Inmate’s Exit from Prison a Bumpy Ride

[by Susan Ashline]

Jon called me last night.

He’s less than two weeks from getting out of prison and has been told nothing concrete about anything from anyone.

He has no place to live and hasn’t been told where he might be placed.

He worries his parole officer will not allow him to have a vehicle, which would hamper him from finding employment.

He’s been given different dates for his release.

His counselor at New York’s Mid-State prison, Larry Zick, apparently told him he’s allowed to have someone pick up him on the day of his release; then told him he’ll have to take a bus to his parole officer’s office… wherever and whenever that may be. Picked up or take bus – Zick simply doesn’t know.

Jon’s attorney, the one he paid $12,000 to do his restitution hearing and a motion almost a year ago, has been largely absent. I’ve tried to stay out of it, but a good part of my book, A Jacket off the Gorge, deals with failures in the justice system, and I have a hard time ignoring that an attorney is neglecting any client, let alone one who paid him $12,000. The whole “voice for the voiceless” thing – I’ve felt obligated to intervene a number of times. My last contact was more than a month ago. I emailed Jon’s attorney on his behalf, because I’d learned the decision on his restitutaion hearing had come down three weeks earlier. Jon, of course, had been waiting to hear. The attorney then emailed the decision and said to tell Jon he was sending a big packet of information. There’s an affidavit Jon has been waiting to sign that his attorney promised to get to him months ago.

As of last night, Jon has heard nothing from this attorney – no calls, letters, visits; affidavit never came. Months go by with no communication.

I am resisting the urge to rip into this attorney. I don’t want to look like a jerk. But I’m realizing I am not the one who looks like a jerk here.

$12,000.

Speaking of jerks… After learning I wrote a book about Jon, which includes his lawsuit against Mid-State Correctional Facility, Mid-State staffers arbitrarily added my name to his parole release conditions, stating he would not be allowed to communicate with me. Isn’t that convenient?

I spent months contacting everyone involved (Superintendent Mathew Thoms, Ronald Meier, Ann Joselyn, Larry Zick, DOCCS attorney Kevin Kortright, DOCCS investigators Scott Apple and Keila Bowens, the NY Parole Board), stating I do not consent to my name being on that list. Jon sat with his counselor, Zick, who apparently told him he doesn’t remember adding my name in the first place, and that someone may’ve walked into his office while he was doing the form and distracted him, and that’s how it wound up there. Jon also wrote the parole board, as well as filed a prison grievance to get my name removed.

Let’s pull all the support beams from any inmate being released from prison and laugh while they crumble (*sarcasm).  More likely, whine about the fact they slipped up, committed crimes again, and wound up back in the system. Throw your hands up, shrug your shoulders and act in disbelief as to how this happened.

After being sent around in circles, no one doing their job, and no one getting anything done, an attorney out of Albany, through a prisoner’s advocacy organization, took up the case to get my name removed.

Ironically, the one attorney who has done more than anyone else is the attorney not getting paid a penny from Jon.

Thank you to this attorney for her hard work and tenacity. She has been in contact with the Parole Board legal counsel, demanding my name be removed and stating there is no cause for it to be there. Unbelievably, the Parole Board lawyer wrote her erroneously stating my name had been removed in April. In fact, it had not been removed. The very same condition was listed as an amendment, but restated – different words. And now the attorney is forced to go at them again.

And this is how the criminal justice system goes.

And we all want better citizens and less crime, but the state employees want to retain power, collect their fat paychecks (that you pay out), and put up roadblocks to get people to a better place.

Like it or not, most of these inmates are released at some point. Isn’t it better for us if we help them rather than isolate them from social circles and take away their ability to find viable employment?

Background:

Mid-State Prison Strikes Back after Learning of My Book

Mid-State Prison Retaliates Against Me (UPDATE)

Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

Share Button

The Bond of Laughter in Prison

[by Jon Fontaine, NY prison inmate]

In prison, people don’t generally segregate themselves by race. Associations are usually based on region. New York City guys usually stick together no matter the borough. Upstate guys will associate by city or region (Rochester with Rochester, Utica with Utica).

I usually associate with everyone, because I always seem to wind up with a prison job or reputation that brings everyone to me for something. Two guys I use to have a lot of fun joking around with were from Syracuse.

Wilfredo Roman, known as “Pieto” or “P,” was a Puerto Rican drug dealer. Jamie Kimbrough, known as “Bam,” was a bi-racial “booster,” or someone who goes into stores to steal valuable goods, like jewelry.

Bam stood out among the inmates, because one drunken night, he thought it would be a good idea to get a tattoo of a hair line to make up for his baldness.

I spent a lot of time with P and Bam, because we lived in the same unit. It also meant they were victims of my practical jokes.

One day, I was at my prison job in the gym until 11 a.m. I waited until Bam and P were together in P’s room, and I went in all hyped up.

“You guys are not gonna believe this!” I told them. “Yesterday, someone took some Jolly Ranchers off my locker. So this morning, I took a handful of Jolly Ranchers, opened them all, and shoved them halfway up my ass and re-wrapped them! I left them on my locker when I left this morning, and when I came back now, there were gone! Someone literally ate my shit!”

I saw Bam’s face turning red, and asked, “Did you see someone take my Jolly Ranchers this morning?”

Bam snapped back and pointed at P: “He gave me Jolly Ranchers this morning! He said he found them on your locker!”

Bam’s face was getting beet red, and P and I started laughing. Of course I wouldn’t stick candy up my butt. I had simply told P what I was planning to do, and asked him to play along.

It was all worth it to see Bam’s face turn red.

Share Button

Inmate Hallucinates Beach Umbrellas and Music by Pink

I looked out my prison window and didn’t see a prison yard. I saw umbrellas stuck in a beach, people swimming, music playing, and dogs chasing Frisbees.

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine; response to Livingston County news story]

FORMER GROVELAND INMATE CLAIMS TORTUROUS TREATMENT IN LAWSUIT AGAINST STATE” – the headine of Matt Leader’s article about me in the Livingston County News.

Leader left out the important details: the torturous treatment.

He left out that my “brief stint” (as he called it) in the hospital involved me in a coma, on life support, with my loved ones being warned I might not live, and if I did, I might be a vegetable.

Leader wrote that I tried to confess to the Boston Marathon bombing and that I stated I was being tortured by the CIA. Oddly, he omitted that I made those statements while tortured by state employees to the point of hallucinating.

Some critical details would’ve enhanced the article. Instead, it made my lawsuit sound frivolous. The lawsuit Leader read clearly explains how, for over four months, I repeatedly complained to mental health staff that I felt like the mental health meds I was prescribed for PTSD and anxiety were causing me to feel suicidal. When I complained, prison staff raised my dosages.

I complained again. They raised my dosages even more, and then added different meds.

During my once-every-three-months, five-minute teleconference with a psychiatrist, I complained my meds were giving me daily death wishes.

The psychiatrist added more meds to the mix.

In mid-March, 2013, during my once a month, five-minute face-to-face session with a therapist, I made the same complaints. She told me I could not let myself think that way and (unknown to me until recently) wrote in my file that I was faking having suicidal thoughts.

Then, I was prescribed a two-month supply of the maximum dosage of a potent muscle relaxer and given the meds to “self-carry” (keep on me). After hearing on a radio show about a woman who overdosed on a weaker muscle relaxer, I took my entire prescription.

Leader wrote that I had a “brief stint” in the hospital. He made it sound like the ER staff patted my head, fed me ice cream and sent me back to prison. What he left out is that I’d arrived at the hospital with no vital signs. Records from the Advance Life Support ambulance show my body shut down a good while before arriving. Staff at the ICU (where I did my “brief stint”) later told me I was “clinically dead” on arrival; they managed to re-start my heart, but I had to be on a ventilator due to respiratory failure.

Leader failed to mention how the hospital released me to the custody of the state with a serious case of pneumonia. The hospital released me believing I would receive medical care at Groveland Correctional Facility.

The last few days of my “brief stint,” I was in the ICU, coughing up chunks of blood with every other exhale. I was unable to sleep for more than a few minutes. The pain from the pneumonia was so bad from sitting that I would stand, holding my IV stand in one hand, the wall with the other, forehead against the wall, in tears.

The hospital staff printed a treatment plan, documenting that I had pneumonia and tachycardia (an irregularly rapid heartbeat caused by my heart – oh yeah – STOPPING.)

The plan stated I was to be given a dozen different medications including heart meds to regulate my heartbeat, and pain killers.

When I was returned to Groveland, I was led past hospital rooms with adjustable beds, TVs, showers – the works – to an “isolation cell.”

Fresh from the hospital from trying to kill myself, I was thrown into a hole and locked away for three weeks – just me, my smock, my 2” mat, my blanket and a roll of toilet paper. Bright overhead lights blared on me 24-7. My outside contact was limited to a nurse taking my vital signs each day.

I had pneumonia and was still coughing up blood.

My first night there, in the early morning hours, following hours locked in an empty cell with no treatment, I kneeled at the cell door, begging a corrections officer (CO) to find a nurse for me. The nurse who came told me she was the one who’d worked on me the night I tried to kill myself; that I was in such bad shape, she thought I was going to die right there.

I told her I was in unbearable pain, that I hadn’t been given my heart meds, and that my heart was killing me, that I felt like I was having a heart attack, and that every other breath was bringing up blood.

I was literally on my knees, begging a woman who claimed she tried to save my life to provide me with my prescribed medications. She told me to lay down and try to sleep – that I couldn’t get meds.

If I laid down on my steel plate, as soon as my head touched down, the blood in my lungs came up. Eventually, the wall next to my bunk looked like someone dipped a paint brush in red paint and flung it at the wall.

I’d heard the CO’s telling the nurses, “He’s in there coughing up blood.”

Help never came. I got an occasional dose of Tylenol, a few days of antibiotics and a few days of a muscle relaxer.

But I did get something: retaliation for an attempt to kill myself.

Fresh from an outside hospital, where I’d been in a coma and on a cocktail of drugs, a CO came in my cell with a cup for a urine sample – a drug screen.

I told him I’d just come from the hospital. He said he was unaware of that and seemed as surprised as me. Had I not told him this, any meds I’d been given at the hospital would’ve come up, and I would’ve gone from isolation in the infirmary to solitary confinement. They tried to find a reason to punish me, or, aware of their gross missteps, tried to concoct a way to cover their misdeeds by being able to show faulty results from a piss test; a way to blame my actions rather than their staff’s mishandling of my mental health.

Staff didn’t care about giving me medical care, but they found it reasonable to order a drug test.

Given my lack of treatment and care, I couldn’t sleep for one week. I first realized something was wrong on maybe my second night. I’d looked out the window of my cell and saw a plane about to crash into the building. After hiding under my mat, not hearing a crash, I looked out the window again. It was actually twin spot lights in the yard.

The next day, my isolation cell, built to cut me off from people and sound, was filled with music by the singer “Pink.” I looked all around for speakers and found none.

I looked out my prison window and didn’t see a prison yard. I saw umbrellas stuck in a beach, people swimming, music playing, and dogs chasing Frisbees.

I started seeing faces in the wall, and a fire place. After that, I don’t remember what I saw or did.

At some point during my second week in isolation, a mental health worker and a corrections sergeant came to see me. They told me that the week before, I had been yelling out the door that I was being held and tortured by the CIA, that CIA agents beat me and broke my ribs (what I thought was causing my pain and coughing up blood), that the CIA was leaving on the lights 24-7 to interrogate me and playing Pink (the same song over and over) to torture me. They told me I was also yelling that I was ready to confess to the Boston Marathon bombing.

I was on constant observation by officers. What did they do to help me? All they had to do to was follow the treatment plan the hospital laid out for me. But they didn’t.

And it didn’t stop there. After three weeks in isolation, I was “cleared to travel” and sent to Auburn, a maximum security correctional facility. I was allowed my first shower in a month. I was still not allowed phone calls, mail, visits, etc. Then, I was sent to Downstate Correctional Facility, another maximum security prison. I was allowed to make my first call. I had miraculously come back from the dead, yet no one had heard from me in a month. One day, they were sitting by my bed in the ICU comforting me, and the next day, I was just thrown in a hole, cut off from all contact, with no notice, and everyone left to wonder if I was okay.

From Downstate, I was brought to Mid-State Correctional Facility and given a change of clothing for the first time. They sent me there, because the state considers Mid-State’s mental health care to be extensive: one five-minute talk with a therapist each month. It is the same “care” I received at Groveland.

I’d tried to kill myself and prison officials sent me two-and-a-half hours away from my loved ones, only to receive the same level of mental health services I’d gotten at the facility that was 45 minutes away.

At Mid-State, I was still coughing up blood and having stabbing heart pains. I also had shoulder, hip and knee pain from being held down while in the hospital. I repeatedly went to medical complaining of my heart pains and stating I felt like I was having a heart attack. I told them I was still coughing up blood. With each visit, the facility physician did not look at my file, take my blood pressure, listen to my heart, give me an EKG, order a chest x-ray, ask me to cough, check my oxygen levels, check my weight – nothing. Each time, he told me nothing was wrong with me, that it was all in my head, and to take Tylenol.

Does any of this sound like torture to you? It is all documented in the lawsuit that reporter Matt Leader read. Only one person can explain why an article headlined by the words “torturous treatment” would exclude information on the torturous treatment.

Note: Dr. Subbarao Ramineni, the prison physician who ignored Jon’s medical complaints, was hired by the prison after his license to practice medicine had been suspended for “repeated acts of negligence” against patients.

 

Share Button

Mid-State Prison Retaliates Against Me (UPDATE)

[by Susan Ashline]

PART ONE:

Mid-State Prison Strikes Back after Learning of My Book

PART TWO:

I wrote a book. A Jacket off the Gorge is based on incidents outlined in a lawsuit against Mid-State Correctional Facility. The subject of my book, Jon Fontaine, is currently housed at Mid-State.

As Fontaine is prepared for release, he met with his counselor in November 2016 and went over his parole conditions upon release. Jon’s sentencing judge had issued four orders of protection against him; individuals tied to the case for which he is imprisoned. Just one of those individuals, Dora Rosser, was the actual crime victim.

Jon’s counselor notified him that his parole release document will state he is not allowed to communicate with those four individuals.

Makes sense.

But this doesn’t make sense. Just days after meeting with his counselor, Fontaine received a hard copy of those conditions. Someone at the facility had surreptitiously swapped in my name, and swapped out Rosser’s name. The NYS Parole Board approved the document. So I am now listed as being barred from communicating with Jon upon release. And Rosser’s name was removed from the list, though it names three of the four individuals with orders of protection.

Why? And who did it?

No one at Mid-State prison will tell me. In fact, the staff at Mid-State has only told me they have no idea who put my name there, or why. Now, they are dodging all contact with me.

Clearly, the document needs to be revised, as it glaringly omits the name of Fontaine’s crime victim. Yet, staff at the prison is ignoring the issue.

Only after snail-mail letters attempting to address this did Deputy Superintendant of Programs Anne Joslyn send a response – one that makes no sense.

“It has been determined that personal information regarding inmate Fontaine cannot be released to you as there is no signed consent form signed by inmate Fontaine to release information to you.”

What personal information did I request? None. The response is not relevant to my issue.

In fact, she threw it together so quickly, she doesn’t even spell her colleague’s name correctly (it’s Ronald Meier, not Meiers); there is missing punctuation and rambling, incoherent thoughts.

Joslyn is a state employee who is either not very bright, or thinks others are not very bright and this smoke-screen letter will placate me.

It will not.

The Office of Special Investigations has opened an investigation on the matter as of December 19. However, OSI is run by the prison system (DOCCS), so is, in effect, the organization policing itself. Because of that, I don’t expect results.

In their 2016 annual report, the NYS Assembly Committee on Correction noted they also don’t have much faith in OSI, and tried to get a bill passed that would allow independent examination of complaints regarding prison staff. In 2017, the committee hopes to get approval to open an Office of the Correctional Ombudsman, which would  investigate complaints when an inmate or citizen has failed to get satisfactory results through available institutional channels.

Other states have one. Why not New York?

Not having faith in OSI, on December 21, I brought my complaint to the Assembly Committee on Correction Chairman, Daniel O’Donnell.

We’ll see if anything gets done. Stay tuned.

PART THREE:

Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

 

Share Button