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USA: Fear of torture/ill-treatment

, رقم الوثيقة: AMR 51/179/1999

Amnesty International is concerned by allegations of physical and psychological abuse against inmates by guards at Wallens Ridge State Prison. Inmates who have complained about ill-treatment include Perry CONNOR, Phillip CORDOVA, Julian FUENTES, Joseph SAAVEDRA and Raymond TAHOD.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/179/99
UA 287/99 Fear of torture/ill-treatment 3 November 1999
USA (Virginia)Perry CONNOR, white
Phillip CORDOVA, Latino, aged 42
Julian FUENTES, Latino
Joseph SAAVEDRA, Latino
Raymond TAHOD
and other inmates at Wallens Ridge State Prison
Amnesty International is concerned by allegations of physical and psychological
abuse against inmates by guards at Wallens Ridge State Prison, a supermaximum
(“supermax”) security facility in the state of Virginia. While the
organization is not in a position to confirm the allegations, it notes that
they mirror earlier complaints at another Virginia supermax facility (see
below). It believes that they should be investigated as a matter of urgency
and that inmates should be protected from any retaliation by prison guards
for having made the allegations.
Phillip Cordova, who was recently transferred to the supermax facility from
prison in New Mexico, testified at a court hearing on 29 October 1999 that
on his first day at Wallens Ridge, 25 September, while he was in restraints,
guards repeatedly beat him and used electro-shock stun guns on him. At the
hearing, due to resume on 3 November in the First Judicial District Court in
Santa Fe, New Mexico, he has also alleged that guards simulated sodomy against
him using the metal lead which is used to link prisoners’ handcuffs to their
leg shackles, behind their backs.
Phillip Cordova and other prisoners allege that the ill-treatment is part of
the “hazing”, or initiation, of new arrivals at Wallens Ridge, which opened
in April 1999. They allege that guards maintain a climate of fear through
arbitrary and punitive measures, including random selection of prisoners for
beatings at night. They further claim that some inmates have been denied access
to medical care, and that others do not request medical care for fear of
reprisals. Other alleged abuses include sleep deprivation by keeping the lights
on 24 hours a day, and verbal, including racist, abuse and threats of violence.
Other New Mexico inmates transferred to Wallens Ridge in September have made
similar allegations of torture or ill-treatment. For example, Perry Connor
has alleged that he was subjected to electro-shocks on his testicles from a
stun gun, and Joseph Saavedra, Raymond Tahod and Julian Fuentes have alleged
that they were beaten and/or shocked with stun guns. At least one of them has
said that the electro-shocks caused him uncontrollable defecation. The New
Mexico Corrections Department has conducted a initial investigation into the
allegations, but has not made its findings public.
Phillip Cordova is currently held in New Mexico for the court hearing. The
other prisoners, including those named above, remain in Wallens Ridge. The
New Mexico prisoners were among a group of about 120 inmates transferred from
Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, following
a riot there in August during which a prison guard was killed.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Since the late 1980s, an increasing number of states have been building supermax
facilities, designed for the long-term isolation of prisoners whom the
authorities consider to be too dangerous or disruptive to be held in the general
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population of maximum security prisons. Amnesty International recognizes that
it is sometimes necessary to segregate dangerous prisoners, but is concerned
that many aspects of the conditions in supermax facilities violate international
standards, and in some facilities conditions constitute cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment. Prisoners typically spend between 22 and 24 hours a day
confined to small, solitary cells. Prolonged isolation in conditions of reduced
sensory stimulation can cause severe physical and psychological damage.
In January 1999, Amnesty International wrote to the Virginia Department of
Corrections about the alleged excessive use of electro-shock weapons at the
other Virginia supermax facility, Red Onion State Prison, which opened in July
1998 (see Cruelty in Control: The Stun Belt and other Electro-shock Equipment
in Law Enforcement (AMR 51/54/99, June 1999, pages 13 and 42). Inmates have
allegedly been electro-shocked to intimidate new arrivals, and as punishment
for minor infractions of prison rules or verbal insolence.
Amnesty International believes that the portability, ease of use and potential
to inflict severe pains without leaving substantial marks on the human body,
renders electro-shock stun equipment particularly open to abuse by unscrupulous
law enforcement officials. It is calling for the use of all such weapons to
be suspended pending the outcome of a rigorous, independent and impartial
nationwide inquiry into their use and effects.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes/express/airmail letters in your own
words, in English or your own language, using the following guidelines:
- expressing concern at allegations of brutality, including beatings and the
arbitrary use of electro-shock stun weapons, against New Mexico prisoners
recently transferred to Wallens Ridge State Prison (you may also note recent
allegations by inmates at Red Onion State Prison);
- stating that the authorities are responsible for the humane confinement of
all inmates, even those deemed to be dangerous or disruptive;
- calling for an immediate and independent inquiry into the allegations, and,
if they are substantiated, for any officials responsible for ill-treatment
or torture in violation of international standards to be brought to justice;
- seeking assurances that all prisoners will be protected from any form of
ill-treatment or retaliation by guards, and have full and continuing access
to medical care;
- urging the authorities to immediately suspend the use of all electro-shock
stun equipment pending a full inquiry into their uses and effects.
APPEALS TO:
Stan Young, Warden
Wallens Ridge State Prison
PO Box 759, Big Stone Gap
Virginia 24219, USA
Fax: +1 540 523 9622
Salutation: Dear Warden Young
Richard A Young
Western Regional Director
Department of Corrections
5427 Peters Creek Road, Suite 350
Roanoke, Virginia 24019, USA
Fax: +1 540 561 7056
Salutation: Dear Regional Director
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Ron Angelone
Director, Department of Corrections
6900 Atmore Drive
Richmond, Virginia 23225, USA
Fax: +1 804 674 3509
Salutation: Dear Director
COPIES TO:
The Honourable James Gilmore, Governor of Virginia, State Capitol, Richmond,
VA 23219, USA. Fax: +1 804 371 6351
Robert J Perry, Secretary, Corrections Department, PO Box 27116, Santa Fe,
New Mexico 87502-0116, USA. Fax: +1 505 827 8220 (You may urge the Secretary
of Corrections to make public his department’s investigation).
Copies of appeals or brief letters of concern (less than 250 words) to:
The Editor, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson, NE Albuquerque, NM 87109,
USA. Fax: +1 505 823 3994. E-mail: opinion@abqjournal.com
The Editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch, PO Box 85333, Richmond, VA 23293, USA
Fax: +1 804 775 8090
and to diplomatic representatives of the USA accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 15 December 1999.

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