaic brutality perpetrated by officers behind those walls. I know this because I was a victim of it, and I also know that the violent ‘US vs THEM’ mentality is interwoven in the prison’s DNA, which breeds not one positive form of correction or rehabilitation.”

Among several of the CA’s recommendations to address the abuses at Clinton are that New York should:

  • Close Clinton, and until then stop all staff violence and abuse at the prison
  • End the torture of solitary confinement at Clinton and throughout New York prisons
  • Transform the racist and punitive culture into one based on communication, empowerment, and growth
  • Implement a no-tolerance policy for improper or excessive use of force, including absolute prohibitions of certain types of force, such as blows to the head
  • Welcome independent investigations and accountability at Clinton and across the DOCCS system
  • Expand public oversight, media access and mandatory public reporting

Jack Beck, Director of the CA’s Prison Visiting Project (PVP), which monitors and reports on prison conditions in New York State facilities, said, “Clinton has a long history of staff brutality and abuse of people incarcerated that continues unchecked to this day. From reports of officers suffocating people with bags, to breaking people’s bones, to holding people in solitary confinement for years and decades, Voices from Clinton highlights the repeated pattern of intentional and racist abuse inflicted.”

Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the CA, said, “We’ve seen video from The New York Times of Clinton guards in 2010 beating Leonard Strickland, who later died of his injuries.  Then there is the recent death of Terry Cooper at Clinton, following a confrontation with guards. The entrenched culture of staff violence, racism, and dehumanization documented in Voices from Clinton permeates not only Clinton but the entire New York State prison system.” Elijah continued:  “State officials must end the atrocities taking place at Clinton and across the state. They can start by closing Clinton, along with Attica, to send a clear message that New York State will no longer tolerate these horrors.”