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?

 

Share Button

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

Share Button

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?

 

Share Button

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

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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.

 

Share Button

Auburn Prison Guard Plants Weapon to Frame Inmate

READ THE STORY HERE (December 23, 2016).

This happens all day, every day. For some reason, this story made news.

Why should you care? Because rules are in place to be followed. In fact, you may not care until someone in a position of power doesn’t follow the rules involving you, and you need lots of luck trying to fight the system and do something about it.

 

Share Button

Mid-State Prison Retaliates Against Me (UPDATE)

[by Susan Ashline]

PART ONE:

Mid-State Prison Strikes Back after Learning of My Book

PART TWO:

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

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

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

Makes sense.

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

Why? And who did it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will not.

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

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

Other states have one. Why not New York?

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

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

PART THREE:

Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

 

Share Button