This holiday season marks the six-month anniversary of the historic Coal Township Dining Hall Boycott, when 1,300 prisoners at SCI Coal Township refused to go to the dining hall for a week to protest food cutbacks and denials of their basic human rights. At the end of the boycott, prisoners released a list of 22 demands. Six months later, only two of their demands have been met, and several boycott participants have been subjected to retaliatory and unjust transfers. While some of us on the outside prepare for holiday meals with friends and family, people at Coal Township and across the PA Department of Corrections continue to suffer from inadequate nutrition, poor medical care, unfair disciplinary policies, and separation from their loved ones.
That’s why this holiday season, Decarcerate PA is calling for 12 days for justice. For the 12 days leading up to Christmas, we are asking everyone who cares about human rights to call and write the Department of Corrections and ask them to support the 22 demands.
Every day we will highlight a different demand and a different action. Please follow the 12 Days for Justice on facebook, twitter, and tumblr. Participate in as many actions as you can and encourage friends and family to do the same.
DOC Secretary John Wetzel 717-728-4109
SCI Coal Township Superintendent Vincent Mooney – 570-644-7890
DOC Secretary John Wetzel
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Superintendent Vincent Mooney
SCI Coal Township
1 Kelley Drive
Coal Township, PA 17866-1020
Click here to read and download a sample letter, or feel free to write your own.
Sign the petition to support the 22 Demands
The 12 Days for Justice:
On the first day of justice, we demand adequate food rations: Rescind the policy of cutting the food and condiment portions of our meals, and return our portions to the level they were prior to Superintendent Mooney’s memo from May 26, 2014 that authorized cutting back our portions/rations for budget reasons. The meals prisoners are getting at breakfast – often consisting of a half a cup of cream of wheat or oatmeal, 2 slices of bread and 2 packets of sugar – contain insufficient nutritional value. We request the return of adequate meal portions and variety in the menu.
On the second day of justice, we demand access to cultural events: Allow prisoners to form cultural associations and host cultural events in the institution’s chapel/gym. SCI Coal Township presently has no cultural associations for prisoners to celebrate their culture and help younger prisoners focus on the positive attributes of their cultural heritages.
On the third day of justice, we demand access to a fair and reasonable grievance process: Process grievances by prisoners in a timely manner and stop the destruction and/or obstruction of the filing of grievances by either not responding to grievances or responding to grievances well outside the guidelines of DC-ADM 804 Inmate Grievances policy. Prisoners are often forced to wait weeks for their grievances to be processed and then, sometimes wait months for a response to those same grievances. Furthermore, we request an investigation into the manner in which SCI Coal Township’s grievances are processed, including the backdating of grievance responses by staff members.
On the fourth day of justice, we demand an end to arbitrary mail censorship: Pursue an investigation into the operation of SCI Coal Township’s mailroom for delaying the delivery of prisoners’ mail, failing to inform prisoners when their mail is denied or rejected, and arbitrarily denying or rejecting publications critical of prisons. Stop using non-delivery of mail as punishment when the prison is under lockdown for an emergency or for searches of prisoners’ cells. SCI Coal Township should deliver mail on these days.
On the fifth day of justice, we demand Coal Township hire a full-time doctor: Hire a full-time doctor in the medical department. Presently, prisoners are seen by a physician’s assistant who has had numerous grievances pending against him for the disrespectful manner in which he treats prisoners.
On the sixth day of justice, we demand an end to the practice of charging fees to people with chronic health issues: Stop charging fees for prisoners with Chronic Care symptoms when they sign up for Sick Call to see a Physician or Physician’s Assistant to have a medical issue addressed that is associated with their chronic symptoms.
On the seventh day of justice, we demand respect for families: Put an end to the constant disrespect that our family members endure in the SCI Coal Township visiting room. Board games and cards should be added to the visiting room so that prisoners and their families can play family board or card games. Change the seats in the visiting room: the current seats are uncomfortable and are not padded as at other institutions. Tables should be available for families of 4 or 5 so that prisoners and their families can see one another and sit across from one another, instead of everyone having to sit in a row.
On the eighth day of justice, we demand the elimination of nighttime red lights: Eliminate the use of Red Lights that illuminate the prisoners’ cells throughout the night. No other PA DOC institution keeps the night lights on constantly throughout the evening/night for general population cells. The constant illumination of prisoners’ cells throughout the night has been found to create depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
On the ninth day of justice, we demand the DOC allow food packages: Allow our families to mail in 50 pounds of food a month so we may supplement our nutritional needs, especially considering recent budgetary cutbacks. The Departments of Corrections in New York, New Jersey and Ohio all allow this.
On the tenth day of justice, we demand the DOC stop using food access as punishment: Amend its Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) policies to allow prisoners in the RHU on Disciplinary Custody Status to order two boxes of crackers with their commissary order so they can supplement the poor diet they receive in the RHU, where the food served on prisoners’ trays results in prisoners losing weight during stays in the RHU. Food should not be used as a disciplinary measure.
On the eleventh day of justice, we demand the DOC audio-record program review hearings: Begin audio recording all Program Review Hearings conducted on prisoners in the Restricted Housing Units, Special Management Units, and Special Needs Units to insure that Department of Corrections’ policies are being implemented fairly.
AND ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF JUSTICE we demand that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections respect the human rights and dignity of all people in prison.