How Parole Stole College from Criminal (Part 6)

[Read Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5]

Jon Fontaine had just gotten out of prison, and he had a plan. He had goals. At 34, he wanted to go to college. His past was his past, and he would pave a new road to his future.

But his parole officer threw up a detour sign. He wouldn’t let him drive.

The parole officer said no. In fact, it took him a while to say no. Really, he didn’t even say it to Jon directly for weeks on end – he simply ignored Jon.

To get a construction technology degree, Jon would have to go to school full time. He applied to Monroe Community College and was approved to start a full roster of classes in January. The only way he could take classes was if his Rochester-based parole officer, Martin Buonanno, allowed him to drive to school.

What convicted felon could afford an $80 round trip Uber each day to school on a dishwasher’s wages? (For the slow, that’s $400 a week… on a $200 a week paycheck).

With college to start on January 21, Jon asked his PO several weeks in advance for permission to drive to school. He would have to register for classes by January 16.

On January 4, Buonanno told Jon he’d give him an answer on January 18 (two days after the registration deadline), at their bi-monthly sit-down meeting.

Not hearing word from his PO, Jon had no choice but to register for classes. He signed up for six classes totaling 17 credit hours; an ambitious schedule for someone working full time.

On January 18, he anxiously reported to parole with copies of his course registrations and schedule, and a single question upon being seated.

Would he be allowed to drive to school?

But Buonanno didn’t give him an answer. He said he hadn’t gotten around to asking his supervisor.

Five days after classes started, Jon got a knock on the door. It was Buonanno. He’d come to tell Jon that his supervisor, Thomas O’Connor, had told him – four days earlier – that Jon was not allowed to drive at all.

Jon stood. He stared. Maybe Buonanno could read the questions in his face, or the disappointment. He either didn’t let on, or didn’t care. Still, Jon had to thank him. He had to be gracious for the fact the PO came by to deliver this news at all. He is required to show respect, even when it is unreturned.

Buonanno turned to march back to his car.

“Thank you very much, sir,” Jon told him, as he quietly closed the door behind him.

###

In Part 7, Rochester parole Bureau Chief Kathleen McDonnell calls my cell phone to say she’s seen these online blogs and YouTube video and claims I’m “harassing” her staff.

[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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No Love for Parolee, Literally (Part 5)

[Read Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

One month out of prison and Jon found a job. He was hired by a restaurant to wash dishes.

He’s a highly skilled and talented home remodeler, but his parole officer said he couldn’t work in anyone’s home. Barring that, he went to work washing dishes. Pay is paltry, and it won’t bring in enough for him to get a place of his own. It won’t pay for taxis/Uber, and he’ll still have to rely on others for transportation. It won’t be enough to buy clothes or to adequately feed him. But despite Parole chipping away at his morale, Jon got a job.

It’s a six mile round trip walk from his home. He started in the coldest season and continued through bitter winter.

I found this post from Jon online: “[Parole] as an entity is not structured to help inmates or parolees succeed. It’s structured to alienate, assassinate, and undercut.”

Parole next alienated Jon from love and companionship.

Not only was Jon determined to find work (and succeeded), he managed to find a girlfriend. She was a woman he knew before he left for prison, and they started a relationship at some point after he got home.

Jon found a girlfriend, someone willing to help with driving and nurturing, and providing the comfort that everyone needs from another human being to make life worth living. It is, perhaps, the single most important component to rehabilitation – love.

She has two little children, both who adored Jon, by all accounts I’ve seen and read online (his parole officer barred him from contact with me, so I rely on public internet postings and mutual friends for information).

Jon posted an email online that he sent to his parole officer, Martin Buonanno, in December. He asked Buonanno permission to spend the night at his girlfriend’s house on Christmas Eve, so they could wake up together early Christmas morning with the children.

He wanted to be part of a family on Christmas. One night.

His parole officer said, “No.”

One night. Christmas Eve. Love.

Jon no longer has a girlfriend.

In Part 6, see what happens when Jon wants to go to college.

[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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Parolee Pleads for Self Worth (Part 4)

[Read Part 1]   [Part 2]   [Part 3]

He left prison with no job or living supplies, no toothbrush, no underwear, no food. No support system – friends and family dropped off with each page turn of the calendar.

Prior to being released from prison, no state employee asked Jon what he needed to be a productive member of society. That’s what he wrote in an online post.

“Allow me to live up to my potential. Let me work doing something I’m good at and enjoy. Let me go back to college and finish my degree. Allow me to not be a burden on others by asking them to take time off work to drive me places. Let me earn money so I can provide for myself and not be dependent on loved ones, or taxpayers. Allow me to have self-worth.”

He was – he wrote – “ready to be the most successful parolee the [corrections system] has ever seen, but every goal that’s simple in concept has some crazy restriction attached to it.”

He wasn’t allowed to see me, a friend ready to help. He wasn’t allowed to drive. How would he get to all the appointments mandated by Parole?

Jon lives in a remote area. The bus comes once (no return trip) at 10 a.m. That’s when it heads to the county seat of Lyons, New York.

The second parole condition (on a list of 33) mandated that Jon go to Lyons to apply for public assistance – or go back to prison. This, despite an order that he pay nearly $200,000 in restitution – or go back to prison.

Jon had to dip into his whittled pool of support and beg for a ride – more than one hour round trip.

“I had to have someone take off work to drive me there,” Jon posted. “This person not only had to spend their time driving me, they lost hours of pay.”

The receptionist asked Jon which services he wanted to apply for, and he told her: “Nothing. I don’t want anything from you. I don’t need anything from you. I want to work, but parole says if I don’t apply for assistance, I’ll go back to prison.”

If he qualified, it would take 45 days to receive assistance.

They scheduled Jon for a mandatory one-hour orientation. Who would take off work to drive more than an hour, and then sit in a car another hour while he attended?

At the DSS orientation, Jon was scheduled for a second meeting the following week, at 8:30 a.m. In an online video, he’s holding the letter that states the appointment is at 8:30 – while standing outside the locked building with a sign stating the office opens at 9 a.m.

All the while with someone sitting in a car, waiting for him, and missing work and income.

Jon then learned he was required to return – twice – each for four-hour sessions.

“Remember how I said my parole officer said I can’t drive? Remember how I said the bus stops one time, at 10am, arriving in Lyons at 11:30? No return trip? 22 miles from my house?”

Miss a mandatory public assistance meeting – go back to prison.

“Haven’t I cost taxpayers enough? Shouldn’t I be allowed to work and contribute to the tax roll, not take from it? Shouldn’t public employees, especially the Department of Social Services go: Oh! You want to work? You have work lined-up? We’ll help you go to work in any way we can.”

To be continued in 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 Sets Offenders up to Fail (Part 3)

[Read Part 1] [Part 2]

Over the last six years, locked up in prison, Jon Fontaine has had to rely on others. It was time for him to give back.

In his first week of release, his mother’s basement sprang a leak. He pulled out the broken downspout that was channeling water into the house, and then to divert it, dug a hole – for hours –using just a shovel. But he was on a tight deadline. He needed parts, and someone to drive him to the store. Parole would not allow Jon to drive.

When he returned, he worked feverishly on a three-foot trench, trying to finish in the dark, before his 8 p.m. curfew.

The curfew is one of 33 conditions Parole imposed in place of actual “supervision.” It is an unreasonable list of conditions that are impossible for any human to follow. Here are a few :

  • Cannot have a car or driver’s license.
  • Cannot have a bank account.
  • Cannot leave the county.
  • Must be inside his approved residence between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Cannot consume alcohol.
  • Cannot be in a place in which alcohol is the main form of business (bar-restaurant, et. al).
  • Must maintain employment.
  • Must take substance abuse courses and other courses as directed by parole.
  • Cannot have contact with me, a journalist who wrote a book about him.

Most of the restrictions don’t apply to him. He has not been found to have a drinking or substance abuse problem and has the usual traffic tickets like everyone else.

How does one cash paychecks without having a bank account? And Jon lives in a remote area in the country (right near the county line he can’t cross). How many businesses would hire a convicted felon? How many within walking distance?

How does one “maintain employment” if he can’t drive, leave the county, have a bank account, or is unable to find anyone within walking distance who will hire a felon?

Stable social support systems are critical to rehabilitating offenders. But how does one find love and family with an 8 p.m. curfew? “Oh, and honey, you’ll have to pick me up and drop me off all day, every day, everywhere.”

“And pay for everything, too, because parole has made it impossible for me to find a job.”

These restrictions don’t allow for opportunities. They remove HOPE.

For those who want to start a new life, parole does not encourage that. Those who want opportunities will get into a car and drive to find those opportunities. They will violate these nonsensical restrictions to create opportunities. Conversely, those bent on committing crimes will cross the county line anyway. They will be out after 8 p.m. anyway.

Jon filed a lawsuit to remove the contact restriction between him and me. It is my right to contact him, and Jon wants to see me. How long before he violates that condition?

The restriction doesn’t make sense. Why not remove it?

Parole imposes conditions that are impossible to follow, and that provides them job security. We will inevitably throw these people back in prison (on our dime). The more time an offender spends behind bars, and without opportunities, the more damaged he becomes, and the lesser the chance of rehabilitation.

We have Rochester parolees committing rapes and murders, and no one understands how that happens. It’s because their parole officers felt a piece of paper was sufficient “supervision.”

We pay Jon’s parole officer, Martin Buonanno, $88,928 a year to come up with a list of restrictions – ones that throw up road blocks rather than pave new roads.

And when I called Buonanno to ask him his reason for barring Jon from contact with me, he refused to answer and hung up.

Buonanno is why we have offenders under parole “supervision” who are out committing rapes and murders. Because parole officers like him simply sit at desks and come up with lists without regard to the person they’re supposed to be supervising, and believing they don’t have to answer to the taxpayers who employ them.

More shockers in Part 4 and 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.

[Update: Due to the sale of my true crime book, Without a Prayer, this project is on hold.]

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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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Sheriff’s Office Clears Itself of Wrongdoing

[by Susan Ashline]

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department has concluded its staff did nothing wrong. This is in response to complaints alleging retaliation against an inmate for making public claims of racism by jail staff, and other wrongdoings.

But, “The evidence available did not support the allegation made,” states the cookie cutter letters in which only the dates were changed.

Inmate Jon Fontaine filed two complaints; I filed one.

All three form letter responses, all signed by Sam Bell, state the same thing. 

Here are indisputable facts – ones I can attest to:

State prison inmate Jon Fontaine was in the jail awaiting a hearing that the appellate court ruled Judge Vincent Dinoflo illegally denied him.

Jon had been at the Monroe County Jail for six months without incident. The Saturday and Sunday before the suspected retaliation, Jon’s blogs on my website spiked to more than 5,000 views.

That Monday, Jon complained to me of an alleged incident of deputies harassing him and trying to take away his pen as he was led into court.

I went to talk about it to Corporal John Helfer, a communications staffer I knew from my days as a news reporter. I did not tell him the nature of my visit, and he hadn’t seen me for years. When he approached, he did not greet me. He refused to sit and appeared defensive and angry. He brought up Jon’s blogs before I ever said a word about them. He stated he was aware of them because someone “had sent an email around” to jail staff, including a link to the blogs.

That’s when I talked to him about suspected incident of retaliation #1 (May 23).

Helfer asked me how Jon got his stories to me. I told him Jon wrote them and mailed them to me.

The next morning (May 24), Jon was taken to the mental health unit, an area where inmates are barred from all forms of communication – writing, calls, and visits. Because the jail cannot deny an attorney visit, that evening, I sent his attorney to the unit. The attorney confirmed Jon was, in fact, in the mental health unit.

The attorney also stated Jon was wearing his jail clothes; however, inmates placed in those mental health cells do not wear jail clothes because they are placed there, and writing implements removed, due to their risk of self-harm.

I emailed Monroe County Sheriff Pat O’Flynn, copied in some news reporters, and requested that Jon be released from isolation.

Jon was then moved from the mental health unit.

I received an email from Sheriff O’Flynn stating Jon was not in the mental health unit. (The email did not acknowledge he had been in the unit).

That whole scene was suspected incident of retaliation #2.

Jon was relocated to the “main frame;” an area of the jail known for housing the most violent detainees.

On May 25, I received a call from an internal phone line of the Monroe County Sheriff’s office. The individual identified himself as a deputy. He told me Jon was injured and in the medical unit.

The circumstances that led to this injury should have been on camera.

That was suspected incident of retaliation #3.

Jon was then abruptly removed from the Monroe County Jail and taken back to Mid-State Correctional Facility.

The results of their (supposed) internal investigations confirm everything is running just fine within the Monroe County jail.

Background:

Deputy Throws Whistle Blower Inmate in Isolation

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This Prisoner Is Watching You

[by Jon Fontaine, NY prison inmate – written while temporarily housed in the Monroe County Jail]

I had a window for six months. I looked right out over two major intersection in the city of Rochester.

Whenever I was locked in my cell, I’d stand on a steel stool, forehead pressed to the glass, staring out.

Did the people walking in groups on lunch breaks know I was three stories up, watching? Did the couple who walked their golden doodle up and down Spring Street and Plymouth know I would hold my breath when the dog started bouncing all over, running in circles, yanking on its leash? I was hoping it wouldn’t dart into traffic.

How about people flying over downtown to land at the airport? Did it ever enter their brain that someone in a jail cell might be looking up at them? Or, the people in the Amtrak trains crossing over Plymouth – Did any of them catch my silhouette in the window?

I stood at that window for hours and hours, listening to The Zone, WCMF and WHAM radio, imagining what it would be like to be in one of the cars, planes, buses or trains that I saw.

I have no idea if other inmates do the same thing, and no idea what they would think if they knew that’s how my time was spent (not that I’d care what they thought).

I have no idea what normal, law-abiding citizens would think about some convicted felon staring out a window, watching them go about their lives, filled with longing, jealousy and remorse.

Life just passes me by. In more ways than one, I know I have no one to blame but myself for my view of the world. But it’s hard to not feel bitter and jaded when even the good things I tried to do, and did, fell apart on me.

Now, I’m stuck in a windowless, skylight-free hole, with no window to look out and no sun shining down.

There is no fresh air to breathe.

I am alone with my thoughts – literally buried alive, neither here nor there.

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Jail Fights are Like Diarrhea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lifetime of violence desensitizes you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve been pepper sprayed for less.”

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

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

Photo courtesy: Iheart Radio

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More Drugs than Books in Monroe County Jail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other jails provide books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inmates Gamble Hair

[by New York State prison inmate Jon Fontaine]

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

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

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

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

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

500 pushups.

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

The old man.

“What?”

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

They agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

Then, Sunday came.

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

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

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

An hour later, Jordan won again.

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

But Jordan’s luck ran out.

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

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

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

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

It’s Dumb and Dumber Jail Edition.

Now, they’re wagering eyebrows.

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

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Inmate Hallucinates Beach Umbrellas and Music by Pink

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

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

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

Leader left out the important details: the torturous treatment.

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

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

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

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

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

The psychiatrist added more meds to the mix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had pneumonia and was still coughing up blood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Jail Joke Takes Shape of a Turd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bit my tongue, trying not to laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

VanDusen went nuts.

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

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

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

VanDusen went nuts.

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

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

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

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Livingston County News: Jon’s Story

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

Former Groveland inmate claims torturous treatment in lawsuit against state

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Dying Inmate Scrawls Message in Blood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More inmates rushed to their doors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now how do I feel?”

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

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

Now, how do you feel?

 

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Prison Guards Bringing in Bullets and Drugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison Guard Busted for Smuggling Phones, Drugs into Jail.

New York Post

Prisoners Texted Guards for Drugs and Paid Them with PayPal

The Daily Beast

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Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

[by Susan Ashline]

Read Part One

Read Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, an answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see if they do it.

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

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

Stay tuned.

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Reeking Jail Jumpsuits

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

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

“He just came from prison.”

“He’s white.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s no crazy coming through.”

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

“They just wanted to lock us up.”

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

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

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

“I beat a guy to death.”

“Damn! What’d you beat him with?”

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

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

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

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

“You want a sandwich?” he asked.

“Can I have both?”

“Sure,” he said. “Take both.”

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

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

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

“No, they just put them in a dryer.”

“Are you serious?”

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

“My God this jumpsuit stinks.”

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

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Inmates Cook and Share Love of Slop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an overpriced heart attack in a bag.

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

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

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

 

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Someone Doesn’t Want This Story Told

Cheryl’s Shenanigans (in the Monroe County Executive’s Office)

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