[Ppnews] Inside ADX Supermax, Part 1: “A Bloody Nightmare”

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 12 10:45:01 EDT 2013

  Inside ADX Supermax, Part 1: “A Bloody Nightmare”

September 12, 2013 By Sal Rodriguez 

In June 2012, a federal lawsuit was filed by eleven prisoners at the 
United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX 
Florence) against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The facility 
houses approximately 450 men from across the country in solitary 
confinement units. The lawsuit alleges that inmates diagnosed with 
mental illnesses are denied constitutionally adequate mental health 
treatment. The severe sensory deprivation and restricted social contact 
at ADX is further alleged to exacerbate mental health problems. This 
concern was underscored in a June 2012 US Senate 
hearing on solitary confinement, when Director of the BOP, Charles 
Samuels, testified that there were only two psychiatrists on staff at ADX.

One man in ADX, Jesse Wilson, wrote 
Solitary Watch after he listened to the head of the BOP testify that 
there weren’t mentally ill prisoners in ADX. “I heard the head of the 
BOP in Congress (on radio) saying they do not have insane inmates housed 
here, ” Wilson wrote, “This is what should be thought of as a lie. I 
have not slept in weeks due to these non-existing inmates beating on the 
walls and hollering all night.  And the most ‘non-insane’ smearing feces 
in their cells.”

The lawsuit <http://www.supermaxlawsuit.com/cunningham-case/> is 
currently pending before the US District Court. Currently titled 
/Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons/, a website tracking the 
progress of the lawsuit provides profiles 
of the plaintiffs.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released 
a report in May that found federal officials hadn’t studied how 
long-term segregation affects those subject to it, how much it actually 
costs, or the extent to which it “achieves its stated purpose to protect 
inmates, staff and the general public.” A “snapshot estimate” provided 
by the BOP to the GAO  suggests that taxpayers are spending $78,000 per 
year, per person at ADX Florence to incarcerate them in psychologically 
devastating conditions.

This is notable considering that the Obama Administration is seeking to 
open a second federal supermax 
in Illinois, to be named “Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary.”

Solitary Watch has been in contact with several individuals in ADX 
Florence, including members of the lawsuit who wanted to tell more of 
their story and share their perspectives. We are presenting the stories 
of individuals in ADX Florence in order to shed some light on just who 
exactly gets sent to the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” First in this series 
is Harold Cunningham.

*Harold Cunningham, ADX Control Unit, 12 Years in Solitary*

**/Harold Cunningham, 43, is the lead plaintiff of the federal lawsuit 
demanding constitutionally adequate mental health care in ADX. 
Cunningham is serving a life sentence and has been at the ADX Control 
Unit since 2001. Suffering from mental health issues since the age of 
ten, he has since been variously diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, 
Psychotic Disorder NOS and Personality Disorder NOS, and has been 
incarcerated on and off since he was 11, including a five year prison 
sentence at the age of 17 for cocaine possession. Sentenced to life 
imprisonment in 1996 for his involvement in a series of murders and 
robberies, he was incarcerated at United States Penitentiary, Marion 
until his transfer to ADX in 2001./

/While at Marion, he was at times held in solitary confinement. He 
complained of visual and auditory hallucinations and was prescribed 
anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. According to the federal lawsuit, 
a psychologist at USP Marion found that “Cunningham’s current mental 
status, emotional expression, and behavior suggest significant mental 
health problems.” A year later he was transported to ADX, where 
psychiatric drugs are not provided to inmates./

/The lawsuit details that, as a consequence of the denial of psychiatric 
medication, his “behavior predictably worsened,” and he was cited for 
rules violations such as possessing weapons, assaulting corrections 
officers, and refusing to leave his cell. For this, he would spend five 
years, from 2002-2007 in even more restrictive environments within the 
Control Unit./

/His “treatment” has thus far consisted of workbooks and programs 
through his television./

/Cunningham wrote to Solitary Watch to tell more of his story:/

What I have been through at Marion and here in the ADX Control Unit has 
been a bloody nightmare. Mentally and physically.

There was a bloody war going on in Marion when I arrived there, a place 
I should have never been sent to, I was designated to be housed at the 
Springfield Medical Facility. I have been taking psychotropic medication 
and receiving psychological therapy since the age of ten and on and off 
throughout my life. The war was racial, blacks against whites. The Aryan 
Brotherhood was warring with D.C. inmates.

I’m from Washington, D.C. and I got caught in the middle but my problem 
was more with the racist correctional officers who were behind 
everything. It was a very dangerous environment, one wrong move and you 
could lose your life. I was lucky, it was like living in a concrete 
jungle and only the strong survive. But to survive you have to become an 
animal and I became a monster that one one dared to fuck with.

I was sent from Marion to ADX Control Unit in 2001. I was treated and 
lived like an animal for years. Stripped of all my clothes for weeks at 
a time…just a blanket chained to my bed, water turned off, no shower at 
times. No food and when they did feed me it was bad food, stale bread 
and cheese, rotten apple…I was beaten while handcuffed. All this on and 
off throughout five to six years. It was an up and down roller coaster 
ride in a bloody nightmare. I was at war physically and mentally. I 
survived but now I suffer from PTSD so it’s hard for me to talk about 
some of the things I’ve been through. I’ve tried to block a lot of it 
out by escaping through writing. Every day in here is like a landmine 
field, one wrong step and I may snap back to that nightmare, something I 
don’t want to do.

I have been seeking and reaching out for help, therapy and medication 
that I used to be on but that’s not allowed here in the control unit. 
This is what my lawsuit is all about. My attorney has been working real 
hard to help me get the treatment I need. I’ve been here 12 years, I 
have less than a year left. Hopefully they will send me somewhere I can 
get the help I need and get involved in programs like education and writing.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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