Deputy Throws Whistle Blower Inmate in Isolation

Jon Fontaine is the subject of my book, A Jacket off the Gorge. He’s been sending me blogs from behind bars that I’ve been posting on my website. They are not popular among Monroe County Jail staff. They identify serious failures. (Read Jon’s blogs here.)

In what appears to be retaliation, jail staff has now taken Jon’s pen, paper, and modes of communication (phone, visits) and thrown him in isolation.

On May 23, I attended Jon’s court hearing. His attorney handed me a note that Jon surreptitiously passed him to give to me. It listed deputies’ names and stated they’d threatened him.

I walked to jail administration to turn over the note for investigation, and Corporal John Helfer came to talk to me. I had not stated the nature of my visit. Helfer’s demeanor appeared angry and defensive. He brought up Jon’s blogs on my website before I ever did, and before I got a chance to explain why I wanted to talk to him.

Helfer stated someone “sent an email around” to jail staff “with a link” to Jon’s blogs and suggested they look into his claims. Helfer then said to me, “We don’t investigate anything unless someone files a formal complaint.”

It was then I handed Jon’s note to Helfer and stated, “I want this investigated.”

Helfer asked me how Jon gets his stories to me. I said he writes them and mails them.

The next morning, May 24, Jon was taken to the mental health unit and locked in an isolation cell, his pen and paper taken from him, and his phone and visitor privileges revoked. This has been confirmed by an attorney.

Blocking someone from free speech: no small deal. That’s a violation of constitutional rights.

Later that evening, I received a call from the jail, but it wasn’t Jon. It was an inmate I didn’t know. He read a note which details the alleged chain of events. (Click here to listen to the inmate read the note.)

These are the allegations: Jon was talking with other inmates when jail deputy Cambisi confronted him and said, “You and I need to talk.” Cambisi then informed Jon he was going to write him up for “inciting a riot.” Internal Affairs staff arrived to investigate the complaint I’d launched the day before. Jon informed them of Cambisi’s action. After they left, Cambisi went to Jon’s cell and said, “You have a visit.” Jon grabbed his legal folder to take with him, which includes pen/paper. This time, however, it was not Internal Affairs, but two jail employees (Deputy Noble and Corporal Scott Bevilacqua) who took Jon to the mental health unit and locked him in an isolation cell, where inmates are barred from mail, phone calls and visits. Later, Corporal Wayne Guest brought Jon his property. Missing were his pens and paper. (Jon still had possession of the pens/paper he’d taken with him in his legal folder, which had not been searched).

The following is an email I sent to Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn:

I am requesting that inmate Jon Fontaine be immediately released from isolation, where he was put today (5/24/17) after Deputy Cambisi wrote him up on trumped up charges of “inciting a riot.”

This appears to be in direct retaliation of the complaint I delivered on Jon’s behalf to Corporal John Helfer yesterday. Helfer mentioned Jon’s stories on my website before I ever did. He asked how Jon relayed the stories to me. I told him Jon writes them and mails them.

Today, Jon’s pen, paper and carbon paper were taken away from him, and he was placed in an area where he is barred from communication.

I call on Sheriff O’Flynn to investigate these jail employee’ actions, and if the claims are found to be substantiated, to remove them from their duties.

UPDATE:

5/24/17 evening

Two jail guards entered Jon’s isolation cell, awaking him at 10 p.m. to search his property. They took him from the isolation cell and relocated him.

UPDATE:

5/25/17 a.m.

Jon was relocated to the “main frame;” an area of the jail known for housing the most violent detainees. There, guards are caged for their safey.

5/25/17 p.m.

Two inmates in the main frame entered Jon’s cell and bashed his head in. He spent the night in the medical unit under observation. Jon states that after required time in the gym, inmates were returned to their cells and locked in, but soon after the cells locked, they were all unlocked. That’s when, according to Jon, two inmates entered his cell and began stating they were told he was a “baby killer.” They proceeded to slam the back of his head repeatedly into the jail bars. He states he does not remember how this ended. Jon states there were witnesses and security cameras.

UPDATE:

5/26/17 

Without explanation or paperwork, Jon was abruptly removed from the Monroe County Jail and taken back to Mid-State Correctional Facility. He had been under judge’s orders to remain in the Monroe County Jail through June 20, the date of his restitution hearing, so he would have adequate contact with his attorney in preparing for the hearing.

Jon had been at the Monroe County Jail for six months without incident. The weekend before this happened, Jon’s blogs on my website spiked to more than 5,000 views in two days.

 

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Deputy Go F Yourself

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine, temporarily housed in Monroe County Jail]

Toilet paper, soap, and something to brush my teeth with – that’s all I needed. It’s all I was entitled to: basic toiletries.

I left prison at 6 a.m. and stayed shackled until my booking into the Monroe County Jail six hours later. For the next five hours, I sat in a small booking tank with a half dozen other inmates.

It was filthy. There was trash on the floor, and a toilet that looked like it had endured every form of bodily explosion and never been cleaned. Flies buzzed all over it.

I was informed our jail issue jumpsuits don’t get washed before re-issue; only tossed in a dryer to “kill the bugs.”

I kept trying to dodge the reek of body odor, only to learn it was my own unwashed jumpsuit.

We were all given bedrolls and moved to the “street plaza” unit. It was December 8, 2016.

When we got to the unit, a young Latino deputy was browsing the internet on the unit’s officer computers.

Street plaza was empty, so they gave us our choice of cells. I chose an end cell (quieter). It turned out my cell was also at a scanner, where the deputy (same one playing on the internet) had to make rounds, wave a key fob and then turn around.

About 30 minutes after I arrived, I asked the deputy during a pass at my cell, “Do you think I can get toilet paper, soap, and something to brush my teeth with? I’ve been on the road since 6 a.m.”

“I’ll see,” he told me.

A few minutes later, more inmates moved into the unit; more started asking for basic toiletries.

Next round (15 minutes later), I asked again. He told me he didn’t have a chance to check. Must’ve been too busy on the internet.

Correction law requires jails and prisons to provide basic toiletries. If inmates were denied toilet paper and a tooth brush, incarceration would be much more dehumanizing than it already is.

Next round, I said to the deputy, “Please, deputy, can I get supplies? I left prison at 6 a.m. and haven’t been able to use the bathroom or brush my teeth.”

“When I check.”

Each round, I asked, and each time, he gave me the same variation of not having time to check. After each round, I’d watch him return to the computer and the internet.

Finally, at 10:30 p.m. when I asked again, he told me, “I don’t have anything to give you.”

I am aware each unit has an entire supply cabinet full of everything. I asked politely, “Can I please see someone with stripes?” That is a supervisor.

He stopped. He asked why I wanted to see someone with stripes. I told him, “Because I’m entitled to use the bathroom, and you won’t give me what I need.”

“They’ll be around on rounds at 3 a.m., if you’re awake,” he replied.

I asked if he could radio someone and tell them I need to see them. He told me no.

“What’s your name, deputy?” I asked.

He turned his back on me, and as he started to march away, responded, “My name? It’s Deputy Go Fuck Yourself.”

Name tags are so small, you have to be close to read them. I couldn’t see his. I never did get supplies that night, or the next morning. It wasn’t until almost noon the next day that I was given basic toiletries so I could use the toilet, brush my teeth, and wash my hands with soap – 30 hours since I’d been given that basic human dignity.

Four days later, I was moved to a normal housing unit and found a Monroe County Jail handbook in my cell. Page 13: Upon admission to the jail, inmates will be provided with personal care items including soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, toilet paper.

Not only did Deputy Go Fuck Yourself violate Correction Law, but he violated his own boss’ policies.

Monroe County Jail requires that inmates get permission to file an internal complaint. How many jail deputies do you think are going to give an inmate permission to file a complaint about the jail?

 

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More Drugs than Books in Monroe County Jail

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine, temporarily housed in Monroe County Jail]

There’s more rats here than books, more drugs than books, more tobacco than books.

It’s literally easier to get bitten by a rat at the Monroe County Jail, smoke a cigarette, and get high to deal with whatever infection the rat gave you, than it is to find a book to read.

There’s no library, no book cart, no book requests allowed – nothing.

Inmates can only receive books if their loved ones order them from an outside vendor, and the books must be shipped to the inmate from that vendor.

I don’t know if the Monroe County Jail administration realizes this, but most of the inmates come from the poorest neighborhoods. Their loved ones can barely pay their taxes (Some of the highest in the country), let alone afford a computer and internet service to go on Amazon and order books.

In almost three weeks, I’ve come across two books. Oddly, both books looked like they’d been chewed.

Two books in three weeks is mindless torture for someone who normally reads two books in three days, doesn’t watch TV, and doesn’t play cards.

Other jails provide books.

It’s not a question of finances. In addition to being one of the highest taxed counties in the entire country, Monroe County shares in the profits from inmate commissary sales and inmate phone calls. This is nothing unusual. It’s common practice among jails to make money off inmates’ families. What is unusual is how expensive everything is at the Monroe County Jail.

A 1.7 ounce Degree deodorant that goes for $2 in a retail store is $4.79 here. A small bar of Irish Spring soap costs $1.25. A Ramen soup that normally costs 10-cents is 74-cents here. A standard size Snickers bar costs $1.29. A Walkman (remember those?) costs $35 here. At the Henrietta facility, inmates must buy a Walkman to hear the TV.

If your loved ones can’t afford books, they can’t afford a $35 radio for you to listen to the TV.

What’s an inmate to do to occupy their mind? Count rat droppings. Fight. Maybe call home. Well, the Monroe County Jail is raking in the money there, too: $3 for a 15-minute phone call.

In state prison, it’s only $1.50 for a 30-minute call. That makes Monroe County Jail phone calls four times more expensive.

Why compare jail calls to prison calls? Jail holds “pre-trial detainees;” people who have not been convicted. Some of them will leave with their innocence confirmed after trial; others will see their charges dropped entirely.

Yet, they are extorted financially for calls to their loved ones.

Inmates have limited options for taking their mind off their legal dramas. Books are a critical part of occupying an inmate’s time.

I never did get to finish my second book. Oh well, there’s always fighting, 15-minute phone calls for $3 a pop, and counting rat droppings to keep my mind occupied.

[Jon Fontaine is at the Monroe County Jail awaiting a hearing that Monroe County Court Judge Vincent Dinolfo wrongfully denied him four years ago.]

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