Thursday, July 02, 1998Thursday, July 02, 1998
June 29, 1998
Saturday, May 23, 1998
Tuesday, March 24, 1998
U.S. News & World Report
2400 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037-1196
Ladies and Gentlemen:
HEADING: Cop in lockup for exposing corruption...still trying to help the public and look at the price he is paying!
I've been up almost 24 hours round the clock since last Friday, trying to stop one man from being abused in one prison in Alabama. It hasn't worked. The abuse continues to escalate. The actions against this prisoner are in retaliation for an article he wrote. This is a Freedom of Speech, First Amendment violation of the worst kind. When in America has a person's life been seriously jeopardized for writing a news article? I'm enclosing the article for your information. I hope you will publish it for Americans to read.
I'm also enclosing other letters for the purpose of background information into this case. Finally, I'm enclosing my previous letter to US News dated Tuesday, March 24, 1998 (for your reference).
On Friday, June 26, 1998, Patrick Swiney - a prisoner at Holman prison in Atmore, Alabama - was placed in lock up for courageously writing an article describing prison civil rights violations and allegations of graft and corruption. The order to lock him up came from the US Marshal's office. The US Marshal was ordered by Chief Judge Charles R. Butler, Jr., Southern District Court of Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, to place Patrick Swiney in lockup pending an investigation based on an allegation that Mr. Swiney's letter to a judge was threatening in nature. Because the allegation is without merit we also look forward to a speedy resolution of that matter This article contains no threats to anyone whatsoever except to publicly expose the inhumane conditions within the prison and allegations of graft by a prison staff person and his wife, who holds a contract with the prison.
Mr. Patrick Swiney was not allowed a phone call to contact his family or an attorney. He was simply placed into isolation - known as the "hole" which is literally a hot box, outlawed years ago. This is of great concern to us, given Patrick's cronic health problems. The hole is a 5x8 concrete box without air conditioning or ventilation. The heat indices in Alabama during this time of year are 110 degrees and more. They put him in the hottest box in the block. They did this because he wrote the truth about the abuses at Holman. They did this to shut him up for good.
By this inappropriate and illegal action, Mr. Swiney's life was in jeopardy because he is a heart patient, 53 years old, who also suffers with inflammatory spinal arthritis and emphysema.
In addition, prison officials took away his address book. They took away his medication. They took away his drinking cup. Taking away one's drinking cup might not sound like much, but when you haven't got one, it becomes vital to survival.
They also took away his bed space in population and gave it to another inmate. They gave him a top bunk. This, for a 53 year man who is in poor health.
From Saturday, June 27, 1998 through Monday, June 29, 1998, Mr. Swiney remained locked up in isolation. The prison refused to issue any information to his family, friends and community who continued to suffer the pain of being alarmed and outraged by the unwarranted reaction to the Patrick article. On Monday, June 29, 1998, the US Marshal read the letter in question for the first time, and saw there were no threats whatsoever to the judge. The US Marshal, seeing nothing at all threatening about Mr. Swiney's article, subsequently reversed the order to the prison, with instructions to place Patrick Swiney back into population. Patrick Swiney is in danger in population - the place where the abuses in his article take place. He is a former police officer. He needs to be moved to a Federal Facility where he will be provided with appropriate medical care.
On July 1, 1998, Orders came from Captain Pouncy at Holman Prison to Correctional officer Edwards. Officer Edwards is now specifically assigned to make sure Patrick Swiney is run outside into the hot Alabama sun each day. One hour after Patrick was run out today, he was called to Dr. Wilson's office (Wilson is the prison doctor). Dr. Wilson told Patrick that Warden Jones told him to take Patrick (a heart patient who just spent the weekend in the hot box - the "oven" - for writing an article) off "no duty" status so he (Warden Jones) can put Patrick to work. Dr. Wilson asked Patrick if he could do any work (as though he didn't know) and Patrick said, "Dr. Wilson, if you will have a freeworld cardiovascular specialist examine me, I will abide by whatever that doctor recommends." Patrick also told Dr. Wilson about being in the "hole" for writing his article, losing his old bed space, and the rest of the story we've all been suffering with over the weekend. Patrick explained to the doctor about the retaliation he's been enduring which prompted him to write the article. He said, "If a Federal Judge can get so pissed off as to get me thrown into the hole for that article, just what do you think Warden Jones is going to do to me now?"
Some people are saying Patrick should never have written that article. That he should have just taken the abuses and remained quiet. Is that what any of you would have done? That's not what I would have done. Yes, exposing the truth is dangerous with officials who prefer to dehumanize. Now I call upon the officials who do not dehumanize, to step in. Something must be done. A man gets falsely accused, thrown into prison, abused badly, becomes terribly ill after 10 years of abuse, writes about it to the world, gets thrown into a non-ventilated 5x8 concrete box over the weekend - in the dead of Alabama's summer - because of what he wrote, nearly dies in the process...and now Warden wants to finish him off by putting him into slave labor. Nice. Real nice. Real American. Real Christian. Oh, by the way, there are young and healthy ones there at Holman who are unassigned and are not called to work...not that I advocate slave labor for anyone. Point being, it isn't like the prison is lacking bodies to work. It is that the prison wants to harm Patrick Swiney, plain and simple.
The treatment and reaction toward Patrick Swiney for writing about the prison conditions in Alabama is a Freedom of Speech violation. The world and this country now know how Alabama abusively treats its prisoners. We want this to stop now. We want these public officials to perform their duty. They were not hired by American tax payers to abuse the people in their care. They were hired to house them, rehabilitate them, and ready them for their re-entry to society.
Patrick Swiney is my husband. I want him to live long enough to receive the justice he deserves so he can come home. He needs medical attention badly. He, himself, doesn't think he has much time left. He's not depressed...just angry that they would be so blatant about this. Obviously Warden Jones feels he is protected.
Sherry L. Swiney
June 29, 1998
Governor Fob James
State of Alabama
600 Dexter Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36104
Persecuting Patrick Swiney for complaining about prison conditions in a letter to a journal is not a respectable standard.
This country rest first and foremost on a Constitution, which rests first and foremost on a Bill of Rights. Nothing else can be constructive until basic human rights are respected. A threat to the rights of one person is a threat to the rights of all.
The concern is more than whether the same thing is going to happen to everyone else. Basic injustices are not tolerable when imposed upon even one person. Here are some of the reasons why:
One, it is a sin to sin against anyone including satan. Besides creating unnecessary cruelty, it does more harm to the perpetrators than to the victims. The perpetrators are deranged by sin permanently, unless they repent.
What sin does to the perpetrators is create forces in their souls or minds corrupting everything else they do. They then have to perpetrate more sin to justify the earlier sin. In other words, to justify inhumane prison conditions in Alabama, you have to prevent a prisoner from complaining to society and persecute him some more. If you don't repent, the sin doesn't end there, and it wouldn't have begun there.
So corrupted standards corrupt everything else. Then instead of doing constructive things to solve society's problems, all the time and money is spent on promoting and justifying corruption, which leads to more corruption.
And it's not a local issue. If corruption can be tolerated one place, it spreads to other places. In other words, if you can persecute prisoners in Alabama, then eventually prisoners will be persecuted in South Dakota. And of course, it is a relative concept, which means prisoners are not being dealt with fairly in South Dakota, when they are being persecuted in Alabama.
And if basic rights are not respected in Alabama, then it becomes impossible for people to interact properly. If a person does business in Alabama or goes to Alabama, there is the danger of his rights not being respected. That's why the basic rights are supposed to be universal and not vary from place to place.
Then there is creeping corruption. If some corruption is tolerated sometime, somewhere, then more corruption will be tolerated all the time everywheres. This is why corruption and violation of basic human rights must be rooted out at its core wherever it exists.
What it all means is that persecuting prisoners is not an acceptable social standard; it is a threat to everyone everywheres; and it should not be tolerated by anyone anywheres.
Saturday, May 23, 1998
Congressman Terry Everett
2D District, Alabama
Member of Congress
208 Cannon Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0102
Dear Congressman Everett,
Thank you very much for your letter indicating that you have asked the U.S. Judicial system to look into our situation (reference my letter to you dated April 05, 1998). I am looking forward to learning about their response to you.
I am enclosing, for your edification, a copy of our recent motions to the courts seeking justice for my husband, Patrick Swiney, in which we are hoping for a hearing. We have here a case of Patrick being an easy target for the District Attorney whose goal was not only an unhealthy thirst to win a case without regard for law and order, but whose underlying goal was motivated by a "personal" vengeance toward Patrick Swiney at the time. The DA should have recused himself because of his personal familiarity with the victim and bias against the accused. Instead the DA conspired to seek the destruction of Patrick Swiney's life.
Patrick was charged with murdering his then wife of only 5 months, and her ex-husband while they were in the act of committing adultery. In the beginning, it appeared that he might have been the cause of their deaths and so everyone believed that this was NOT premeditated murder, but a crime of passion. The District Attorney himself confessed to three people after the appeal was denied, that the elements for capital punishment were never there. We have affidavits from these three people stating what the District Attorney told them.
During the course of our investigations over the past two years, we have found ADDITIONAL evidence that had been purposely withheld from the Alabama court which prove Patrick Swiney did NOT even commit this crime. For example: Forensics reports show that (1) Patrick had not handled a discharged weapon that day; (2) there were no traces of blood on any of his clothing, even though the District Attorney claimed in court that Patrick had stalked these two victims and shot them at point blank range with his rifle; (3) the projectiles were found lodged inside the victims' bodies meaning that the shots may not have come from a rifle at all, but a pistol; and (4) the lab reports do not state that the rifle belonging to Patrick had even been fired prior to the lab test firing that rifle. Senator, this information was not revealed in court and should have been. It was purposely suppressed. Why? Why would the District Attorney, who is charged with seeking the truth, suppress such evidence?
To top this off, the State is fighting hard to prevent us from showing the courts this information. They are stating procedural reasons which is insane! You mean to tell me that if the DA prevented the court from knowing the truth and because of that, the defendant didn't state these things in appeal, that now he CANNOT show these things that were suppressed, which can prove his innocence to the court to gain his freedom? Something's very wrong about this, don't you think?
Here's another question for you. The District Attorney specifically asked the State Medical Examiner NOT to perform certain "standard" autopsy tests. The State Medical Examiner testified to this in court, it is in the transcripts and was presented in the appeal. The appeal was denied for procedural reasons then like they are trying to do now.
The tests that were prevented were DNA and vaginal swab tests that would have proven adultery without question. In Alabama, even if Patrick had been responsible for the deaths, the charge would have been automatically reduced to the lesser crime of passion for a husband who walks in on his wife committing adultery. In court, the District Attorney told the jury that not presenting this information was of no consequence and was unimportant. The jury bought that lie, and for some reason, the judge let all of that slide. Now this information is lost forever, preventing us from ever retrieving it! No, the jury did not make a mistake. The jury was a victim of the District Attorney's malevolence too.
Why would the District Attorney destroy such vital exculpatory information and lie to the jury like that? The District Attorney and the female victim were close. The whole family wonders "just how close" they were. Was the DA afraid of his own DNA showing up in the lab tests, which might have made him appear culpable?
There are many things that don't add up. For example: All three of them (Patrick, the DA and the female victim, Patrick's then wife) had gone to high school together. They sat in classes together for years. The DA called the female victim countless times while she was married to Patrick. Other members of the family and friends were sometimes present during these telephone conversations. These people would have testified to this, if only they'd been called to the stand but no one was called to the stand on Patrick's behalf. NO ONE!
When the tragedy happened, the court set a bond in the amount of $150,000 which the community put up for Patrick immediately. As you know, Patrick had been a police officer for 13 years, and he was highly respected in his community. When the DA heard about the community setting bond, he actually told the judge that the bond had to be raised because Patrick was a transient. The bond was raised to $500,000 and the community raised this for Patrick in 24 hours. One year after the trial was over, Patrick's community - in total disgust for how this trial was so blatantly unfair - campaigned against the DA and removed him from office.
When vengeance is the motivation to hurt, there is no stopping the lies or cunning. Patrick was presumed guilty until proven innocent rather than the other way around. And the DA withheld exculpatory evidence to make sure innocence could not be proven. For a District Attorney to do these things - an officer of the court who holds the fiduciary trust of the public - this is a criminal offense. Who would believe that a "District Attorney" would do such things? He purposely obstructed justice to harm Patrick Swiney and he should be charged with the felony of obstructing justice. However, in Alabama that will never happen because during this investigation, it has become apparent that these people all stick together.
What we have been encountering just doesn't make any sense. As soon as our investigative team began to turn up this suppressed evidence, Patrick's line of communications were cut off from us, and the retaliation within the prison increased many-fold. Each individual who has been willing to assist in either looking into this case with us or broadcasting the truth about the case to the public (for officials in Alabama have refused to listen), have been scared off. For example: a local radio announcer broadcasted one interview with National Police Defense Foundation's Chief Investigator. The response from the public was overwhelming positive. A few months later this announcer followed up with another interview and he also requested an interview with Patrick Swiney in prison. Suddenly his station was slapped with a bunch of FCC "paperwork" that had to be taken care of before he could do anything else, and now that announcer avoids me like the plague, when up until that time, we had a very good rapport. I dare say, this announcer will not be broadcasting any more truth on his station for fear of getting closed down.
In addition, during our investigation, we have encountered many roadblocks from State officials. We have asked for the evidence that was presented in trial. Both National Police Defense Foundation and myself have been told that these records no longer exist because they were destroyed after a certain period of time, or that they are "somewhere" but they don't know where. Because this is a capital case and in the federal courts now, we do not believe that this evidence was destroyed after a certain period of time. Therefore, I would like to request your assistance in recovering the photographs, video and access to the remaining evidence for NPDF to continue its investigation into our case.
Senator, I am praying you are a fair man and not easily scared off by the "good old boy" club that exists in Alabama. I highly recommend a full U.S. Congressional investigation into Alabama's corruption before other innocent citizens are hurt by these people. Is it possible that the prison officials at Holman, in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Corrections, in conjunction with the Governor's office are THAT powerful to scare off a Senator or Congressman? If that is the case, we - as a nation - are in deep deep serious trouble.
Sherry L. Swiney
Enclosure: Patrick Swiney's Motion to the courts
cc: Boris deKorczak, Chief Investigator
National Police Defense Foundation
Justice Dossier http://www.npdf.org/justicedossier
P.O. Box 7153
Fairfax Station, VA 22032
Tuesday, March 24, 1998
U.S. News & World Report
2400 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037-1196
Re: March 23, 1998 Article "Behind Bars" by Wray Herbert
There is no question that the prison industry is booming in the United States. There is no doubt that our elected legislators have passed new and tougher laws. There is no doubt that prisons have become mental institutions. We are indeed Number One at something again: our incarceration rates beat our previous enemy, Russia. The American people need to understand what they have done to themselves. "We The People" have allowed our taxes to support imprisoning 1.2 Million people (roughly 80% of them - or 960,000 people - are serving time for non-violent crimes). That means 960,000 families broken up, leaving MILLIONS of children orphaned while the prison industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, lining the pockets of those who benefit from the revenues that are generated by the prison industry.
We went from a weapons industry during the cold war to a prison industry when the cold war ended. Now we are at war with our own people. Today 1 in 55 people are in jail or prison, said to be in the care of their State. If you are going to do a story of "Inside Prison" I challenge you to do a REAL story of this episode in American Life. The "New Prison Culture" is a culture of many abuses to the human beings we call prisoners. These abuses are advocated by "We The People" because it is thought that prison is a place for punishment. In fact, prison is a place where people are placed for the purpose of being separated from society for committing a crime; it is not a place where people are to be tortured, abused and ignored as they are in our prisons today. The people in prison are "Our" responsibility. Real criminals must pay their debt to society. Many of them are so dangerous that they need to be separated from society for the rest of their lives. But the ballooning prison population is replete with non-violent men and women who belong home with their families. What we are doing to them, their children and ourselves isn't right.
Americans are a kind and generous people, dedicated to a sense of fairplay for all. Those of us who know first-hand about the conditions inside our prisons would like to educate those who are unaware of the injustices and human rights abuses that occur in these systems every day all across the country. This is a difficult task because our politicians are afraid to confront these abuses for fear of being labeled "soft on crime" by their political opponents at election time.
But the abuses that go on every day behind our backs are not about politics at election time. They are about a misconception "We The People" have of the purpose of prisons. The stated purpose is to rehabilitate so that when the debt has been paid, the prisoner can rejoin society to become a productive citizen again. The actuality is right the opposite. There is no incentive for rehabilitation to reduce recidivism. Why? Because the prison industry would begin to stifle and revenue would be reduced. You see, the more people who return to prison, the more the existing prisons become over-populated, the more billions of tax dollars are required to build new prisons. PRISON IS A BUSINESS just like any other American business. The heads of that business, as with any business, look to the "bottom line" first and seek ways to enhance revenues and profits for that business. Thus, America has found ways to build a new product: the Prison product, which is comprised of human beings.
Our legislators continue to write tougher laws, so much so, that for the average citizen it is difficult to go a single day without breaking at least one of their laws. As Ayn Rand wrote in her famous (and apparently prophetic) book, Atlas Shrugged, "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
Our court system repeatedly puts people in prison without due process. Many of these people are completely innocent. Many are given sentences that are too harsh for the crime they may have committed. Once in prison, these people are abused by prison officials in the most inhumane of ways. Our penal system is a direct reflection of who we are as a society. Prisoners are separated from society and put in prison as punishment. They are not in prison to be punished further through the kind of abuse that is all too common in many prisons today.
Many of the abuses that prisoners are forced to endure have been common knowledge to all for many years. Very few of these abuses are new, for things have changed very little in our prison system over the years, with the exception of the booming prison population. Prison authorities regularly abuse prisoners in the most inhumane ways. These officials know their actions are sanctioned because, other than family members, few care about the incarcerated once the prison gates swing shut. The fact that many hundreds of prisoners are released each year, because new evidence shows them to be innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, should be enough to force an increased awareness of the Injustice system, but it is not. The problem is major. Prison abuse is compounded by the fact that people are not seeing justice within the court system. Too many innocent people are being taken from their families and anyone could be next!
The costs to families to obtain justice for these blatant errors in our systems are enormous and completely unnecessary. Families see their loved ones wrongly incarcerated, then they see the abuse and then they realize the public's apathy when they turn to Society for help. They may even have been one of the apathetic ones themselves, until they learn firsthand what this is like. Our society needs to change from one of indifference to one of sensitivity so that people who need help can receive help.
Most abuses to prisoners center on their bodies. When we strip a person of all defenses, and put them in prison, we have an obligation to protect them from harm, such protection being impossible for the prisoners to provide for themselves. Instead of providing protection from harm, those on the prison staff intentionally inflict harm on many of their hapless charges. From failing to provide even basic medical care, to inflicting physical beatings that violate every human rights convention in the world, the prison staff, with the full knowledge of the warden, engages in a regular pattern of abuse. There are many jokes in society that are about prison abuse. It is indicative of the scope of the problem, that citizens consider the torture of a prisoner to be a source of amusement.
We as a people need not advocate releasing criminals. Our focus, and advocacy, needs to be in the areas of Justice and Human Rights. Ancient scriptures tell us that, as a people on this planet, what one of us does to the least of creation, we do to the Creator himself. Supreme Court Chief Justice Rhenquist once quoted from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's book, The House of the Dead, that "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering the prisons." In other words, you can determine the quality of a society by looking inside its prisons; and what a society allows to be done inside its prisons, is a direct reflection of the character and integrity of that society. I do not believe that it was Society's original intent to create houses of torture and the destruction of due process in its courts.
But Society fell asleep while its legislators acquiesced to the caprice of Prison Business Entrepreneurs. I think nap-time needs to be over, don't you? There's something bad-wrong when The United States of America bases its wealth on how many people it incarcerates. I think America should be basing its wealth on how many people it educates, for then there would indeed be less crime. However, a rogue government cannot control educated people. So, what do you think the chances are that our leaders will listen to this wisdom?
Sherry L. Swiney
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price
of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course
others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"