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Archive for the ‘Carl Danberg’ Category

(Editor’s note: this story can also be viewed in CRI’s Special Reports section.)

Victim of the assault by guards still suffering from injuries received during the beating, according to his written statement obtained by CRI.

By Lee Williams

After 42 inmates at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown came forward telling state officials they witnessed an unprovoked assault by three guards on one inmate – an attack they claim was started by the guards – retaliation has begun against the whistleblowers.

The inmates documented the assault on a Department of Correction (DOC) grievance form, which bears their 42 signatures. It was sent to Attorney General Beau Biden, Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, the NAACP and Dover attorney Steve Hampton.

They specifically asked Biden and Danberg to shield them from retaliation from the guards, who remain assigned to the tier.

The 42 inmates want criminal charges brought against two guards and a sergeant “who assaulted inmate Usef Dickerson on 11/11/09, in front of about 43 inmates on A-Tier.”

Their grievance states the guards, “violently punched and kicked inmate Dickerson to the body and about the head and face.”

Dickerson’s statement of the events provides more detail. Both complaints allege that the guards verbally provoked the assault, which began with an exchange of words.

In his statement, Dickerson said a guard sergeant “grabbed me by the head and pushed me into the chow hall. Then he quickly tried to slam me to the ground, but I ended up falling on top of him. At that point, I knew he was trying to hurt me, so I held him on the ground with one arm close to his body, so that he couldn’t do nothing to me.

“Seconds later, one officer who I cannot identify because he came from behind me, put me in a choke hold an began choking me while the other officer began punching me in the face. That’s when I let Sgt. [name withheld by CRI] go, closed my eyes and they continued to punch and choke me until I was either knocked out by a punch or until I passed out from lack of oxygen, because I was choked so long. I cannot say which it was, because I was being choked and punched at the same time.

“When I finally regained consciousness, I was being pepper-sprayed and punched in the face, but I was not being choked. I don’t know how it happened, but around a minute later, I was being escorted out of the building in handcuffs by an officer not involved in the assault.”

He strongly denies fighting back during the assault.

Several days prior to the attack, Dickerson said the guard sergeant told him, “I’ll beat you like your daddy should have.”

Dickerson filed grievances about the assault, sick call requests for medical aid, and asked to have his battered face photographed. He claims to suffer from constant headaches and broken blood vessels in his eyes.

Intimidation begins

Acquaintances of the inmates who reported the assault say staff has started to retaliate against the 42 whistleblowers.

The retaliation ranges in severity from the minor – making an inmate dump his food tray before he has had a chance to eat – to the serious.

One inmate, CRI was told, was watching a football game Sunday. He did not hear the guards announce a head count, and remained behind. The guards threatened to charge him with attempted escape, which could add years to his sentence.

Throughout the tier, the guards are asking all of the signatories “why did you sign?”

Dover attorney Hampton said, “The mere mention of the petition by staff to the inmates who signed it is itself intimidation.”

The DOC is also trying to suppress more information about the assault from leaking out of the prison.

The Caesar Rodney Institute has learned that a Delaware news reporter requested to interview three of the 42 inmates who witnessed the assault.

Tuesday evening, CRI has learned, the DOC’s internal affairs investigators pulled the three inmates whom the reporter sought to interview from their cells and interrogated them about Dickerson’s assault.

Department of Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg did not return calls seeking comment for this story. Danberg has said the investigation into Dickerson’s assault will take months.

SCI has a reputation for abuse, especially if the inmate is small, non-threatening and mentally or physically ill.

Dickerson stands 5-foot, 4-inches, suffers from severe asthma and weights 130 pounds.

In June, guards at the facility nearly beat Laurel businessman David Sully to death, by raining down blows to his head and face. Several wounds on Sully’s face required stitches to close. When he left the facility, he was covered with dye used in the guards’ pepper spray.

Despite horrific photos that chronicled the assault, Danberg said his guards did nothing wrong. He implied Sully had done something to merit the repeated beatings. Sully is 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.

Last month, Gianfranco Carta said guards at SCI shot pepper spray directly into his mouth, and then smacked his head into a concrete wall several times as he walked blindly down a hallway. Carta stands 5-feet, 7-inches and weighs 140 pounds.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit has said Carta’s story is “under investigation.”

In 2006, several guards attacked inmate David Kalm. Sometime during the assault, one of the guards shoved a nightstick or similar object down Kalm’s throat, tearing his trachea. Kalm is 5-feet, 7-inches and suffers from asthma, COPD and severe anxiety.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit investigated and found the guards did nothing wrong. Kalm has since sued the DOC. His case is pending.

The guards – defendants in the civil suit – are represented by the Attorney General’s office, after the office concluded they did nothing to merit criminal charges.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

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(Editor’s note: this story and the inmate grievance can also be viewed in the Special Report section.)

Witnesses ask Attorney General Beau Biden, Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg, ACLU, NAACP to protect them from abuse and retaliation.

By Lee Williams

An entire tier – 42 inmates – at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown has come forward telling state officials they witnessed an unprovoked assault by three guards on one inmate – an attack which they say was started by the guards.

The 42 whistle-blowers claim physical assaults, taunts and intimidation by guards on SCI’s Medium Security Building’s “A” tier are a daily occurrence.

They documented the assault on a Department of Correction (DOC) grievance form, which bears their 42 signatures. It was sent to Attorney General Beau Biden, Correction Commissioner Carl Danberg, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, the NAACP and Dover attorney Steve Hampton.

In their complaint, the inmates state they want criminal charges brought against two guards and a sergeant  “who assaulted inmate Usef Dickerson on 11/11/09, in front of about 43 inmates on A-Tier.”

“We the inmates fear these two officers, and request that they be moved out of the building, that they do not retaliate against the inmates for writing this petition and the grievance that they have filed concerning this incident,” the grievance states.

According to the grievance form filed three days after the assault, which describes the type of incident as “ongoing,” the attack on Dickerson occurred around 1:30 p.m., when the three guards, “after an exchange of words grab (sic) inmate Usef Dickerson around the neck, forced him to the chow hall.”

There, the grievance states the guards, “violently punched and kicked inmate Dickerson to the body and about the head and face.”

The inmates report that guards on A-Tier frequently “invite” the inmates to “come off the tier for a physical confrontation.”

“These three officers constantly harass us and threaten us with bodily harm,” the report states. “Also, they talk about our dead family members, kids and say stuff like ‘tell your mother to s— my d—. Now, what are you going to do?’”

Neither Danberg nor Biden were willing to be interviewed for this story, or say whether they would protect the inmates from retaliation for coming forward.

In an e-mail, Biden’s spokesman Jason Miller said, “An assault on an inmate is a serious allegation. The Department of Correction maintains a process for reviewing such allegations and investigating if warranted.  The Department of Correction has informed us that they have initiated this process.”

SCI Deputy Warden G.R. Johnson was similarly certain the assault was being investigated. However, Johnson admitted he hadn’t seen the inmates’ grievance or any document ordering an inquiry.

“I feel confident it’s being investigated,” Johnson told the Caesar Rodney Institute. “That’s all I’m going to say on it.”

Dover attorney Steve Hampton has seen the results of numerous investigations by the DOC’s internal affairs unit. Few have resulted in discipline or charges.

“The IA investigators do the best with what they’re able to do, but they’re not arms-length from the warden and they’re under the control and oversight of the Attorney General’s office, who also represents the subjects of the investigations – the correctional officers and the wardens,” Hampton said. “It puts the IA investigators in a difficult spot. It’s difficult for them to do a truly independent investigation.”

Hampton pointed out that even if an IA investigation finds malfeasance or criminality, the investigators have no authority to prosecute the cases.

The bigger problem, Hampton said, is the “Culture of Silence” at SCI, also known as the “Blue Wall.” Guards at SCI, he said, will not report the misdeeds of their peers.

“Until they change the culture of silence, they’re not going to have any substantive changes down there,” he said. “The correctional officers don’t fear that anyone is going to do anything. They feel as if they have immunity to do whatever they want.”

Abusive history

SCI has a reputation for abuse, especially if the inmate is small, non-threatening and mentally or physically ill.

Dickerson stands 5-foot, 4-inches, suffers from severe asthma and weights 130 pounds.

In June, guards at the facility nearly beat Laurel businessman David Sully to death, by raining down blows to his head and face. Several wounds on Sully’s face required stitches to close. When he left the facility, he was covered with dye used in the guards’ pepper spray.

Despite horrific photos that chronicled the assault, Danberg said his guards did nothing wrong. He implied Sully had done something to merit the repeated beatings. Sully is 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.

Last month, Gianfranco Carta said guards at SCI shot pepper spray directly into his mouth, and then smacked his head into a concrete wall several times as he walked blindly down a hallway. Carta stands 5-feet, 7-inches and weighs 140 pounds.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit has said Carta’s story is “under investigation.”

In 2006, several guards attacked inmate David Kalm. Sometime during the assault, one of the guards shoved a nightstick or similar object down Kalm’s throat, tearing his trachea. Kalm is 5-feet, 7-inches and suffers from asthma, COPD and severe anxiety.

Danberg’s internal affairs unit investigated and found the guards did nothing wrong. Kalm has since sued the DOC. His case is pending. The guards – defendants in the civil suit – are represented by the Attorney General’s office, after the office concluded they did nothing to merit criminal charges.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.

© Copyright 2009 by the Caesar Rodney Institute

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According to the wife of the inmate suffering from the hole in his buttocks, which according to his medical records contains MRSA, Staph and other bacteria, the wound has now burrowed to a depth of six-inches, and the opening is as big as a silver dollar.

The Department of Correction, she said, will not discuss health care options with her or her husband.

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The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) today released a Request For Proposals (RFP) soliciting vendors to provide healthcare services to the prison inmate population.

The new RFP will allow the option of multiple vendors, so potential vendors will be able to bid to provide a portion of services, such as mental health services, substance abuse services or prescription drugs, among others, as well as to bid on the entire contract.

Another change will be to allow the option for a “shared risk” model, with DOC agreeing to bear the risk of certain costs in certain categories.

“We expect this flexibility, and the increased competition it is expected to provide, will foster improved medical care and cost savings,” DOC Commissioner Carl Danberg said in a written statement. “The Department spent significant time exploring alternative solutions to the way we contract for medical services. We believe this alternative will allow for large and small service providers to bid on the areas that fall within their specialization.”

Shoddy medical care provided by the DOC’s current medical vendor, Correctional Medical Services, was  highlighted in a recent special by the Caesar Rodney Institute.

The RFP can be found here.

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An inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna has a four-inch hole in his buttocks, which is full of MRSA, staph and other bacteria.

The abscess is burrowing toward the 50-year-old inmate’s midline, according to medical documents obtained by the Caesar Rodney Institute.

He’s had the wound for more than six months, and now faces surgery to remove the dead tissue, and possible skin grafts. The ulcerous wound has formed a pus pocket, referred to as a “sinus tract” in his medical records, which is four inches long.

Five months ago, according to the records, medical staff were irrigating the wound with saline, and packing it with 10 to 12 inches of gauze.

Not only does the inmate constitute a serious health risk to other inmates, the guards too are at risk for contracting the highly-communicable MRSA, which is also known as flesh-eating bacteria. Their families too could be exposed to MRSA, as could anyone they contact.

 

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The Delaware Department of Correction killed Daniel Kern, according to the findings of an autopsy report obtained by the Caesar Rodney Institute.

Kern, 41, was serving a one-year sentence for his third drunk-driving conviction. He was being held at the Sussex Correctional Institution. He acquired pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, which can be caused by alcoholism, other infections or gall stones.

Pancreatitis should have been easy to detect. A simple blood test would have revealed that Kern’s blood contained elevated levels of digestive enzymes, which are formed in the pancreas. However, Kern’s frequent complaints of abdominal pain and pleas for help went unheeded by the DOC and its medical vendor Correctional Medical Services.

The Caesar Rodney Institute, as part of its ongoing special report “Rogue Force,” reported what Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Adrienne Sekula-Perlman told Kern’s family after the post-mortem exam, that Kern died as a result of pancreatitis, which constitutes “gross medical negligence.”

The last page of Sekula-Perlman’s autopsy report confirms what she told Kern’s family.

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A 36-year-old Newark man is the latest inmate to die in Delaware’s prison system.

Gernell J. Archie died Friday, Nov. 13 at the Sussex Correctional Institute (SCI) in Georgetown.

He was serving an eight-year sentence for robbery, possession of a weapon and theft.

According to a press release, sent by Department of Correction spokesman John Painter after the Caesar Rodney Institute made inquiries about the death, “no foul play is suspected.” No cause of death information was provided.

Unlike other inmate deaths, the DOC did not notify the Caesar Rodney Institute of Archie’s death via the department’s press release e-mail system. Painter blamed this on another spokesperson, whom he said used an outdated e-mail list.

The death announcement, dated Monday, Nov. 16, was also not placed in the DOC’s press release archive, as has been the DOC’s policy.

 

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