VOICES FROM CLINTON: First-Hand Accounts of Brutality, Torture, And Cover-up From People Incarcerated at an Infamously Abusive New York State Prison
New York State prisons are plagued by a pervasive and entrenched culture of staff brutality, violence, abuse, racism, dehumanization, and intimidation, as well as the routine infliction of solitary confinement. As Correctional Association of NY (CA) reports on Clinton, Attica, Greene, Fishkill Correctional Facilities and other prisons have long documented, these abuses and their cover-ups are regular and typical practices in Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) prisons. An underlying culture and environment of abuse – not the acts of a few individual bad actors – drive the dehumanization and brutalization taking place. This culture is undergirded and fueled by racism, staff impunity, a lack of meaningful programs, a history of violent repression (especially at Attica and Clinton), and a reliance on force, punishment, and disempowerment.
In the mid-1990s, the New York Times reported that federal judges “have repeatedly found that excessive force by guards has violated [incarcerated persons’] civil rights,” that corrections experts found the settling of 10 brutality lawsuits at Clinton to be “extraordinary, since [incarcerated persons] rarely win such cases and officials rarely settle them,” that Clinton had an “internal culture that tolerates a higher level of violence than others, and where guards are more likely to test the boundaries of what is considered acceptable force,” and that vast racial and cultural disparities between incarcerated persons and staff exacerbated conflicts. As reported in the CA’s 2014 Clinton report, as well as in its August 2015 documented investigations, officers at Clinton have engaged in the most horrific violence against incarcerated people long before the June 2015 escape, in its immediate aftermath, and still today. People incarcerated at Clinton have given first-hand accounts of being suffocated by plastic bags, physically beaten so severely as to result in broken bones, and other forms of brutality, harassment, and abuse.
The June 2015 escape and its aftermath only exacerbated the abusive conditions and provided opportunities for staff to utilize longstanding tactics of dehumanization, racism, and brutality. The following narratives provide an in-depth look at the ongoing brutality, torture, and cover-up at Clinton C.F. Based on over 40 interviews, as well as correspondence with over 75 people, the narratives are a representative sample of the experiences, insights, and analyses of people incarcerated at Clinton in 2015. These narratives paint a picture of several recurring themes of staff violence and abuse at Clinton, including: 1) suffocation of people during interrogations; 2) severe and widespread brutality in the aftermath of the June 2015 escape; 3) longstanding and ongoing brutality at Clinton to this day; 4) people with special needs targeted for abuse by staff; 5) widespread use of solitary confinement, including for years and decades; 6) a lack of transparency and accountability for abuses; 7) the denial of the most basic rights and living conditions; and 8) racism and dehumanization at the core of all abuses. Something must be done to stop these human rights violations – at Clinton and across New York State prisons. Due to its infamous history and ongoing horrors, the state should close Clinton, along with Attica, to send a clear message that New York State will no longer tolerate staff brutality, torture, and abuse.
John J. Lennon, a contributing writer at The Marshall Project, has written for Vice, The Atlantic, and The New York Times. He is currently in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. He will be eligible for parole in 2029. Joe Cardo was out hunting for half-smoked cigarettes. From my perch at the white-boys’ table of the A Block [...]Read More
WOMEN AND ISOLATED CONFINEMENT Women held in isolated confinement are subjected to dehumanizing treatment—treatment that makes it difficult for them to maintain their dignity, hygiene, nutrition and personal property. They can get in trouble for something as simple as attempting to talk to the person next to them. They are denied commissary privileges which provide [...]Read More
Reports & Research
“Solitary at Southport: A 2017 Report Based Upon the Correctional Association’s Visits, Data Analysis, & First-Hand Accounts of the Torture of Solitary Confinement from One of New York’s Supermax Prisons”
“The isolation itself is torture. Mentally and emotionally, it breaks you down. Spiritually it strips you. The way it is built is to break you down as a person and push your family away.” From “Solitary at Southport” Solitary confinement is torture. New York State subjects people to solitary confinement and other forms of isolation [...]Read More