Jon Violates Parole in His First Week (Part 2)

[Read Part 1]

The first day Jon had been released from prison, I figured he needed time to be alone, decompress. I’d give him that space. However, I was disappointed he didn’t call right away.

After having written a book about him and communicating for six years via calls, letters, and at cafeteria-style tables under the watchful eyes of guards and cameras, I was excited to give him a hug and help him through the process of reintegrating into society.

Sure, I knew prison staff had added my name to his “no-contact” list in the 11th hour and without explanation, but I didn’t really think that would stick. We’d been through a nightmare of red tape trying to get it removed and a lawyer was helping us.

But I didn’t hear from Jon, day after day after day.

The condition stated Jon’s parole officer could grant him permission to have contact with me. Why wouldn’t he? There was nothing reasonable or logical about this.

I had not lost my right to communicate with whom I chose, or to reach out to anyone. So I exercised that right. 

I messaged Jon through Facebook Messenger. I had legal information to pass along, and passwords to the accounts I’d maintained for him while he was away. And I’d tell him about my day, share a memory or laugh, or send pictures – everything protected under my First Amendment right.

On October 5, one week after his release, Jon sat down with his parole officer, Martin Buonanno, for what would be his first bi-weekly meeting. I learned Jon showed Buonanno my Facebook messages so Buonanno would see that I was contacting Jon, but that Jon wasn’t responding. He wanted to be transparent with his PO so he didn’t risk a violation.

What was Buonanno’s reaction? “That’s a violation.”

“She is messaging me,” Jon told him.

Buonanno said that because Jon was reading my messages, he was in violation of his parole no-contact condition.

HE WAS IN VIOLATION BECAUSE HE READ SOMETHING I WROTE. Think about that. Buonanno stated Jon violated parole because he received unsolicited communication from someone else.

The parole officer told Jon to block my messages, or be sent back to prison.

Jon did not receive a violation that day, but imagine if he did. Instead of Jon being a productive, taxpaying member of society, you’d be paying to house and feed him in an institution.

All because he read about my day.

More shockers in Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.

[Hear Jon’s parole officer hang up on me]

 

 

[*Note: Information contained herein has been gleaned from public online postings and through discussions with mutual acquaintances, none of whom are, or have been, acting as third party communicators through Jon.]

 

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How Parole Fails Them and You – Jon’s First Day of Release (Part 1)

Jon Fontaine was released from prison on September 29, 2017, with just the clothes from his prison locker and a bus ticket. He traveled alone.

I wouldn’t know much about it. Though I’d supported him the six years he was behind bars, the minute he walked through the gate, parole denied him contact with me.

But Jon made some public online postings, and I saw them. Wearing a bright blue T-shirt circa 2011 that he’d had in storage, he talked into a camera about his first day of release.

His release was also talked about on a popular radio show, The Kimberly and Beck Show. That’s because a Rochester parole officer called the radio show hosts with the “tip.” The parole officer ratted out Jon’s release date and specific home address to the hosts, hoping they’d talk about it on the radio.

One of the hosts called me for an interview. She is the one who gave me the information about Jon. Otherwise, I’d had no idea.

Apparently, parole officers decided it was rehabilitative to broadcast to the world Jon’s exact home address, as well as to isolate him from his support system.

That first night, two parole officers showed up at Jon’s approved residence. They sat in the kitchen. Ironically, they told him he wasn’t allowed to do any media interviews – interviews which would not have been requested had a parole officer not blurted to the media what was supposed to be privileged information.

One of those parole officers, Martin Buonanno, would be Jon’s permanently assigned PO.

That night, for the first time in many years, Jon retired to a bed he could call his own, but he got no rest. Absent the putrid clouds of cigarette smoke and mind-cluttering noise of talking, arguing and steel-clanging to which he’d become accustomed, Jon couldn’t sleep at all.

Adapting to an unfamiliar life of outside prison walls wouldn’t be easy. And Jon would learn freedom wouldn’t mean free.

Most importantly, parole staff would not help with this transition; quite the contrary. They would dismantle the plans Jon had for his new life – plans six years in the making were trashed by parole staff in one fell swoop.

When parole officers fail those newly released to society, they fail all of us who live among them.

Keep reading to learn the shocking chain of events. To be continued in Part 2.

[Read Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6]

[Hear Jon’s parole officer hang up on me]

 

 

[*Note: Information contained herein has been gleaned from public online postings and through discussions with mutual acquaintances, none of whom are, or have been, acting as third party communicators through Jon.]

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We Sued the NYS Parole Board and It’s Downright Silly

“… explain to me how prohibiting Mr. Fontaine from associating with a woman who has done nothing more than telling his personal story is a proper release condition.”

Attorney letter to NYS Parole Board lawyer and chairwoman

It’s not the lawsuit that’s silly. But wait until you read the exchanges with prison and parole.

I wrote a book about a New York prison inmate who’s now on parole. Before his release, someone from the prison put my name on his “no-contact” list – but no one’s owning up to it.

I’m a journalist. Jon Fontaine is a guy I dated before I knew he was a criminal. A Jacket off the Gorge is about his crimes and the period when our lives intersected. Jon has lawsuits against prison staff. The book covers that.

On December 6, Prisoner’s Legal Services filed a lawsuit against the New York Board of Parole to get my name removed from Jon’s “no contact” list, alleging constitutional rights violations.

It was July 24 when PLS Attorney Sophia Heller stepped in and wrote the parole board chairwoman and chief counsel.

“… this condition is inappropriate. I thus respectfully request that Mr. Fontaine’s release conditions be amended accordingly.”

On August 15, the parole board secretary replied:

“… this condition was removed on April 18.”

However, the “amended” document still contained the original restriction:

“I will not associate or communicate by any means with Susan Ashline… without the permission of the [parole officer]. “

And added a line:

“I can be around/communicate with Susan Ashline as long as parole officer agrees.”

Yes, it really says that—the same thing twice, with the words flipped.

On August 21, the PLS attorney again wrote the board:

“… to impose this condition in any form without justification is entirely inappropriate.”

No one responded.

Since we’d planned to jointly promote A Jacket off the Gorge upon Jon’s release in September 2017, I had chased down getting my name removed from his no-contact list as early as one year prior to his release.

I endured months of head-scratching nonsense from Mid-State prison staffers who kept sending me out for buckets of steam, particularly Ronald Meier, a supervisor in the prison counseling office. I had caught Meier in several lies (see previous story). He kept feigning ignorance about the parole condition.

A parole board staff member then informed me the parole release conditions came directly from the facility. The document had Meier’s name stamped on it. The parole board blindly approved it.

I wrote the parole board instructing them to remove my name, included correspondence with prison staff, and stated prison staff had insisted only the parole board could remove my name.

Parole board secretary Lorraine Morse wrote on March 9:

“There is no indication that Mr. Fontaine wishes to have your name removed. If he wishes, he must submit in writing to the Guidance Office—SORC Meier—Midstate CF his request to have it removed.”

She’d passed the ball back to Meier. I called Morse and told her that was the very problem—that’d I’d kept getting passed back and forth. Meier was insisting he had no role in changing the condition.

Don’t worry, she told me. It won’t be a problem. “I had conversations with him directly. He knows exactly what he’s supposed to do.”

As directed, Jon sent the request to Meier on March 20.

How did Meier respond?

“This request will be forwarded to the parole board.”

Meier never did send it to the parole board anyway. He sent it to his supervisor in the prison, Jeff McCoy, Deputy Commissioner for Program Services.

McKoy wrote Jon on June 5:

“Please be advised that the Parole Board Commissioners are responsible for all final determinations of parole conditions.”

But on March 20, Jon had also sent his request to the parole board, just to be safe.

It was after that the parole board made their genius amendment.

Jon spoke with his prison counselor, Larry Zick, who allegedly told Jon that he was the one who wrote the parole release document, and my name was a whoopsie—he may have gotten distracted while writing up the list (because I had to point out to prison staff that they’d removed the name of Jon’s crime victim while surreptitiously inserting my name in her place).

Prior to that, more than a half dozen staffers claimed they had no idea how my name got on the list, or why. After stating he had no idea why my name was on the list, Meier told me in a phone call that it was because I’d briefly put myself on Jon’s no-correspondence list of my own volition.

I beat down doors until I got an investigation opened. Then, I was told a different story by yet another prison employee. This time, the story was that a prison staffer named Lisa Hoy added my name to the list, alleging I’d called her in 2015 and told her I was afraid of Jon.

2015? That’s curious timing.

In 2015, Jon’s attorney filed lawsuits against staff at Mid-State and Groveland prisons. In 2015, Mid-State staff became aware of my book when I wrote administration seeking permission to do a media interview of Jon inside the facility. It was denied.

I’d been posting stories by Jon on my website; many unfavorable to prison staff. Someone posted a story from my website to an online forum for prison employees. Views of that story spiked well into the thousands. A couple prison employees posted angry comments on my website.

We believe the inclusion of my name on Jon’s “no contact” list was an attempt to silence our story.

Conveniently, Hoy left the prison job a very long time ago. I have no idea who she is. I’m not inclined to phone strangers at a prison to talk about my feelings. And if that call actually took place, what steps did the prison do to “protect” me? Because in 2015, and up to the time of his release, Jon and I had seamless, unhampered contact via phone calls, letters and visits.

I am not afraid of Jon.

The condition states that contact is ultimately up to his Rochester parole officer, Martin Buonanno. Note that almost all correspondence is cc’ed to Jon’s file. Either Buonanno didn’t bother to read it, or he arbitrarily dismissed it. He denied me the right to communicate with someone.

I am not under state ownership. My constitutional freedoms are not discretionary.

The litigation, called and Article 78, challenges an administrative decision; in this case, the parole board adding my name to the “no contact” list. The case is set be argued in State Supreme Court in Albany on January 5, 2018.

Cause of Action, Fontaine v. NYS Board of Parole
Memo of Law, Fontaine v. NYS Board of Parole
Memo of Law, Fontaine v. NYS Board of Parole
Cause of Action, Fontaine v. NYS Board of Parole

Click here to read my affidavit

Read the Cause of Action:

 

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I’ve Been up to Something

Since the subject of my book, A Jacket off the Gorge, was released from prison in September 2017, he’s been… I have no idea what he’s been doing. Prison staff manipulated the system to get parole to add a condition barring Jon Fontaine from communicating with me. My book is not complimentary of prison staff. Their bogus condition assures no collaboration on promoting the book (*ahem first amendment rights violations).

So I’ve been productively quiet while waiting for them to get sued. On December 6, that lawsuit was filed (details coming).

What have I been up to? I started a new book.

Trunk: A Story of Savagery, Courage and Survival tells the horrifying tale of a suburban family kidnapped by teenage brothers who hail from the most dangerous streets of Rochester.

The family is taken from their Irondequoit home, tortured for hours, stuffed into a trunk at gunpoint, driven around inner city streets and shown off like prized trophies until Don and Rashad Peterkin decide it’s time to “do ’em in.”

Among those held captive: a baby still in diapers.

Would any of them survive? In the hood, “Snitches wind up in ditches.” Fear rules. No one sees anything. No one tells.

A judge would call the Peterkins “savages” and “beasts who need to be caged.”

They are brought to justice thanks to two brave siblings raised on those very city streets; heroes whose stories have never–until now—been told.

Trunk is a gritty and riveting true crime story seeded with valuable discussion of inner city culture. It tells of the brutal crime in novel-like fashion, and reveals the untold story behind the heroes’ dramatic actions, and the shocking turn their lives would take.

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Crickets

It’s been awfully quiet on this website.

Though I added a blog category “Follow the Story in Real Time,” as you can see, I haven’t been able to follow Jon Fontaine’s story in real time. The prison staff at Mid-State Correctional Facility made sure of that. So did Rochester Parole Officer Martin Buonanno, by putting me on Jon’s no-contact list. And the New York State Parole Board blindly approved it.

So, they’re being sued.

[I will post court docs and the head-spinning correspondence with prison staff and parole. You’ll enjoy the comedic element. Stay tuned]

Court papers were filed on December 6. The case is on track to be argued on January 5, 2018, in Albany County.

The story goes like this: I wrote a book about Jon Fontaine, a criminal. A Jacket off the Gorge is currently on submission to publishers. Events depicted in my book are also detailed in Jon’s lawsuits against prison staff. Staff is well aware of the book, its contents, and subsequent blogs on my website which expose problems in the penal system. In an unpredictable and stunning move, prior to Jon’s release, prison staff added my name to a document that states he would not be allowed to communicate with me upon release (without the permission of his parole officer). Through a shocking (almost laughable) chain of correspondence, Mid-State staffers refused to remove my name, stated they had no why it was there, or how it got there.

Upon release, parole officer Buonanno arbitrarily denied Jon the right to communicate with me, and by that act, denied me the right to communicate with Jon (thereby violating my constitutional rights).

Jon had called me the day before his release and asked if I would call his parole officer to seek permission to have contact with him. I would not.

Here’s the thing about constitutional rights: You’re born with them. They are absolute. You don’t need permission; and certainly not from some Shmoe with a low-level state job.

I refused to ask permission. Buonanno is a stranger to me. He does not get to make decisions for me. Now, the parole board is being taken to court for violating my rights, and you—the taxpayer—have to pay for it. You have to pay to ensure my constitutional freedoms remain intact.

It’s what happens when citizens get state jobs, a taste of power, and knowlege that red tape will insulate them from having to answer to their abuses of power.

What a waste of your money.

Background:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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He Looked Like a Good-for-Nothing Criminal

[by Susan Ashline]

He wanted to know how he looked.

I’d just come from Jon’s court appearance, and he called me.

“How did I look? I mean… did I look alright? Did I look good?”

I could answer that quickly.

He looked like a dirt bag; nothing more and nothing less. In his orange jumpsuit, escorted in handcuffs, sitting in the defendant section, he didn’t look like a person. He looked like every criminal I’d always seen – actually, didn’t see – in that courtroom in all the years I’d covered courts as a news reporter. He was invisible.

He was nothing.

Why was he asking? It threw me.

I guessed he was asking because we all care about how we look, and he was getting out of prison in a couple of months. And here I was, not even considering that he was a human being.

Inmates in the same clothing are paraded in handcuffs through the courtroom to the same desk, and then brought to the same podium, and I’d seen them all as good-for-nothing nobodies.

This time when I looked at Jon, I no longer saw the guy who laughed at inappropriate times, engaged in deep conversation for hours, loved his dogs, and dreamed of riding in a helicopter. Gone was the talented remodeler and eager writer. Lost was the quiet guy with a gut-busting sense of humor. No more careful planner who labored over details and laughed like a little boy when tickled, held on fiercely when hugged and cried deeply when hurt.

He asked me how he looked.

Maybe, like everyone, he just needed validation that someone values some part of him.

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Inmate’s Exit from Prison a Bumpy Ride

[by Susan Ashline]

Jon called me last night.

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

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

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

He’s been given different dates for his release.

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

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

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

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

$12,000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is how the criminal justice system goes.

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

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

Background:

Mid-State Prison Strikes Back after Learning of My Book

Mid-State Prison Retaliates Against Me (UPDATE)

Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

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The Bond of Laughter in Prison

[by Jon Fontaine, NY prison inmate]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I Used to Smuggle in Contraband

by NY prison inmate Jon Fontaine

I use to regularly smuggle contraband into prison. It wasn’t hard and would only take up a small amount of my day. Cargo pants were the most important part.

Before driving to the prison, I’d head to my local connection and get a bag of the goods. I’d transfer it into the pockets of my cargo pants.

A few minutes later, I’d be at the prison watching prisoners pace the yard. Then, I’d walk straight through the front door and nod at whoever was sitting at the reception counter.

No one ever asked why my pants pockets were bulging. There were no searches.

After walking through the second door, I could clearly hear all the inmates in their cells making noise like animals. They had nothing to do all day but sleep, eat and make noise. I knew the prison well and would make my way down the cell block, and I’d look for a block that didn’t have anyone else in it.

I’d slip into the block as inconspicuously as I could. At each cell, I’d slip something through the bars – simple as that.

Sometimes the prisoners would take it right out of my hand. Other times, they wouldn’t come near me, and I’d have to drop it on the floor. Every prisoner on every cell block would get a visit from me.

I brought my nephew to help me once. Two people can carry more contraband for each prisoner.

One day, I asked my then-girlfriend if she’d help me. She looked at me like I was nuts, and asked, “You want me to help you smuggle stuff in there?”

“It’s easy. Just stick a bag in your purse and we’ll walk right in.”

“But don’t they have a jar on the counter?” she asked. “Can’t we just take treats out of that?”

“It’s not the same,” I told her. “It’s a better rush if we smuggle it in. Plus, those dogs eat the same treats from everyone using the jar. This gives them a little variety.”

Despite thinking I’d lost my mind, she agreed to go with me. We stopped at the grocery store before heading to the animal shelter.

I knew what it was like to be locked in a cage. The least I could do is spend a little cash and 30 minutes of my time smuggling in contraband for the dogs.

Those dogs and I have a lot in common.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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