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#ME TOO: INSTITUTIONALIZED PRISONER SEXUAL ASSAULT



By Daniel J. Simms, Independent Journalist/Author/P.R. Activist/Podcast Host.


Recently on Wednesday, February 22, 2024, I underwent an extremely harmful practice known as "Diesel Treatment." This practice has occurred to me over thirty times during my years incarcerated. And it has been inflicted systemically millions, perhaps billions, of times to millions upon millions of Americans. It is immensely damaging mentally and environmentally. The trauma associated with them can not be overstated. (See: Fiorita v. Dr. Anderson, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103647). Frequent readers of our blog, or listeners of our podcast, will be familiar with what diesel treatment is. But those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to repeatedly transferring prisoners from one prison to another prison. Mainly for petty or pretextual reasons such as infractions or classification. Yet on some occasions it is abused to get rid of litigious Jailhouse lawyers or those with outspoken or troublesome personalities to break their spirits. (See: Morales v. Beard, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78308). The practice is used across the entire Country's prison systems, both Federal and State, and there does not appear any end in sight. It is highly disorientating, disruptive, and distressing on the prisoner community. It forces prisoners to reestablish themselves at each new prison (which often leads to fights/assaults). It spreads criminal activities, gang activities, gang ideology, and gang murders and assaults (which needlessly puts many prisoners at increased danger). It also disrupts programming, visiting, and virtually every aspect of a prisoner's life causing incredible stress and anxieties (which causes more violence, severe depression, or even suicides). Moreover diesel busses emit particulate matter that is considered toxic and carcinogenic which can lead to acute and respiratory diseases, heart attacks, strokes, and premature deaths. (See: Cal. Trucking Ass'n v. South Coast Air Quality Mgmt. Dist., 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 253286). And the impact on the environment through greenhouse gasses emitted from thousands of diesel busses transferring prisoners daily is also monumental. (See: Utah Physicians for a Health Env't v. Diesel Power Gear, LLC, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133035). Therefore the custom has many alarming ancillary effects that are severely damaging to our people and the environment. Unsurprisingly there is a more rational and more efficient way to address this issue that could be easily implemented. For instance virtually every prison can be refashioned to house prisoners at all custody levels for little or relatively no additional cost (i.e. minimum, medium, closed custody, and maximum custodies). This would ensure prisoners could be kept at one prison throughout their entire sentence. This article however is focused on one largely unnoticed but severely damaging aspect of diesel treatment. Yet it could also be applicable to various other Correctional policies. That is the prolific institutionalized sexual assault of imprisoned Americans through pat downs, bowel movement watches (colloquially known as "shit watch"), and strip searches.


After walking to the intake/release building at Clallam Bay Corrections Center with about thirty other prisoners we were all forced to strip naked. The blatant sexual assault upon all thirty prisoners has been institutionalized into policy to allegedly prevent the spread of contraband. Yet the actual amount of contraband recovered over the decades of abuse is very little to none. In any other context this form of sexual assault would be a crime. (See: Ballentine's Law Dictionary. Third Edition. Sexual Assault is defined as: The indecent conduct of a man towards a woman or child or a man towards another man, accompanied by the threat or danger of physical suffering or injury or inducing fear, humiliation, and mental anguish"). (See also: Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 566 U.S. 318). The humiliating experience required us to do a series of movements butt naked (i.e. open your mouth wide, run your hand through your hair, show your armpits, lift your ballsack and penis, turn around and show the bottoms of your feet, and ultimately to squat, spread your buttcheeks, and cough). Needless to say it is incredibly degrading and humiliating. Being butt naked in front of many other guards and prisoners as you are being inspected is reminiscent of when African-American slaves were paraded and inspected by prospective Slaveholders. (See: Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery. By Robert William Fogel. 1991). An often forgotten piece of history is that some of the African-American slaves forcibly brought here on slave ships were actually convicted prisoners imprisoned by African leaders. Then sold into slavery to American slave traders. (See: The Atlantic Slave Trade. By Herbert S. Klein. 1999. At pg. 117). Therefore using the pretext of crime to enslave has been abused by evil people and corrupt governments for generations. Many would like to believe we as a people and society would have abandoned long ago the cruel institution of slavery. Sadly that is not the case. Today the United States is the biggest Slaveholder in all of human history at 2.3 million slaves it surpasses all previous records. Which is absurd as the United States literally fought a war to end private slave ownership. To then pivot the U.S. government, Federal and State, to become the biggest Slavemasters in history themselves boggles the mind. Something that is abhorrent and illegal for private citizens should likewise be unlawful and illegal for the government. (See e.g.: 18 U.S.C. §1582 "Outlawing Vessels for the Slave Trade." 18 U.S.C. §1582 "Outlawing Seizure, Detention, Transportation, or Sale of Slaves." 18 U.S.C. §1586 "Outlawing Service on Vessels in Slave Trade." 18 U.S.C. §2H4.1 "Outlawing Peonage, Involuntary Servitude, Slave Trade, or Child Soldiers"). The U.S. government should not be in the business of enslaving our citizens regardless of the pretext. It should be in the business of saving and helping our people. Rather than breaking them which is the current status quo. Like Frederick Douglas astutely stated "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."


Upon being abased to strip naked and condescended into a series of [slave] inspections we were all shackled with hard steel wrist cuff and leg cuff chains. We were forced to hobble and shuffle in a single file line, naked except for an orange jumpsuit, the unforgiving steel cuffs digging into our flesh painfully, while guards stood around intimidatingly with deadly weapons. Such treatment and bondage is not new. It is the exact same evil playbook Slavetraders of yesteryear used when transporting African slaves across the ocean to our foreign land. (See e.g.: Black Bondage in the North 174. By Edgar J. McManus. 1973). (Also see e.g.: The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South 397. 1956). Carefully we swallowed our anguish and boarded a diesel box truck [colloquially known as the "Dog Catcher"] which was retrofitted as a prisoner transport vehicle. There was no fresh air, no windows to look out, and the benches were hard metal with no seat belts so every bump, swerve, or stop caused us to sway or slide like we were on the high seas. The metal benches also inflicted severe pain on our backsides so all of us had bruises when it was over. Some had it even worse, one guy could not handle the constant sliding and swaying, resulting in motion sickness and he vomited all over the ground. Soon the overwhelming stench of vomit permeated the entire holding area. Disgustingly each turn or acceleration caused the vomit to stream back and forth from one holding pen to the next. The bus ride took about four hours. When we arrived at the Washington Correctional Center ("WCC") we were ushered into the cold Shelton, Washington, night as guards stood menacing around with weapons ensuring none attempted to run. With freezing winds piercing our thin orange jumpsuits we were uncuffed using the Dog Catcher to brace us lest we topple and fall. Once freed of our bondages we were told to enter an x-ray scanning room where we were examined for contraband again. When cleared by the x-ray machine we were directed to a metal cage inside the reception building where were once again told to strip naked. This time to change into underwear and grey jumpsuits. We were each assigned cells in designated Units. Due to our unluckiness of getting the Dog Catchers none of our chain bags (i.e. Hygiene) or media phone tablets were transported with us. We spent a week waiting for the next chain bus with no hygiene and no telephonic connection with our families or community.


Finally the week was over and we shuffled over to the intake reception building at four o'clock in the morning. We were given dry peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast. Anyone that has done any significant amount of prison time will confirm the over reliance on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Needless to say you get burned out of them rather quickly. Without further ado many of us had thrown the breakfast away. Soon the same perversive sexual assault occurred. This time there were more prisoners. At least sixty prisoners crammed into fenced pens that were dirty, filled with gang graffiti, and signs stating what prison each pen represented. One pen was going to the Washington State Penitentiary ("WSP") and one to Airway Heights Correctional Center ("AHCC"). I went in the AHCC pen with thirty other prisoners. We were corralled into a different pen where guards demanded we strip naked again. The disgrace and inferiority we felt was palpable. Shyly we reluctantly took our clothes off for them and felt their eyes appraise and inspect us. When the degradation was complete we were ordered to put on orange jumpsuits over our nakedness. No underwear or socks was allowed. The guards heartlessly clamped the steel hand and leg cuffs tightly on us. Most of our ankles still hurting from the prior week's leg cuffs found the pain reawakened. Once all thirty prisoners were in bondage we were ordered to hobble in a strait line to the waiting diesel chain bus. Armed guards on either side of us as we tried to negotiate the pain from the leg cuffs and getting on the bus. Ultimately we were all herded into a heavily fortified dingy, dirty, and smelly section of the bus and locked in. Before we even began the five hour journey the overriding stench of urine, feces, and unwashed bodies mixed with the toxic diesel particulates quickly overwhelming us. With no fresh air and no windows, except grimy grated slits high above our heads which did not open, there was no way to escape the pungent toxic mixture. Reminiscent of African slaves cruelly chained in the belly of slave vessels as they were transported. Many of which did not survive the horrible voyage. (See e.g.: Stand the Storm: A History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 28. By Edward Reynolds. 1985).


Upon arrival at AHCC we were ordered out of the bus and the guards  uncuffed us. Finally free of the stifling toxic air and unforgiving painful cuffs we were ordered into the reception building. Without preamble the guards demanded that we strip naked once again. No matter how many times one undergoes the degradation of strip searches the  shame and mortification from them does not abate. It imbues a sense of deep humiliation. And if one had previously been a childhood sexual abuse survivor the strip searches can reopen old wounds. As readers of my book, Hopeless in Seattle: A Fosterkid's Manifesto, will know I suffered severe childhood abuse. The trauma from that abuse has profoundly impacted my life, as it has affected as high as sixty percent of male prisoners, and excessive repeated strip searches serves to re-traumatize us each time. (See: Cox v. N.Y. Dep't of Corr., 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79442).


Sure it was nice to be in a lower custody level. Being in minimum custody, which is the lowest supervisory level to get in prison with my history and sentence, provides a modicum of additional freedoms. But receiving the diesel treatment and all the attending adverse consequences makes the so-called promotion a bittersweet proposition for me and everyone else that receives it. The huge financial waste that diesel treatment costs taxpayers each year is astronomical. The fuel alone costs thousands per bus. But then you add maintenance, at least three to four guards' wages, and the countless other ancillary costs it just simply is bad policy. Therefore not only is diesel treatment horrible for prisoners and the environment but it is fiscally unsound as well. It is a practice that should be abandoned with haste. Instead of repeatedly transferring prisoners from facility to facility they should be assigned the closest prison to their community. And they should not be transferred from that prison for the entirety of their sentence unless there are extraordinary circumstances. Such as their lives in danger or some similar emergency. Regardless of what any prison administrators say, if the prison has four Units, or more, it can house all four custody levels.


In regards to the systemic sexual assaultive strip searches, they should be abolished except for special circumstances. Allowing Correctional Officers to strip search anyone at any time for no reason beyond wanting to do so is inappropriate and ripe for abuse. Strip searches have been the gateway opium of rape and sexual abuse. For instance when Daniel Amaya seen the Correctional Officers run into his Unit, at the Menard Correctional Center in the Illinois Department of Corrections, to search it he did not anticipate what would happen next. Daniel was forced to strip naked, ordered to lift his testicles and "wiggle," to pull back his penis foreskin, and then to bend over. At which time the Officer blew in Daniel's anus. After the searches were conducted all the prisoners were allowed to put their clothes on. They were ordered to line up outside the cell where they were handcuffed behind their backs. Daniel was lined up with the rest of the prisoners but realized his shirt was untucked so he endeavored to tuck it in even with his handcuffs on. The same Officer that stripped searched him abruptly grabbed Daniel by his neck and attempted to forcibly tuck his shirt in for him. That was when the Officer molested Daniel's buttocks and fondled his genitalia, stating threateningly that he had "easy access!" As Daniel was being escorted down the stairs to the Chapel the same Officer proceeded to molest Daniel's genitalia again. Due to the Officer's power over him and being handcuffed behind his back Daniel felt emasculated, humiliated, and severely depressed. Now Daniel suffers chronic post traumatic stress disorder from the sexual assault. (See e.g.: Amaya v. Butler, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113404). Daniel's story, and my story, are not uncommon, they are the norm. They are being inflicted upon our people, male and female, across the entire Nation and it is traumatizing . (See e.g.: #Me Too In Prison. 98 Wash. L. Rev. 363. By Jenny Brooke-Codon. 2023). (Also see e.g.: Girls, Assaulted. 116 Nw. L. Rev. 911, 921. 2022. By I. India Thusi). (Also see e.g.: Impunity: Sexual Abuse in Women's Prison. 42 Harv. C.R.-C.L. Rev. 45, 55. 2007. By Kim Shayo Buchanan).


The fact is strip searches are not necessary or effective in a wide amount of cases. Of course there are moments where strip searches are necessary but there should be "Probable Cause." Similar to the objective rules based approaches prescribed to strip searching a U.S. citizen in the free world. The power to strip search prisoners with zero cause simply because they instituted policies to do so is extremely abusive and results in systemic sexual assaults on a unprecedented level unseen in history since the days of slavery. Adding to the many travesties is the U.S. Court's unfair and improper precedents. Most Court rulings egregiously put the burden on prisoners. They have to prove that the strip searches were more than "isolated, brief, and not severe" interactions. Otherwise it does not amount to an Eighth Amendment violation. (See e.g.: Lee v. Winn, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213247). Virtually all strip searches are isolated, brief, and as far as "severe" goes, that is a completely subjective prong. Ask the prisoner that was getting strip searched whether it felt severe to him, or her, and they will vehemently assert the severity. Most likely sharing the trauma they experienced by stripping naked in front of other men, or women, the adverse humiliation and dehumanization they felt, and the mental health diagnosis it caused (i.e. depressive thought disorder, anxiety thought disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, etc.). (See e.g.: Naked Power: Strip Searching in Women Prisons, in the Violence of Incarceration 107, 113. By June McCulloch and Amanda George. Phil Scranton and Jude McCulloch eds. 2009). Yet when a bias, prejudiced, even indifferent, or detached Judge examines the strip search sexual assault claim somehow it is not severe at all. It is completely subjective. (See e.g.: Presumed Frivolous: Application of Stringent Pleading Requirements in Civil Rights Litigation. 31 Wm. and Mary L. Rev. 935, 937-38. 1998. By Douglas A. Blaze). (Also see e.g.: Cruelty, Prison Conditions, and the Eighth Amendment. 84 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 881, 905. 2009. By Sharon Dolovich). (Also see e.g.: #Me Too: Why Now, What Next? 69 Duke L. J. 377, 425. 2019. Deborah L. Rhode).


The purposes of DefundDOC.net is to expose, highlight, and ultimately abolish harmful, exploitative, or corrupt policies that injure or hurt our people. (See e.g.: The Punishment Bureaucracy: How to Think About Criminal Justice Reform. 128 Yale L.J. F. 848. 2019. By Alex Karakatsanis. "Arguing that the criminal punishment system works exactly as intended: subordinating the interests of marginalized groups"). Addressing these injustices by shining light on them in hopes of change will substantially help public safety, prisoners, and reduce recidivism. It is systemic repression, exploitation, and prison violence which has largely contributed to traumatizing our people so badly that they immediately victimize and reoffend within months of release. We can significantly lower recidivist crime rates by simply treating our people with dignity and respect that all people should be afforded.


You can continue to educate yourself on the injustices and inequities inflicted upon you by simply subscribing to our free podcast and blog. www.DefundDOC.net. Every new subscriber will receive a free digital copy of one of my books: "DEFUND D.O.C.: TURNING ALL PRISONS INTO TREATMENT AND CAREER CENTERS," or, "THE ART OF LIVING: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS IN LIFE AND BUSINESS, I LEARNED IN PRISON."


Become a Reality TV Star! We are excited to invite you to be a part of history through a revolutionary new reality show: LOVE AND PRISON ACTIVISM. The reality show seeks to inspire prison reform by humanizing prisoners and those that love them. Showcasing their struggles and highlighting activism will assuredly change the narrative and allow space for true reform to occur. You do not need prior experience in mass incarceration to be a part of the show. All you need is a love for the American people.Therefore everyone is invited to audition. Moreover due to the immense need for people to attend rallies and protests in their States literally everyone can appear and be featured in the show. So do not miss your opportunity to take part in this groundbreaking effort. We will be launching it on July 4th to coincide with our Country's previous fight for independence and freedom. This new fight we are embarking on is critical to realign U.S. policy with the people's demands. Foremost is ending prisoner slavery, turning all prisons into treatment and career centers, and reducing all non-homicide offenses down to a maximum of eight to ten years. You can receive all updates and news regarding the pending social justice reality show by easily subscribing to the podcast and blog. www.DefundDOC.net.


If you would like to support this overdue social justice mission you can also purchase items from our branded collections. Currently we have sweatshirts, tee-shirts, and more on our website, on Cadmus Publishing (coming soon), Etsy, and our tiktok store. All profits goes towards advancing your interests and the interests of the American people. Remember supporting this cause is merely an insurance policy. Because you, or your descendants, have a fifty-fifty percentage chance of going to prison within the next fifty years based on the historical growth of mass incarceration since the 1970s.


You can also purchase the special limited time offer "Supporters Book Bundle" of all three of my digital books: "HOPELESS IN SEATTLE: A FOSTERKID'S MANIFESTO," "DEFUND D.O.C.," and "THE ART OF LIVING." All for the price of one book: $14.99. If you buy all three printed versions on Amazon or other booksellers it would cost you double that amount. Plus it will help us further the social justice campaign. www.DefundDOC.net.

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