What I Dream About in Prison

By NY prison inmate Jon Fontaine

Most of my dreams are about people, places and things from age 17 and before. Is it my subconscious recognizing that everything after that period is when my life went off the rails? When I stop and think about it, I feel like I went from high school to jail at age 17, jail to prison a few months later at 18, and I’m just starting to come up for air at 34. Everything in between is a blur.

Everything before jail and prison comes back to me at night.

Last night, I dreamt about a cat we had when I was growing up. I told the cat (in my dream), “Damn, you must be 25 years old.”

The night before, I dreamt about my brother and me having bunk beds in the late 80’s. It’s something I don’t think I’ve thought of in 25 years.

I dream about people I knew in middle school and high school. I wake up thinking – I forgot all about so-n-so.

Does Meghan remember we “went out” for a week or two in 7th grade? I remember, but only because of my dreams.

Does Colin remember catching fireflies behind his house? Does Jennifer remember hanging out at my house after school?

It all comes back to me when I sleep – people, places and things.

There’s no stimulation for my mind in here. I guess my mind makes up for it in my dreams. So long ago, but so vivid in my dreams; I wake up feeling like I just returned from traveling back in time.

If it was only that easy…

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CBS Affiliate Covers the Missing Treasure Case Behind My Book

June 19, 11 p.m. News.

June 20, 5 o’oclock News. 

 

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Jail Fights are Like Diarrhea

Fights in jail or prison are like diarrhea – explodes everywhere.

I’ve had my share of fights over the years. I’ve probably forgotten as many as I remember. Most jail or prison fights are over in seconds. They’re not drawn out boxing matches. They’re explosions of violence.

Looking back, what I find remarkable is not the fights I’ve had – split lips, black eyes, sore hands, scratches – but my reaction to other people’s fights.

I was a teenager sitting in the mess hall of maximum security Elmira Correctional Facility. One corner of the mess hall was taken up by an indoor gun tower – round gun ports set in thick, angled glass. Officers paced in front of the glass, holding what looked like shotguns. Dozens of ceiling pipes were above my head, and the old-timers explained these were used to drop tear-gas canisters.

There were more officers stationed all around the room, toting wooden batons.

One minute, a few hundred inmates were eating; the next, two inmates exploded to their feet, fighting.

No one told me what to do in this situation. I was two months into my 18th year. I leaped to my feet, planning to move to the closest wall under the gun tower so I wouldn’t get shot.

The fight lasted 10 or 15 seconds – a long time in a prison fight – before officers broke it up and dragged them out.

I sat back down at my table and the guys asked me what I thought I was doing.

Years would pass, and I would see countless fights on all sides. Between inmates, there are cuttings and stabbings, and there are vicious, unprovoked beatings by officers.

A lifetime of violence desensitizes you.

I didn’t realize how far desensitized I was until 2012. I was in the Monroe County Jail, sitting in a visit with Susan [Ashline]. Half-way through our visit, I heard a crack behind me. I didn’t even turn to look, but I could see everyone else – inmates and visitors – watching.

Susan was staring at it and said to me, “They’re fighting!”

“So what?” I told her. “We’re having a visit.”

Here was a sane, law-abiding citizen surprised by a fight, and I didn’t even turn to look. I was more disturbed that she as distracted by two men fighting than I was that two men were fighting behind me.

Around the same time, also at the Monroe County Jail, there was another fight. Fifty-three inmates got popped out of their cells for breakfast. I had sat down, poured half my milk carton into a bowl of cereal and started eating.

One or two bites in, I heard inmates arguing over a chair, some cracks and scuffling, and a deputy yell, “Lock in!”

Inmates jumped up, leaving their trays behind, and fled to their cells. I stayed at my table, eating. The fight was still going on. Now, the two guys were rolling around on the floor. More deputies ran into the unit yelling, “Lock in!”

Besides the two fighting, I was the only inmate still out.

Deputies dove on them, and one ran up to me yelling, “Lock in or get sprayed!”

I stood up, picked up my tray with one hand, and kept eating with the other. I walked while eating.

When I finished, I set the tray on the floor, grabbed the half-carton of milk and took it into my cell and locked in.

After hauling the two fighters off, a deputy came to my door and asked why I didn’t lock in.

“I didn’t want my Rice Krispies to get soggy.”

“You were willing to get pepper sprayed over Rice Krispies?” he asked.

“I’ve been pepper sprayed for less.”

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Susan Ashline on DiTullio and Moran Show: A Jacket off the Gorge

Susan Ashline talks about A Jacket off the Gorge (missing coins and fake death, and answers questions you want to know) on DiTullio and Moran, 95.1 Rochester, May 24, 2017.

Photo courtesy: Iheart Radio

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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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Jail Deputies Print Planet of the Apes Photo to Mock Inmates

[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS prison inmate currently in Monroe County Jail, NY]

Deputies at the Monroe County Jail get to occupy their time with taxpayer funded internet.

Deputies must make rounds every 15 minutes and wave a key fob in front of a scanner at different locations to prove they made a round. The rest of their shift – easily 90% – is spent at their station on a desktop computer on the internet: taxpayer funded computers using taxpayer funded electricity to watch YouTube videos on taxpayer funded internet, all the while making $40 an hour.

What’s outrageous is the common practice for deputies to fire up a printer that belongs to taxpayers, print out racist pictures and post them on walls with taxpayer funded tape.

Pictures of what?

Pictures making fun of taxpayers’ loved ones. This is what I’ve seen firsthand in the Monroe County Jail: a picture from Planet of the Apes with an inmate’s cell phone number written on it…

(this is an example; not the actual printout)

A picture from Madea Goes to Jail with a cell number….

(this is an example; not the actual printout)

Pictures – most of them racist – making fun of the people whose loved ones pay for the internet that deputies are using while getting paid by taxpayers.

I figure taxpayers don’t realize what’s going on. They don’t know how public servant Patrick O’Flynn is allowing the public’s jail to be run. Do you think taxpayers want their money used to make fun of their sons, brothers, fathers, daughters or mothers?

Or, would taxpayers rather see Sheriff O’Flynn approve spending money on a supply of books so inmates have affordable access to reading material?

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

 

 

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How Prison Guards Really Behave

by inmate Jon Fontaine [keep scrolling for interesting screen shots]

Play your position.

That’s a euphemism that gets kicked around in prison. It means to be who you really are. If you’re soft, a coward, don’t try to act tough. Play your position. If you’re a sex offender or snitch, play your position.

The Livingston County News ran a story about my lawsuits against New York State, and about Susan’s book. One of the “shares” of the online article was a Facebook post by a New York State Corrections Officer. Other officers commented in other threads. Their comments were attacks against me.

I’m happy they’re attacking me, attempting to degrade and dehumanize me. Those officers are “playing their position” in a public forum. They’re showing they are exactly who I’ve been writing about; exactly who other inmates complain about; exactly who they are cast as in lawsuits and in state and federal criminal cases.

These officers (public servants) think nothing of attacking– in a public forum where all can see – someone who attempted suicide and was tortured by other public servants. What actions are they taking when their bosses (the public) cannot observe their behavior with their own eyes?

Over the past four years, I’ve communicated with a few dozen people by mail, most wanting to know what prison is like. I’d tell them if they’ve seen any “reality” shows about prison, New York prisons are nothing like that. There is no professionalism, no respect. I’d write them, “They literally put unconvicted criminals in charge and let them do anything they want. It’s legal organized crime.”

I’d go on and list all the things officers do, from singular assault to gang assault, murder, rape, planting weapons and drugs, selling weapons and drugs, extortion, and more.

Some believe me, some don’t.

If the public isn’t convinced by the criminal prosecutions now that the Office of Special Investigations was formed to replace the Inspector General’s Office (which was made up of former corrections officers);

If they’re not convinced by the federal charges brought by the US Attorney General’s Office, which stated brutality in New York’s prisons has reached critical levels;

If they’re not convinced by the tens of millions of dollars New York pays out each year to settle lawsuits brought by inmates;

Just look at the corrections officers’ own public statements. They’re playing their positions.

Many thanks to those officers for contributing to my credibility. 

_________________________________________

[screen shots from Susan Ashline]

Here is one of the threads before it was deleted. Some comments were deleted and do not appear in the screen shot.

Royce Burdick – Groveland prison corrections officer, salary $63,043

Marty Waight – Groveland prison corrections officer, salary $69,821

John Simpson – Groveland corrections officer trainee, salary $42,695

Brett Flaitz is a former Hornell police officer who ran a myspace account under username “chase tail.”

Shelly Marie, mocking a story of suicide, is a nurse

_________________________________________

Here, corrections officer Shawn Howe brags about being named in an inmate lawsuit [note my yellow highlights – at bottom, there appears to be an admission of wrongdoing].

First, see how Howe brags about being unlawful, and about being a damaged individual (and the irony there).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melie Flemming and Colleen Herrick’s comment: Inmates shouldn’t have a right to sue? Imagine how much damage corrections officers would be inflicting then.

Mark Taylor is so proud of how much money his actions have cost you. (Reminder: only lawsuits with merit go forward). He might be the Mark Taylor who was named in Amy Fisher’s (the Long Island Lolita) lawsuit.

Jim Overhiser appears to be naming a real incident of wrongdoing, and Shawn Howe admitting to it.

You are paying the salaries of these fine, upstanding state employees, and for the lawsuits arising from their continued bad acts.

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Inmates Gamble Hair

[by New York State prison inmate Jon Fontaine]

With so little to do behind bars, some inmates gamble for fun. They gamble on almost anything – pro sports, chess, checkers, Dominoes, Scrabble, inmate-on-inmate fights, award shows, and card games.

I don’t gamble on anything. But I’ll watch the outcome of a really interesting bet.

One boring Saturday, I was playing cards with two other guys, Mike and Jordan, and they bickered endlessly about what to gamble.

One wanted to wager cakes off meal trays, known as “tray cakes.”

“No, I don’t want to give up my cakes.”

500 pushups.

“If I win, what do I get from watching you do pushups?”

The old man.

“What?”

Jordan threw out an offer. Loser had to shave the top of his head to look like an old man. Saturdays are hair cut days, the same day we were playing. The loser would lose his hair right then.

They agreed.

I was at the head of the table, Mike to my left, Jordan to my right.

“This is great!” I said. “I win either way!”

The game was tense. And in the end, there was no question – fitness-freak Mike, known for being cocky, lost.

“I hope this is a humbling experience,” I told him. “Maybe you’ll learn not to gamble.”

A few minutes later, Mike looked like an old man.

Then, Sunday came.

Whenever Mike said something to me, I responded with, “I can’t even take you seriously right now with that hair cut.”

Jordan, confident he could win again, offered Mike another bet: “If you win in Rummy, I’ll get the old man. If I win, you give me a bag of coffee.”

A bag of just three ounces of instant coffee costs a whopping $5 on commissary. Cocky as always, Mike took the bet.

An hour later, Jordan won again.

Mike was so pissed. Jordan sensed another opportunity. He offered Mike another bet: “You win and you don’t have to get me a bag of coffee, and I’ll get the old man. I win, and you owe me a second bag of coffee.”

But Jordan’s luck ran out.

“That’s what you get for being greedy!” I told him.

Not only did he lose the bag of coffee, he lost his hair.

Both hoped they didn’t have to go anywhere (visits, court, medical…).

Neither learned a lesson, despite being laughed at by just about everyone who came in the unit, inmate or civilian. They haven’t stopped gambling with each other. I sit at the table, Mike to my left, Jordan on my right, thinking about how they look like a peanut M&M that’s been bitten in half, their bare skulls the nut stuck in a bowl of chocolate.

It’s Dumb and Dumber Jail Edition.

Now, they’re wagering eyebrows.

[New York State prison inmate Jon Fontaine is temporarily in the Monroe County Jail awaiting a hearing that Monroe County Court Judge Vincent Dinolfo illegally denied him five years ago.]

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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.

 

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e-Book by Inmate

Jon Fontaine

Inmate Jon Fontaine did not have a role in writing A Jacket off the Gorge, but he is blogging from behind bars.

For more of his writing…

Check out the book Jon wrote from prison under the psuedonym JT Phoenix.

Buy Collateral Damage on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for only $2.99.

He is a three-time (last time) felon, hoping that authoring books will open a whole new world to him. He has no formal education in English or writing, and dropped out of high school after 10th grade. Basic English composition classes in essay and letter writing are his only training. He has never belonged to any writing groups or clubs. J.T. writes his stories by hand, in prison, and then types them on a basic typewriter. He does not have the assistance that other writers have: no spell check, no grammar check, no thesaurus, and no style guide. In addition, J.T. has no editor. J.T.’s stories are straight from his hand to yours.

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Jail Joke Takes Shape of a Turd

[by New York State prison inmate Jon Fontaine, who is writing behind bars at the Monroe County Jail while awaiting a hearing]

Tom VanDusen was charged with fracturing his girlfriend’s cheekbone by hitting her in the face with a chrome vibrator.

When I was in county jail with him in 2011, he let me read his girlfriend’s statement.

I hate women beaters, so I decided to have some fun at his expense.

At breakfast each morning, we’d get juice in a small round cup with a foil lid. It looked like an apple sauce cup. It would fit perfectly inside the jail’s stainless steel toilet drain, I thought.  A bonus – it was clear. It would blend in. No one would see it.

VanDusen’s cell was next to mine. I put the juice cup in his toilet.

After lock-in, I heard his toilet flush. It flushed a second time. I was guessing he took a crap and couldn’t get it down the toilet. I heard the toilet flush a third time and water hit the floor. Success.

VanDusen asked a guard for a plunger, and after plunging like his life depended on it, I heard him ask, “Who dropped the juice cup in my toilet?” He thought it was an accident.

The next night before lock-in, I reached through VanDusen’s bars and took his toothpaste. Using salt packets I’d taken from meal trays, I poured the salt into his toothpaste tube, and then kneaded the tube to mix it up.

After lock-in that night, I heard VanDusen start the faucet, and then I heard loud gags.

I bit my tongue, trying not to laugh.

The following day, VanDusen came to my gate and said, “I know it’s you fucking with me. If you don’t stop, I’m going to fuck you up.”

I said, “Really? In that case, my next trick will be to shit in your sink.”

At lock-in a few days later, VanDusen started screaming, “Oh my God! No you didn’t! I am not locking in with that in my sink! If you don’t get that out I’m pressing the panic button!”

Two inmates I knew ran to VanDusen’s cell and one, who went by “D,” said he’d get out the turd. He used a wad of toilet paper to wrangle it from the sink, and then brought it to his nose and sniffed it.

“Oh my God! He’s sniffing it!” VanDusen screamed.

The other guy, Mike, took the turd from D and bit into it.

VanDusen went nuts.

The “turd” was actually a concoction of food. I’d taken a Little Debbie fudge round, folded it and pinched the ends. I bought a Snickers off commissary, took out a few peanut chunks and pressed them in the fudge turd.

I had let Mike and D in on the prank just before I pressed it into VanDusen’s sink.

All it took was a fudge round to bring a big bad woman-beater to tears.

VanDusen went nuts.

The “turd” was actually a concoction of food. I’d taken a Little Debbie fudge round, folded it and pinched the ends. I bought a Snickers off commissary, took out a few peanut chunks and pressed them in fudge turd.

I had let Mike and D in on the prank just before I pressed it into VanDusen’s sink.

All it took was a fudge round to bring a big bad woman-beater to tears.

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WDNY Radio Reports on A Jacket off the Gorge

WDNY radio reports on Jon Fontaine (the story behind A Jacket off the Gorge).

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Livingston County News: Jon’s Story

Read the Livingston County News cover story on Jon Fontaine’s lawsuit and A Jacket off the Gorge.

Former Groveland inmate claims torturous treatment in lawsuit against state

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Dying Inmate Scrawls Message in Blood

[written by Susan Ashline; as told by inmate Jon Fontaine]

A huge crash awakened me in my cell at Mid-State prison. It was early – 5 a.m. – and all the lights were on. It was August 2014.

I ran to the door, joining the other inmates who’d craned their necks to the hallway, trying to figure out what was happening.

Mid-State used to be a mental hospital, so the cell was a room with no toilet or sink, and no actual door.

The corrections officer working the overnight shift on my unit only left his office for two things: the midnight and 6 a.m. head counts. He did not make the required half-hour rounds. Instead, he would sleep in his office.

I saw a guard we called “Dirty Red” standing in the hallway, just outside another inmate’s door. Dirty Red was notorious for mistreating prisoners. But one act got him beaten senseless by another guard. Dirty Red would piss in the inmate ice machine. Each housing unit had one, like the kind you’d find in a hotel. But he failed to consider that officers used those ice machines, too. And then, one found out about it.

Dirty Red wasn’t even supposed to be on our unit that night. That, along with his reputation and the crashing locker led me to one conclusion.

“They’re fucking up Shadow!” I yelled.

More inmates rushed to their doors.

Shadow was a white guy with a long, black pony tail. He was super quiet and played guitar. We talked every day.

He’d been battling the prison administration and the Office of Mental Health (OMH). He wanted – needed – his bi-polar medication. He’d taken it his whole life, he told me. But the administration wouldn’t let him have it. He felt fine, they insisted. They argued he’d been cured of his mental illness.

And he’d mock them. “Miraculously cured,” he would say.

Knowing he wasn’t cured, and riding an emotional roller coaster, Shadow started filing grievances and writing letters. Everything was getting denied. Their reasoning? Shadow shouldn’t be granted “special treatment.”  By that, I suppose they meant expecting to be able to continue taking medication he’d been taking for years.

His cries for help denied by Mid-State administrators and OMH staff, Shadow resorted to filing an Article 78. It’s a form of lawsuit used to challenge an administrative decision, action or policy. You can’t get money from an Article 78. The most you can win is the administrative action you’re seeking.

In this case, Shadow wanted his mental health medications. He’d been feeling ill for so long.

I knew Shadow had just filed the Article 78. I’d surmised this was just another retaliatory beating in typical prison guard Gestapo fashion. I figured a couple of officers – certainly Dirty Red – waited until the early morning hours to storm Shadow’s room in a gang assault to teach him a lesson about challenging the administration. Of course my mind would go there. That stuff happens epidemically in the prisons.

I heard bangs and thuds and a mix of voices – shrieks and hollers. I saw more officers rushing the scene, some carrying medical bags; one with a defibrillator.

I read the panic on Dirty Red’s face. I saw it in his hands. They shook so violently that he dropped a package of gauze pads and another officer snatched them.

Shadow’s locker came sliding out of the room into the hallway, creating a smeared trail of blood.

I heard the AED beep its warning. An electronic voice spoke commands on how to restart a heart.  Then, a voice crackled over the two-way radio, “The ambulance is here.”

Guards picked out four inmates standing in their doorways. A folding canvas stretcher opened and then disappeared into Shadow’s room. It came out moments later, carried by the inmates.

As it passed through the doorway, I saw Shadow’s feet. Then, I saw his arm dangling from it, like his locker, cold and gray.

“Look at how bruised he is!” someone shouted.

He wasn’t bruised. He was dead. I knew it, and I hollered it back.

The stretcher gone, we were allowed to make our way to the bathroom one at a time. We would have to walk past Shadow’s room, squeezing by the metal locker splattered with blood.

When I got to Shadow’s room, I gawked.

Blood spray ran down the wall where the locker used to be, leaving a blank outline.  Shadow’s chair was in the far corner. A huge pool of blood was on the floor and leading from it, trails of bloody footprints.

I moved on to the bathroom, but stopped again on my way back. This time, I looked at the locker blocking my way. On the side that would’ve been closest to Shadow’s chair, was a message written in blood:

“Now how do I feel?”

Later, we learned what happened. In the early morning hours, an inmate on his way to the bathroom passed Shadow’s room and saw him slumped on the floor in blood. The inmate ran to the officer on duty and found him sleeping in his office, so he woke him.

Shadow, who’d been miraculously cured of bi-polar disorder and no longer needed medication to control his mood swings, had sat in the chair in the corner of his room and, with his state-issued shaving razor, cut his wrists and used the blood to ink a final argument for treatment.

Now, how do you feel?

 

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Prison Guards Bringing in Bullets and Drugs

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine, at Monroe County jail awaiting a hearing]

At the end of summer 2016, a new corrections officer at Mid-State prison became “the regular” on my housing unit. I helped him move a refrigerator into his office. He’d purchased the fridge himself, which was twice the size of a mini fridge, about chest high with a separate freezer.

It was still sealed in the box, and as I helped him take it out of the box, I realized – not only were his bags not searched, but a box holding a fridge was not searched.

I knew this officer could have hidden a dozen fully-loaded assault rifles in the fridge section, another dozen fully-loaded handguns in the freezer, and walked them right into the prison. It occurred to me this could’ve been the way escape tools were smuggled to Clinton escapees Richard Matt and David Sweat in 2015.

On today’s Rochester news – a heroin overdose at Groveland Correctional Facility in Upstate New York. An inmate overdosed on heroin and was saved by father and son officers. The reporter read the Department of Corrections’ (DOCCS) official statement that drugs are brought into prisons by people visiting inmates.

I personally know of dozens of inmates who spend nearly every moment of every day high. The reality is that a miniscule percentage of the drugs come in by visitors.

Knowing how easy it is to get drugs in prison and the vast amounts, it is impossible for inmates’ families to be responsible for even half the amount.

Drugs smuggled in during visits are passed mouth to mouth during a kiss. The drugs are packed in a balloon the size of a thumb. After the kiss, the inmate goes into the bathroom and hides the balloon inside his rectum.

In Mid-State Correctional Facility, one of New York’s biggest prisons (nearly 1600 inmates), every inmate would have to get a visit every week and smuggle back a balloon…  and the total still wouldn’t come close to supplying the drugs prisoners consume in a week.

I would guess roughly 200 inmates get visits at Mid-State on a busy week. So where do the drugs come from? The same officers who think nothing of murdering inmates, committing gang assaults, committing rape and gang sodomy think nothing of supplying drugs to prisoners.

What’s the incentive? Money. The inmates pay them.

There are no searches of officers when they enter the facility. Most come to work carrying a book bag and lunch cooler big enough to hold two 12-packs.

Bullets – yes, firearms ammo – turn up in prisons. How? Guards.

Inmates are subjected to full body metal detecting after visits. Every rectum gets scanned in the “body chair.”

If an officer thinks nothing of smuggling in escape tools (ala escapees Matt and Sweat), bullets and cell phones, they won’t hesitate to smuggle in drugs.

Without regular searches of prison staff, there will continue to be heroin overdoses and escapes.

[Jon has been blogging from behind bars at the Monroe County jail, while awaiting a hearing.]

Prison Guard Busted for Smuggling Phones, Drugs into Jail.

New York Post

Prisoners Texted Guards for Drugs and Paid Them with PayPal

The Daily Beast

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Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

[by Susan Ashline]

Read Part One

Read Part Two

Two months ago, I learned a Mid-State Correctional Facility staffer had surreptitiously placed my name on a list of individuals who inmate Jon Fontaine will not be allowed to communicate with upon release. Jon is the subject of my book, a friend, and we currently have unhampered communication through the prison.

Additionally, Jon’s Parole Decision Notice (the one listing my name) is in error. As my name was added to the “no communication” list, the name of his actual crime victim was removed. The prison staff submitted an incorrect document and the parole board blindly approved it.

For months, I had to fight for an answer as to why my name was put on that document. Staff at Mid-State Correctional Facility also ignored my concerns that the victim’s name was omitted and needed to be added.

The first two months were spent getting stonewalled by Mid-State staff. Leading the charge: interim Superintendent Matthew Thoms, his deputy superintendent, Anne Joslyn, and a counseling supervisor, Ronald Meier.

I was forced to take my questions and concerns outside the facility to the Office of Special Investigations. They opened an investigation.

Finally, an answer.

Investigator Keila Bowens informed me a Mid-State employee named Lisa Hoy was responsible for putting my name on the list.

Why was it necessary for Mid-State administrators to stonewall me for months? They could’ve simply provided the answer. Instead, they sent me phoning, emailing and writing snail-mail letters until I grew eye bags.

Why are these people still employed? And why do we pay them for failing at their jobs? New York State is the only employer who allows its employees to do nothing and still collect pay checks.

Bowens was respectful and accessible. She told me Lisa Hoy is a former counselor at the prison. I do not know Lisa Hoy, nor have I ever heard her name. She was never Jon’s counselor. And because she no longer works at the prison, she cannot be questioned.

Bowens acknowledged the Parole Release Document is in error. She said the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) will need to submit an amendment to the record in order to include the victim’s name.  However, she said DOCCS is unable to remove my name from the document because it is “part of the record.”

On January 26, 2017, I sent a letter to parole board members requesting removal of my name (click to read). 

We’ll see if they do it.

Through this battle for answers, I cannot believe how many state employees told me the issue of my name appearing on this document doesn’t concern me. Um… yeah. Yeah, it does. It’s my name, and it restricts with whom I communicate. That’s revoking my constitutional rights. Get my name off the document and it will no longer be my business.

During Mid-State’s stonewalling, I had contacted the office of NYS Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, who was chair of the Corrections Committee. I received correspondence that he is no longer chair. Should I receive an unfavorable reply from the parole board, I will contact the new committee chair, Assemblyman David Weprin.

Stay tuned.

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Sitting in a Pool of Blood, Piss and Shit

[Jon is writing while in Monroe County jail awaiting a hearing, transferred from Mid-State prison. He sent me a personal note and later gave me permission to post it publicly]

I was going to send this other one [story], but it says bad things about DOCCS [Dep’t of Corrections] and I realized they can just open my locker and give all my shit away.

I go back and my razor is missing, and I go to the box. I say, “It came up missing when I was gone.” And they go, “No. You sold it before you left.”

And I lose.

(Yes, they give you a razor to keep.)

Or, they put a weapon/drugs in my locker (hide it) and 5 minutes after I’m back… “Search!”… and I get a new charge.

Nothing will stop any of it. My shit will be gone, or I’ll be in the box. They lock guys up for months and go – sorry, we’re expunging this from your inmate record. “What about the 4 months in the box I did and all my stuff being gone?”

They do whatever they want.

Google “Renfrow.” He was my bunky. IG/OSI [Inspector General/Office of Special Investigations] showed up. His 3rd day hog tied and bleeding in the box and they didn’t make anyone un-hog tie him or get him medical attention for 3 more days – “Oh, he’s still in there? You should take him to a doctor.”

Teeth gone, skull fractured. Hog tied, sitting in a pool of blood, piss and shit, and the investigators didn’t care for three days. And after, when he got out of the hospital with an open investigation, COs [corrections officers] would come to his unit at 3 a.m. and fuck him up in his sleep, run up behind him on the walkway and punch him in his head; removed all the numbers from his phone list so he couldn’t call anyone, would tell his attorney he couldn’t come to a visit, stalked him in uniform when he got out, twice framed him with weapons – all with an open investigation.

 

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Reeking Jail Jumpsuits

[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS inmate who has been transferred to the Monroe County jail from Mid-State Correctional Facility, awaiting a hearing.]

There were two holding areas. In the first were guys in street clothes. In the second were guys in jail jumpsuits. Other than the deputies, I was the only white guy in booking. Everybody was staring at me because I was in prison clothes. They were stating the obvious:

“He just came from prison.”

“He’s white.”

“He’s a white guy who just came from prison.”

The deputy led me to a room full of jumpsuits and property bags. I found a pair of new, jail issue, generic blaze orange clogs. I was not issued a single undergarment, nor were there any in sight – no socks, no under Ts, no underwear. My previous stay was the same. Monroe County jail does not issue any undergarments.

I sat in the holding area for probably an hour before a deputy came around saying, “I have to lock you guys in a holding area. We have a crazy guy coming through.”

We got moved to a holding pen the size of a living room. I took the coveted corner spot where two wood benches met, and put my back against the wall and my feet on the bench. Four other guys napped in the hard chairs, while one paced the holding area. And one kept popping up and down from his chair saying he hadn’t gotten to make a free call.

On the far side of the pen was s stainless steel toilet and sink combo. From 20 feet away, I could see both were totally covered in filth. Flies buzzed over the scum. The floor was littered with trash.

A deputy was locking the guys dressed in street clothes into a second holding pen. A few of them started complaining about being locked up.

“There’s no crazy coming through.”

“Yeah, they’d bring him in cuffs and lock him in isolation.”

“They just wanted to lock us up.”

“It’s two o’clock,” I said. “Shift change is in an hour. A crazy is coming through, but he’ll be wearing a badge, and these deputies want us locked up until their shift is over.”

The guy complaining about not getting a call asked, “You’re the guy who just came from prison, right?”

He sat down next to me, two mystery meat sandwiches wrapped in plastic in his hand. “What were you in prison for?”

“I beat a guy to death.”

“Damn! What’d you beat him with?”

I held up my hands. “My fists.” I touched a scar in the center of my forehead. “After I head butted him in the face.”

“Holy shit! You’re a bad dude! Why’d you kill him?”

“Last time I was in prison, he asked me what I was in prison for.”

His eyes got wide and his jaw moved around. I couldn’t tell if he knew I was joking.

“You want a sandwich?” he asked.

“Can I have both?”

“Sure,” he said. “Take both.”

The guys spent the next five hours asking about prison, talking about their cases and telling stories. The oldest guy, the one who gave me his sandwiches, would get up and pace around, and then sit back down next to me. When he’d talk, he’d wave his arms all around and I’d have to tip my head to avoid getting smacked in his excitement.

Every time he moved his arms, I’d get whiff of rancid body odor.

Finally, I got up and stood in a corner by the door like I was looking out into booking. I was near a vent and could still smell the rancid BO. I started sniffing my own jumpsuit. It reeked. “Do they wash these things?”

“No, they just put them in a dryer.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. It kills bugs but saves money on water and soap.”

“My God this jumpsuit stinks.”

Despite a few dozen requests, it would be seven days before I got to exchange my jumpsuit.

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Inmates Cook and Share Love of Slop

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine, who is in the Monroe County Jail awaiting a hearing, after being transferred from Mid-State Correctional Facility.]

They call it Gumbo. It looks like slop in a garbage bag, which, basically it is.

Inmates in the Monroe County Jail will pool their food to “cook” together each night.

They start with a garbage bag. That’s their cooking pot, casserole dish and serving tray.

They’ll break up a few Ramen soups and toss them in the bag, and then add a couple of packs of cheese crackers, or maybe a few small bags of Doritos. Someone will break up a dill pickle, which comes individually in a pouch, and then someone else will break up a greasy summer sausage. Into the bag they go.

They’ll scoop Jalapeno cheese out of a small, chip-dip sized tub, and then sprinkle in all of the seasoning packets from the Ramen soups.

Then, they shake the bag; mix it all up before adding a teaspoon of warm tap water. They tie the trash bag and wrap it in a bath towel to keep it warm.

A half-hour or so later, when everything has softened and expanded, the “Gumbo” is ready to serve.

A half-dozen bowls are set out. An inmate tears off a corner of the bag, turning it into what looks like a giant cake icing bag. The inmate squirts the Gumbo into each bowl in equal proportions, and then the inmates enjoy their meal, which has eight times the daily limit of sodium and four times the daily limit of saturated fat.

This is an overpriced heart attack in a bag.

In jail and prison, inmates can buy food, cosmetics, writing supplies and a few other items off commissary. There’s no healthy food on jail commissary. It’s all cookies, cakes, chips, candy and Ramen soups. Everything is overpriced. A 10-pack of Ramen soup at a retail store is $1. Here, that’s the price for just a single soup.

It’s a captive audience, so commissary companies can charge outrageous prices. The sad thing is most inmates’ loved ones are poverty stricken and they’re the ones getting gouged by multi-million dollar companies to buy soap, deodorant and toothpaste for their loved ones.

Hey commissary companies – How about some dehydrated blueberries, or apple chips, or trail mix? Then, we could make “fruit salad” in a bag.

 

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Hear My Interview on Utica Radio

Listen to my interview on WIBX 950 radio/Keeler in the Morning.

I tell the story of Jon Fontaine and A Jacket off the Gorge.

We talk about Jon’s lawsuit against two New York prisons (Mid-State and Groveland).

I answer why people should care about guards abusing/neglecting inmates behind prison walls.

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Read Jon’s Lawsuit: Left Naked & Coughing Up Blood for Weeks

READ THE FEDERAL LAWSUIT HERE

Groveland Prison Inmate Left Naked and Coughing Up Blood for Weeks

Seeks $2M from State

Sonyea, NY – A former inmate at Groveland Correctional Facility says staff neglected his medical needs to the extent he began hallucinating and wanted to confess to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Jon Fontaine is suing New York State for $2 million and the federal governmet for an undetermined amount of money. Pre-trial testimony begins in December 2016.

The lawsuit alleges Fontaine’s suicidal cries for help went ignored, resulting in near-fatal consequences, and that following a miraculous survival, staff at Groveland ignored his medical condition in what amounted to torture.

Among the defendants are a social worker and nurse practitioner at the prison in Livingston County.

Fontaine, 34, is serving a five-year sentence for stealing a quarter-million dollar treasure of ancient gold and silver coins that has never been found.

Incidents detailed in the lawsuit are depicted in an unpublished manuscript by former Rochester news reporter Susan Ashline, who dated Fontaine briefly before learning of his crimes. A Jacket off the Gorge (AJacketOffTheGorge.com) tells the story of their complicated relationship as well as Fontaine’s crimes. In a twist of irony, in 2004, while awaiting trial for an unrelated burglary, Fontaine staged his suicide at the Letchworth State Park gorge, leading to a search and rescue operation involving helicopters and hounds. While Fontaine was fleeing to the Pacific Northwest, authorities declared him dead after finding his jacket in the gorge.

The lawsuit alleges that while serving his sentence for the subsequent coin theft, Fontaine tried to commit suicide for real, after his mental capacity diminished and prison employees ignored his repeated requests for mental health care.

“The lawsuit reads like torture,” said Ashline, who remained a source of support for Fontaine after witnessing abuses in the criminal justice and penal systems.

According to the lawsuit, Fontaine had been taking the anti-depressant Remeron when he began serving his sentence in November 2012.

“His mental health spiraled downward,” said Ashline. “Soon after he went to prison, he would call in a panic, telling me he was putting in requests for help, but they were disregarded.”

The lawsuit claims prison staff eventually responded by telling Fontaine a psychiatrist wasn’t available for several months and to “tough it out.”

After being transferred to Groveland prison, Fontaine’s depression worsened, said Ashline. The lawsuit claims he told staff he believed the medication was causing him to feel suicidal, and a psychiatrist responded by increasing the dosage and adding new medication. Prison staff allegedly failed to monitor his mental state and his reaction to the medications.

When Fontaine relayed to prison social worker Mary France that he’d been having “daily death wishes” and believed it was tied to the medications, she allegedly brushed it aside and told him he could not let himself think that way. At about the same time, after reporting suicidal feelings for months, nurse practitioner Michael Cornwall prescribed Fontaine a two-month supply of a muscle relaxer for back pain and allowed him to take it his cell.

On April 12, 2013, in an attempt to kill himself, Fontaine swallowed almost all of the medication.

“An inmate should never be handed more than one pill at a time, let alone an inmate with a documented persistent and severe history of depression and suicidal behavior,” said Ashline, who was called to Wyoming Community hospital to pay last respects to Fontaine, found clinically dead.

Though he regained consciousness, Fontaine was removed from the ventilator while suffering pneumonia, severe pain and a disrupted heart rhythm. The hospital discharged him on April 17 with orders for medications to treat those issues.

According to the lawsuit, he was immediately returned to Groveland and put in a cell for nearly three weeks with no clothing or bedding, and the lights on 24 hours a day. He began coughing up blood, as documented by corrections officers, who reported they told medical staff.

Though Fontaine repeatedly requested medical attention and reported his symptoms to staff, including nurse Cornwall, staff allegedly failed to give him his prescribed heart medication and did nothing to address his pain and his continued coughing up blood.

Fontaine’s symptoms and lack of sleep became so extreme that, according to the lawsuit, he began hallucinating and told guards he was being tortured by the CIA and was ready to confess to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Three weeks after his suicide attempt, Fontaine was transferred to Mid-State Correctional Facility, north of Utica, where he repeatedly told staff of his ongoing symptoms. The lawsuit alleges the staff physician did not perform any medical assessments and told Fontaine his symptoms were all in his head and to take Tylenol.

According to the lawsuit Fontaine continued to cough up blood for more than a year after the suicide attempt, and continues to suffer heart, chest, hip and knee pain, and memory loss.

A lawsuit is also pending in federal court seeking an unspecified amount of damages for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and violations of constitutional rights.

Fontaine is scheduled to be released from prison in September 2017.

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Try Getting a Job as a 19-Year-Old Felon

[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS prison inmate]

READ Part 1: From Math Class to Prison

December 26, 2016

No one would hire me. 

When I finally found a job, my family threw a fit about who I was working for: an ex-con.

No one would hire me, but to an ex-con involved in organized crime, I looked like a prodigal son. That’s what he’d call me: his prodigal son.

Through him, I was passed off to two other ex-cons with legitimate businesses as fronts for organized crime. I was 19 years old, sitting around a bar full of a real-life “Goodfellas” cast, themselves each having done 15, 20, 25 years in prison.

To them, I was a “stand-up guy.” I had potential. I was useful. Did I want to take a trip to Chicago? Could I take their Lincoln to get waxed?

It was my first day working for my third boss, and he sat me down and told me,”This is a mob joint. You’ll fit right in.”

Barely into my teens and I’d hit the big leagues in the crime world.

I was kind of a mascot, because I had the same name as a main character in the mobster Bible, The Godfather: Johnny Fontaine.

Dropping my boss’ name got me in places and got me favors. I remember one day, at a local hardware store, I came up short on cash when I was buying stuff for my boss. I was pissed because I thought I’d have to drive across town to pick up more money and come back. In the middle of my cursing, I said my boss’ name and the owner of the store stopped me and asked who I worked for. I told him, and he told me not to worry, that what I had was enough.

I met football players, TV people, a writer for an auto magazine, and even a federal judge; people who wanted to say they rubbed elbows with convicted murderers and mobsters. In my head, it wasn’t a bad life. But I also knew I couldn’t tell my girlfriend what sort of place I really worked for. I wasn’t totally committed to the criminal lifestyle. The line was thin and I was straddling it.

When my six-month waiting period to go to college passed, I again attempted to enroll. I filled out forms and took placement tests. The college gave me forms my parole officer had to fill out by a certain date to be admitted for the fall semester. I gave the forms to my PO and followed up weekly.

He never filled them out.

My admission was denied because of the missing forms.

Where could my life possibly lead? I was a kid with a bunch of criminal role models who all treated me like a son.

I’m now a 34-year-old three-time felon with three parole violations and more than 10 years in state prison under my belt. Now, I preach to the young guys that they don’t want to wind up like me: no wife, no kids, half my family gone, everything I’ve worked for, earned, or treasured – gone.

I went from and 18-year-old freshman in prison to a 34-year-old with a PhD in criminal behavior.

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From Math Class to Prison

[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS prison inmate]

December 20, 2016

When my friends went back to their junior and senior years in high school, I was a freshman in prison. When they were in 2nd period math, I was working in a prison mess hall with murders and rapists.

I had just turned 18.

Something happened – what,  I don’t remember. Maybe I got in an argument. Maybe a corrections officer yelled at me. Maybe I dropped something and snapped.

Either way, I cried.

It was the only time a state employee said something useful to me. A corrections officer (CO) saw me and called me into his office. He told me: in prison, if you act weak, people will take advantage of you. If you act tough, people will test you. But if you act crazy, no one will want to mess with you.

Shortly after that, I was sent to another prison primarily full of teens. This was an institution supported by taxpayers and run by state employees that was as lawless as you can imagine.

Officers brutally assaulting teens younger than their own children; sometimes a gang of officers on one 16, 17 or 18 year old, only to lie in reports and claim the teen assaulted the half-dozen officers. And then they’d have the kid criminally charged.

Weapons, drugs, fights, cuttings, stabbings, teens putting combination locks in socks and bashing each others’ faces in.

I watched one inmate use just such a weapon to attack another teen while he was on the phone to his mom. The teen was screaming, his mom was screaming through the phone that was left dangling and swaying back and forth. All over a pair of sneakers.

There, I did not act crazy. I was crazy. But so was everyone else. Any disrespect or off-handed comment was a call to fight. Not a fight like boxing or MMA. No refs. No rules. No towel to throw in. Weapons okay.

A life-or-death fight. No one there to break it up.

Five COs will jump a 120 pound 16- or 17-year-old. Beaten by 1200 pounds of adult.

And normal people wonder why I have a problem with authority and no respect for rules that are selectively applied and enforced.

I’d never been to a circus, but that first year in prison, I routinely watched a circus train of animals pass right outside the prison gate.

Who were the real animals?

That year, everyone I grew up with and went to school with graduated from high school. When they walked across the stage to get their diploma, I was in prison. When they went off to college, I was in prison getting a bachelor’s degree in criminal lifestyle.

I watched the Twin Towers fall in prison.

I wound up being released three days before my 19th birthday. I had earned my GED behind bars. My release was in late fall, and I immediately tried to enroll in community college for the semester starting at the end of January.

To my shock, the admissions office told me it was non-waivable policy that anyone released from prison had to wait six months to even apply. The way the timing worked out, that meant I would not start college until 10 months after my release from prison (two years after I was last in school).

I also learned there was no point in pursuing the career I’d dreamed of since childhood: architect. New York law would not give an architect license to a convicted felon.

So I tried to join the army. 9/11 was two months prior. My entire life, my only plan other than being an architect was joining the army. I had even been in contact with a recruiter when I was in high school.

I called him.

Despite the army’s need for cannon fodder in Afghanistan, the recruiter told me no branch of the military would take me, a felon.

Parole required me to have a job, or go back to prison.

Try getting a job as a 19-year-old felon on parole.

Why did I only have a GED? “I went from being a junior in high school to being a freshman in prison.”

“Sorry, but I can’t work after 9 p.m. because I have a parole curfew.”

“Sorry, I can’t travel… ya know… parole.”

“… and I’ll need Tuesdays off so I can meet with my parole officer.”

If I didn’t have a job, parole would send me back to prison. No one would hire me because I had been in prison and was on parole.

 

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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)

 

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Deputy to Inmate: “Go Get High”

[by Jon Fontaine, who has been transferred from prison to the Monroe County jail for a restitution hearing after County Court Judge Vincent Dinolfo wronfully denied him one four years ago.]

December 14, 2016

I spent my first six days locked in a dungeon known as “reception;” 23-hour a day lockdown, no TV, no radio, no windows. No nothing – but war stories, jokes, walls and sleep.

Everyone just arriving at the jail had to go through reception.

I was the odd man out, because I’d been locked away in prison the past four years while everyone else was fresh from the street.

Almost everyone in reception was a heroin addict; a “dope head.” I’d only heard about the epidemic. I had no clue about the drug, withdrawal, any of it. The epidemic is apparently so bad the jail now has a “detox” nurse who does nothing but handle addicts who are detoxing.

I could see or call out to roughly 15 other guys. About half were in the processing of detoxing and going through withdrawal. At least 10 of them were full-blown addicts.

I listened to their stories.

Pretty much all of them became addicts after being prescribed opiates for pain.

I listened to a just-turned 20-year-old who committed three burglaries to support his habit. He was excited his dad sent him money so when he’s released this week, he can go to Florida where his dad lives and go into a rehab facility.

I listened to a 26-year-old guy who committed burglaries and car break-ins to support his habit cry on the phone to a loved one about how he wants to get tattoos to cover up his needle marks so he doesn’t feel like shit about himself.

There was an Iraq and Afghanistan war vet, and a second 20-year-old on the far side of the vet. The one thing they all had in common was they were all treated equally as non-humans by the staff.

Any of those addicts who wind up in prison will be equally treated as punching bags and animals to be abused by state prison staff.

Each one of those addicts talked about how desperately they wanted to be done with heroin; how they wanted to be clean and have a normal life.

Withdrawal and detox was step one – something painful and traumatic in general, but easiest to do locked in a cage away from heroin.

A few days into my stay in reception, an older man pushing 60 got moved to the cell directly across from me. He looked like he could be a math teacher, or someone’s grandfather. Turns out, he was an addict.

He looked shocked when I told him I knew nothing about heroin.

To support his habit, he, too, was stealing. He wanted to kick his addiction, he said.

I had a front row seat to his withdrawals, standing at my bars for two days, watching him twist up in sheets, in pain. He’d beg the deputies to see the detox nurse. Their answer was always, “She comes when she comes.”

Yesterday, he kept begging to see the detox nurse. The deputies’ responses were consistently indifferent, and one even got mad that he kept asking to see the nurse.

Finally, after hours of yelling and moaning, a deputy came and opened his gate.

The deputy told him, “Pack up.”

I assumed he was being moved closer to medical services.

The old man moaned and said, “I need to see the detox nurse.”

“You’re being released,” the deputy told him.

”No, I need to see the detox nurse,” the guy pleaded.

“Listen, guy,” said the deputy. “You’re getting out. You don’t have to worry about detoxing. You can go get high.”

The old man sat up in his bed, eyes wide, balled up his bedding and dashed out the gate.

I thought – He got caught stealing so  he could support his addiction. He was half-way through withdrawal. How is he going to afford getting high now? Commit some crimes.

No rehab. No assistance. Just – “Go get high.”

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Mid-State Prison Strikes Back after Learning of My Book

[by Susan Ashline]

Mid-State Correctional Facility employees are not happy I wrote a book.

And the way they retaliated affects you.

Some of the incidents depicted in A Jacket off the Gorge are subjects of lawsuits against the prison in Marcy, New York. I’ve had direct communication with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision about the book and have been publicly vocal about the lawsuit, including appearances on the radio in the very community where the prison is located.

And they don’t like it.

On November 15, 2016, the subject of my book, Jon Fontaine, met with his prison counselor, Lawrence Zick. Zick informed Jon that as a condition of his release, he would not be allowed to have contact with four people: individuals with orders of protection issued by the sentencing judge. Those individuals were connected to the case as witnesses, but only one, Dora Rosser, was the actual victim of Jon’s theft.

Pay attention. That comes into play.

Two days later, on a document dated November 17, that “no communication” list changed. Within just two days, a mysterious, unnamed state employee swapped my name for the name of Fontaine’s only victim, Dora Rosser.

Got that? A prison employee surreptitiously put my name on the list of individuals Jon is not allowed to communicate with upon his release. At the same time, they removed Rosser’s name (Jon’s only actual victim).

Why? No one can tell me. They claim they don’t know. And here’s the part that should concern you: state employees do what they want, outside the bounds of their authority, with no oversight. And there is nothing you can do about it.

When I first obtained the document with the “no communication” list, I didn’t notice my name was substituted for Rosser’s. I first called the New York State Parole Board to inquire why my name there. After looking up the file, they told me they had no idea; that there was no reason given on the request. They said the recommendations originated from the prison. Without so much as questioning why my name appeared, and why Rosser’s was glaringly absent, parole board members approved the document. They simply rubber-stamped it.

I contacted Mid-State prison to inquire why my name was on the list. I first spoke with a “Counselor Picente.” He seemed puzzled. He looked up information on his computer and said there was no reason given. He looked up other information and confirmed the facility had clearly approved me unhampered communication with Jon, and indicated that made it even more puzzling. He transferred me to the supervisor of the department, Ron Meier.

Here’s where things get… bizarre.

After looking up information on the computer, Meier stated he, too, had no idea why my name was on a list stating Jon will not “communicate” with me in any way. I told him I wanted my name removed. I told him a state employee has no right to revoke my civil liberties; I have a constitutional right to associate with whom I please.

He argued the “communication” restriction wasn’t on me; it was on Jon. However, by its very definition, “communication” is interactive. I told him I could talk to a tube of toothpaste all day long, but if it doesn’t respond, it’s not “communication.”

Ronald Meier stated he couldn’t do anything about it. He also said he had no idea who put my name there, or why.

Then, I received an official copy of the document. The only name on it is: Ronald Meier – the very person who feigned ignorance of the entire thing.

So I sent Meier a polite but firm email (read it here) stating I had the document – with his name printed at the bottom – and that I would like him to correct the document and send it to the parole board for amending. I said I would follow up with a phone call.

A week after no reply from Meier, I called him. He was waiting for me. He verbally ambushed me, chastising me for sending him an email. He kept nervously repeating I shouldn’t email him at the facility.

I can think of only one reason.

Needless to say, as a state employee, he is a public servant. We pay his salary. I told him my preferred method of communication was email, as I like to have things documented in writing. Evidently, he does not want anything documented in writing.

He then claimed he could not adjust the document, and would not. It was then I pointed out that the name of Jon’s actual crime victim was omitted. After stuttering and stammering, Meier said that was “odd” and tried to come up with a justification. There is none. The names of the other three individuals with orders of protection are there; Rosser’s is omitted. My name aside, it is a fact the document omitting the victim’s name is incorrect. Yet, the state employees at Mid-State prison refuse to correct their error.

This is why you should care. We pay their salaries. A single individual is making decisions, without oversight, that affect your life. And even when the documents are in error, no state employee is willing to correct it.

They are not doing their jobs. There is no way to make a state employee do his/her job.

Meier left it as – regardless, he can’t change the document and is unwilling to take steps to correct it. I asked to speak with his supervisor and left a detailed message. Anne Joslyn, a deputy superintendent at Mid-State, has refused to return my call or address the issue in any way. I have also emailed the interim Superintendent, Matthew Thoms. This is the person inserted in the Superintendent position after the NY Times reported a rogue band of guards raided a dorm and urinated all over the floor, beat the inmates and sodomized them with metal objects.

The state employees at Mid-State think they have power. And as long as no one reins them in, they do have power. Simply by pushing it across the desk, they got the parole board to sign a document that makes no sense and is actually dangerous to a crime victim (Rosser).

And that kind of unbridled power is dangerous. Trampling a citizen’s constitutional rights, with no recourse – is dangerous.

Today it’s me, tomorow it will be you.

PART TWO:

Mid-State Prison Retaliates Against Me (UPDATE)

PART THREE:

Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

 

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Prison Guards Brutally Assault Inmates at Mid-State

‘I Was Terrified’: Inmates Say They Paid a Brutal Price for a Guard’s Injury

The New York Times (November 15, 2016)

This article depicts a hellish incident at Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York, where Jon Fontaine is housed. The full article details guards urinating all over the floors and sodomizing inmates with metal objects.

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Reverse Bird Cage

[by New York State prison inmate Jon Fontaine]

June 6, 2016

For about 3 or 4 days, I’ve had a chipmunk eating out of my hand. I can even put my hand down now with nothing in it, and she’ll come check it for food. If I have food, I just hold it in my hand. It’ll eat and fill its cheeks while I pet it with a finger. It’ll empty my hand. I’ll refill my hand and it’ll eat. I’ll refill until its cheeks are full. Then, it takes off for about 15 minutes, unloads and returns. It’ll do 3 or 4 fill-ups. No fear.

All these guys are like, “Holy shit!” When they come out and see me with a chipmunk eating out of my hand, they can’t get it to do it because they don’t have the patience.

My next goal is to get it to come up in my lap for food. Got two squirrels that come around now. One will get food (I toss it to it), eat it, then lay out flat – legs spread out like a starfish. And I can act like I’m throwing air and it’ll sit up on its back, legs just like a dog, to catch it. It’ll look around – no food – and lay back down staring at me.

Birds come now, too. You go out on our porch and its two squirrels running around, a chipmunk eating out of my hand, and birds hopping in and out of the cages.

It’s like a reverse bird cage. We’re in the cage and the birds come and check us out.

 

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