----- Original Message -----
From: andy s
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 8:04 PM
Subject: Restraint Chairs in PA & recent "Right-to-Know-Law" Win
Greetings from StopMax-Pennsylvania!
Recently, we heard from a man confined in the Restricted Housing Unit at Pennsylvania's SCI-Forest prison. Bryan Perez-Rivera reported that on the night of Jan 24-25 2009, after a confrontation with staff, he was held for 8 hours in a restraint chair, refused bathroom breaks or adequate exercise, taunted and threatened by prison staff.
This was clearly a violation of his human rights, in essence amounting to torture; we wanted to see if it was also a violation of DOC policy. Department of Corrections officials refused to divulge their policies and procedures regarding the restraint chair, so we filed a Right-to-Know-Law request, asking for all DOC policies concerning the chair. They denied the request, claiming that the information was part of their confidential security policy, and if released could threaten the safety of the institution.
Their grounds were baseless: there is no information in the policy that could be used to harm anyone, and their refusal to release to the public the rules that DOC staff are supposed to abide by was inexcusable. We appealed the denial, the ACLU here in Philadelphia was kind enough to add some loving touches to our appeal & they agreed to represent our sponsoring organization (the American Friends Service Committee) in the matter.
Earlier this week, we received a reply. The DOC released the policy, and I am hereby attaching it to this email for public viewing.
The release of this policy does not in any way answer all of our questions, or fulfill the moral (and possibly legal, we'll see) obligation of the DOC to provide transparency and accountability about the way that they treat the prisoners in their care. We will continue to seek disclosure of the rules by which they're supposed to operate, and will continue to fight for the lives and human rights of the people held in Pennsylvania prisons.
yours in the struggle,
Andy Switzer