[Ppnews] Abu Ghraib on the Allegheny: Sexual and Physical Abuse at Pennsylvania Prison

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 28 17:45:36 EDT 2011

Abu Ghraib on the Allegheny: Sexual and Physical Abuse at Pennsylvania Prison

September 28, 2011
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

A story out of Pennsylvania reveals the extreme 
abuse to which some U.S. prisoners are subjected. 
Yesterday, a suspended prison guard from the 
State Correctional Institution (SCI)-Pittsburgh 
was arrested on charges that he sexually or 
physically assaulted more than 20 inmates–and the 
district attorney has signalled that there are 
more arrests to come. As 
AP reports:

The 92 criminal charges filed Tuesday include 
several counts each of institutional sexual 
assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, 
and official oppression ­ which amounts to 
covering up the crimes or allegedly threatening 
others to do so. The criminal charges mirror 
allegations contained against Nicoletti and 
officials at the state prison in Pittsburgh in 
two civil rights lawsuits filed by inmates in recent months

The lawsuits, one filed in 2010 and another on 
behalf of an anonymous inmate last week, allege 
the systematic abuse of inmates ­ especially 
those convicted of child sex-crimes, or believed 
to be homosexual ­by Nicoletti and other inmates 
at his direction. The lawsuits say the abuse 
occurred over the past two years in the prison’s 
F Block, a reception area where new prisoners are 
housed for a few days for medical testing and to 
receive other supplies before they’re moved to permanent cells.

Among other things, [Harry] Nicoletti is charged 
with raping inmates, threatening them with other 
sexual acts, and with having inmates contaminate 
the food and bedding of his alleged targets with urine and other bodily fluids.

According to the criminal complaint, one of 
Nicoletti’s victims was a transsexual male who 
developed female breasts due to hormone 
treatments. Nicoletti fondled that inmate before 
raping him, while shouting racial and sexual 
epithets, including calling him a “weird freaky monkey,” the complaint said.

In another instance, Nicoletti singled out an 
inmate for abuse by announcing the man’s 
conviction for a child-sex offense and saying 
“Make way for the mole,” according to the complaint

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections 
professes to be shocked and appalled. But while 
Nicoletti’s conduct may represent the extreme, 
this is clearly not a case of a single rogue 
prison guard. The AP notes: “In April, 
corrections officials suspended eight guards at 
the prison, including Nicoletti, and four top 
prison officials were removed and have since left 
the department, although officials have declined 
to say whether they were fired or resigned.” 
Today, the 
Tribune-Review reports that “Allegheny County 
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said 
this morning that  at least 11 other 
Department  of Corrections employees will be 
charged  after a  wide-ranging investigation into 
sexual and physical abuse at SCI Pittsburgh.”

As Matt Stround reported last week in the 
City Paper, one of the inmate lawsuits, filed in 
July by transgender prisoner Rodger Williams, 
contains “the assertion that [Nicoletti's] abuse 
‘occurred with the full knowledge of the 
superintendent and other high ranking staff at 
SCI-Pittsburgh.’ Williams’ lawsuit names as 
defendant former SCI-Pittsburgh superintendent 
Melvin Lockett and other prison administrators
May, the DOC replaced Lockett and three other 
high-ranking officials at the prison. All three 
were named in Williams’ lawsuit; none are 
currently employed by the DOC. At the time, DOC 
press secretary Susan McNaughton would neither 
confirm nor deny to CP that the staffing changes 
had anything to do with the suspensions or grand-jury investigation.”

According to the Pittsburgh-based 
<http://hrcoalition.org/node/171>Human Rights 
Coalition, which tracks abuse in Pennsylvania’s 
prisons, the second inmate lawsuit, just filed on 
behalf an anonymous prisoner at SCI Pittsburgh, 
“depicts a situation of intimidation, coercion, 
and physical assault wielded against inmates who 
tried to refuse the guards or to expose the 
abuse. Beatings, filing of false charges against 
inmates, and retaliatory time in solitary 
confinement were common
All of this transpired 
with the full knowledge and inaction of the 
prison management, including Superintendent 
Lockett. John Doe’s parents made repeated calls 
to the DOC and the Commonwealth while their son 
was incarcerated at SCI Pittsburgh, to no avail.”

Prisoner abuse is not limited to SCI-Pittsburgh. 
Earlier reports by the Human Rights Coalition, 
based on extensive inmate testimony as well as 
prison records, show a pattern of what the group 
calls “institutionalized cruelty” in the solitary 
confinement “Restricted Housing Units” at 
and throughout the Pennsylvania prison system.

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