How can I watch while they strip us of our humanity and not rebel?

Published in SF Bay View, March 1st, 2009

Open letter to the people
Editor’s note: An abbreviated version of this open letter was published in the March print edition of the Bay View. This is the full text. Prison authorities would not allow Marritte to mail this letter directly to the Bay View, so it had to be relayed by another activist.
by Marritte Funches
[illustration: This barren, godforsaken place is Ely State Prison]
When I initially thought of writing this report, I was unsure of when or where or how it might reach you. To be honest, I have given up on getting any real medical care and had begun the process of preparing myself mentally and physically to engage these pigs (parasites in green suits) in a different type of battle.
But again the beautiful people at the Bay View newspaper have renewed my strength to carry on without resorting to barbarism. They have encouraged me to remain an example of intellectual strength for my young comrades, to help them know that we can win, without resorting to gangsterism and blood letting, but instead by placing our faith in the people, and out-thinking our enemies. Since there is not a single (honest) attorney in Amerika willing to help me engage the courts, I have been developing a process to put aside the pain, so that I can focus on learning civil law and file a lawsuit to expose those pigs myself, by myself.
There is more corruption going on here than people might believe. For example, locked in these cells, inmates must rely on the pigs for everything: to bring the phone for legal calls, to bring grievance forms, cleaning supplies, mail … everything. Most important, we have to rely on them to be alert in emergencies. Those with diabetes, heart problems and seizures must rely on the pigs to answer their call button in a timely manner. But often we go for days waiting for such basic necessities as toilet paper and soap because the pigs are too busy playing computer games, watching movies, or surfing the net … No shit. They put computers with these capabilities in every unit here at Ely State Prison – of course outside the reach of inmates! Your tax dollars hard at work.
On Jan. 6, after 27 days of fasting and an incredible effort on the part of the pigs to interfere and frustrate my fast in protest of what has been happening to me, Rickey Egberto and numerous other men being denied medical care, I was all but forced to end it. But I learned a great deal and reaffirmed much that I already knew – such as there is no greater cruelty than that orchestrated by man.
On Dec. 29, 2008, after a sleepless night due to severe kidney pain, I had just dozed off, when no less than 20 pigs in full riot gear, and brandishing taser guns and cans of chemical agent, woke me up saying that Warden Bill Donat (of Nevada State Prison) made a special order to have me transferred back to High Desert State Prison. No protocol was followed. I was not allowed to pack. In fact, my property was not even coming with me.
By this time I had lost over 21 pounds and I was very sick. I was in no shape to travel a long distance. The pigs ordered me to “strip out now! Or we’re coming in and we will hurt you!” Now at my best, or rather my worst, I actually could have put up a fight. I’ve faced such odds before, even won some, at least by convict standards.
But the truth is that a child could have whooped me at that point. The pigs knew this. So I am not sure what the psychology behind this show of force was, other than they knew they were in violation. It was easy to see how sick I was – my medical situation had not even been diagnosed, let alone treated – or maybe they just took the opportunity to impress themselves.
So I was forced to strip naked. “Open your mouth, show me your tongue, between your lips and gums. Do you have any plates or partials? OK, bend forward and run your fingers through your hair; show me your ears! Step back (he pulls out a flash light); lift your penis, now your sack. Show me your hands, turn around and lift your arms. OK, now your left foot and wiggle your toes, now your right foot. OK, bend over, spread your cheeks and give me three good coughs …”
This is what it means to “strip out.” And here at Ely prison, if I want to go outside to the little concrete enclosure for an hour, I have to strip out three times. Take a shower; strip out twice. On top of that, they make us get on our knees for everything. Anytime the pigs put the shackles on us or take them off, we have to get on our fuckin’ knees. In the shower, after a pool of filth has built up from however many men showered before you, these pigs want us to kneel in that too.
Suffice it to say I don’t leave my cell much. My sink is my shower. This little box is my yard. It kills me to see the look on these pigs’ faces when they tell these men to get on their knees. Some have been getting on their knees for so long they don’t even have to be told anymore. Years ago someone said to me, “Why are you so rebellious all the time? You’re only causing more problems for yourself.” And my response was: How can a person know what it is to be a human being and watch that being stripped away and not rebel?
I apologize for getting off topic there for a minute. This shit is just crazy. If you will, please bear with my pain.
Okay, so this mob of pigs walks me out of the building under gunpoint. There are several more pigs on a catwalk above my head with their guns trained on me. They have driven the transport bus up the hill and through the yard in front of the unit, something they’ve never done before. I have lost so much weight that, if not for the chains criss-crossing my body, my hands, my feet, my waist, my clothes would have fallen off. It was a beautiful sunny day, but very cold.
I got on the bus, which is a converted Greyhound with no windows, just little portholes that you would have to be over 6 feet tall to see out of. So the bus itself is a big cage. That’s where they put me. There were other inmates on the bus, most of them fish.
After maybe two and a half to three hours on the road I had developed what felt like a migraine headache, with shooting pains through my skull, like lightning flashes. I became nauseous and weak. After a while I noticed my nose was bleeding, but I could not even wipe it with my sleeve, because my hands were chained to my waist.
I stood up to get the pigs’ attention, but before I could, I just blacked out. There was hardly any room to fall, so when I fell, my body ended up in such a contorted position that my neck and back are still fucked up. The inmates called “Man down!” I was out for five to ten minutes.
When I came to, I could hear the pigs talking about stopping and calling an ambulance. It took all my strength, but somehow I was able to get back into the tiny seat. I was awake, but really out of it. My head was exploding. My body wanted to vomit, but there was nothing in my stomach, luckily.
The pig in charge had called Warden Donat and, rather than getting an ambulance, Donat ordered them to drive the two and a half to three hours back to Nevada State Prison. Once there, I was taken to the prison medical facility at NNCC (Northern Nevada Correctional Center), next door to NSP (Nevada State Prison). But I did not get any medical treatment – not an aspirin, not even a cup of water.
Marritte Funches [picture]
The pigs beat my ass taking me off the bus. Then, once in the facility (Regional Medical Facility, RMF), some more pigs yanked on the chains, dragging me by the chains on my ankles, causing me to yell out. They sat me in a tiny examination room. A couple of nurses came in grilling me with all kinds of questions. First, they all said I was faking.
Then, somehow, the nurses found out I had been fasting, and one of them said, “Well, that’s what happens when you don’t eat, fuckin’ asshole.” The other nurse said, “Fasting – oh, I’ve heard about that. He must be one of those Muslim people.” I thought about pointing out that Christians, Jews, Buddhists and most other existing religions practice fasting, but I did not have the energy.
I was then taken to an isolation cell, away from any other prisoners, stripped naked, and left there with nothing but an orange jumpsuit and a blanket. I remained there for five days, continuing my fast. The pigs loved it. They ate my trays each time I refused one, especially the special New Year’s meal.
On the 2nd of January 2009 another mob of 15 to 20 pigs in riot gear, carrying tasers and chemical agents, stripped me out, chained me up and put me in a van headed to where I am now (Ely State Prison), under the cover of predawn darkness. We did stop once along the way for a bathroom break. I got to smell the fresh morning mountain air.
Once here, the Ely pigs made it very clear they believed I’d been checkmated. The head caseworker told me, “When you’re done with your, fast, let us know.” He walked off with a smirk on his face. Behind him was the property Sgt. P. Hunt who told me the paperwork on my property had been “lost.” So I was sent to another cell with nothing but a jumpsuit and a worn out blanket.
A snowstorm hit that night. I got a sense of what it must be like in the Arctic – the walls radiating cold like slabs of ice. The pigs kept me that way until just a couple of days ago, when they were sure I was not fasting any more. They took everything from me that they could think up a reason to take: my books and other literature from DePaul University, religious items, personal writings, as well as the affidavits I had from the men in the unit with me at NSP who witnessed all the bullshit that was taking place. I had managed to send out the most important documents for safekeeping.
Nothing has changed in regards to my medical situation. I still do not know what exactly is causing my symptoms, only that these pigs can no longer deny that something is wrong. That I am back here at Ely State Prison, though, means they intend to let me suffer.
After speaking with an attorney in Reno who had expressed interest in taking my case, it turned out that he was just another snake trying to take advantage of a desperate situation to get money. But I am not discouraged. I will continue to stand up and speak out. And with your help, I will expose the corruption going on: the misappropriation of your tax dollars, the murder of mentally ill inmates, the wanton and unabated violation of people’s civil rights and humanity, the medical neglect and more.
We need your help
But I need your help. I’d like to set up a website where we can post the actual documents and stories of men who are suffering. I’d like to find someone skilled at Internet research, so we can use the Freedom of Information Act and other investigative techniques to uncover and expose these crooks hiding their crimes under the cloak of “protecting the public.” We have made dozens of calls, sent even more emails and letters. They’ve called our bluff. And if all you were willing to do was send some emails, then we were definitely bluffing.
But this is no card game. I am fighting for my life! And so are Rickey Egberto, Kevin Lisle, Terrence Brothers, Charles Randolph and a lot of other men. This is not necessarily about whether or not men and women in prison deserve basic health care. This is about what type of society we want to live in.
Let’s face it. What is happening in these prisons is torture, and the bigger ideological question is this: What purpose does incarceration actually serve if there is no real opportunity for redemption or rehabilitation? What is the point if all they are going to do is lock people up who are already undereducated, many with emotional or psychological issues, coming from broken homes and communities that are more like war zones than nurturing neighborhoods, treat them like animals, dehumanize and humiliate them?
Then what real expectation is there that these men and women, a lot of them still children, can ever actually make it out of prison with the necessary social skills to lead productive lives? And my position is if there is any sincere sentiment at all in these people claiming authority over us, and they are unwilling or unable to create job training and other relevant programs, then do not criminalize and penalize us for creating our own. Stop subjecting individuals like myself to these conditions amounting to torture, simply because you disagree with our views or because we hold you to the standard your position carries.
Whoever out there may be reading this, I am interested in seeing from you, your thoughts and opinions, your ideas. While the beautiful people at the SF Bay View have been doing everything they can to get the word out about what is happening here in Nevada, and specifically my situation, there have been a couple of people doing what they can to help behind the scenes. Mr. MacKay, who works with an organization based in Michigan called Humanity for Prisoners, and Mrs. Annabelle Parker of The Netherlands. Both truly beautiful people, but who have organizations and projects of their own.
So while I look forward to continuing to work with them in a limited capacity, I still need YOUR help to expose the web of corruption here in the Nevada prison system. We need a watchdog group to hold these wardens accountable.
Due to my medical situation and the constant interference from these prisoncrats, I have been unable to talk about the fact that the warden here at Ely State Prison, E.K. McDaniel, is the ringleader in a circus of criminal claims. He arrived here from Oklahoma in 1994, I believe it was.
Back in Oklahoma, McDaniel held the title of deputy warden of security of Oklahoma State Prison and he ran the same program he implemented here, except those inmates were not having it. Several men died and guards were taken hostage in the ensuing conflict, one of the most deadly prison riots in U.S. history. E.K. McDaniel was exposed as a sadist and a criminal and he was run out of town.
After making his escape to Nevada, he found some fellow good ol’ boys willing to give him a shot and, cutting costs at any cost, he made himself an invaluable asset to the higher ups. This time, E.K. was more Machiavellian in his tactics. Within the first six months he fired everyone in the administration he thought would not be with his program. He put in place Dwight Neven as his associate warden of operations and Bill Donat as his associate warden of programs.
Once E.K. McDaniel got all of his pieces in place, he flooded the general population with known rats, child molesters and psych patients, ensuring that there would be numerous inmate on inmate conflicts. Wars broke out between the different groups, and then the races. E.K. McDaniel loved it. He used this to lock the prison down, at the same time slashing all the programs that were not federally mandated.
And if his intentions were not clear in the beginning, they became clear when he shut down half of the entire general population units and made them disciplinary segregation units. He shut down the entire school building, the gym, and took away everything or anything that would give us something constructive to do.
He has cut the food budget so many times that we are down now to basically breakfast and dinner, much of which is inedible. So you are lucky to get one good meal a day. He has raised the canteen prices more times than I can count. And where the money is that is supposed to be put aside for prison programs like Christmas celebrations or educational movies and the like is a mystery.
Just last night I pushed the call button in my cell to ask the pigs if they could call the nurse. After 20 to 30 minutes with no answer I looked out the window of my cell door, and I could see into the security bubble. The pigs were in there watching a movie on the computer system I told you about.
A little recent history of Nevada prisons
I believe former Director of Prisons Jackie Crawford was a real reformer, not like these pretenders claiming to be advocates who really only have their self-interest in mind. I had one lady tell me that she is a prisoners’ rights advocate, but she would only do what was beneficial to her or her husband who was in the pen; otherwise she would not help. That shit fucked me up, blew my wig back. First the prisoncrats told Jackie Crawford, OK, you want to change things? Take the head warden job at Lovelock prison and let’s see what changes you can make.
She took it, and while I would not agree with everything she did, like creating a level system that discriminates against convicts who refuse to snitch, the woman did some really good things. But the prisoncrats were cunning in their deception. Just when Jackie Crawford was beginning to receive a lot of praise for what she was doing at Lovelock, the governor gave her the job of director of prisons, and I am sure she thought then she would be able to really change things.
But she was like a lame bunny in a sea of snakes. Every little thing that went wrong at any of the prisons was blamed on her. She was put under incredible pressures and had no real support. After a couple of years it all took its toll. She became physically ill, took a severance package and disappeared.
That is when this clown Howard Scumbag, I mean Skolnik, took over, a good ol’ boy himself, and an admirer of E.K. McDaniel. The scene was set for an all out invasion. And the Octopus (E.K. McDaniel) spread its tentacles throughout the entire system. Having trained Neven and Donat for 10 years on how to pimp the system, commit murder, and suppress any subversive elements that may rise up, it was now time for them to get a prison of their very own, where they could carry out their master’s lessons.
And so, when you see me go from here to High Desert State Prison, where Dwight Neven is now the head warden, and then to Nevada State Prison, where Bill Donat is now the head warden (Editor’s note: Donat “retired” unexpectedly on Jan. 31, 2009), and you saw the harassment, torture and medical negligence continuing from place to place, and then my ending up right back here, this was no coincidence. I know each of these master pigs personally.
They have sent their underlings, correctional officers and inmates alike, to kill me. Or at the very least get me to shut up. They have beat me while I was handcuffed and shackled, taking a fistful of my hair and slamming my face into the concrete floor until my entire face was bloody and bruised.
They have broken bones in my spine, my nose, and on one occasion several of them finally got me down and held me while one took a running start and kicked me in the face with steel toed boots, ruining my once handsome smile. It was okay; I never used it much anyway. They have put me in cells with known enemies, and set me up to be shanked by skinheads. But every time they were either ineffective, or I sent them running back embarrassed.
Their latest attempt was to charge me with the prison murder of a known rat/child molester, in prison for raping and stabbing to death a young girl. Knowing I had nothing to do with it, they had to pay another known rat/rapist to lie against me. Facing the death penalty, I defended myself, and won. This was in September of 2007. They were exposed and embarrassed. And that is when all this other bullshit started.
Now I am not telling you all of this to brag or boast. And I am not telling you anything we here do not already know. It is all on record. My reason for telling you this is so that you can see the hell that men and women in this position must go through in hopes of holding on to their humanity and protecting that of the younger generations.
Imagine the good hard-working people, mothers and fathers, being forced into committing petty crimes right now to keep food on the table or to pay their mortgage because of this recession. These are not bad people. They are just trying to make it in a society and social structure (capitalist extremism) that cares more about corporate interests than people interests. And a lot of these hard-working good mothers and fathers, youngsters too, are getting locked up. Coming to prisons just like this one.
Now, due to the recession, it may be easier for you “squares” out there to relate because it is hitting you too. And maybe you thought about putting that can of sardines in your pocket when no one was looking, or walking out without paying. So maybe now you can see yourself in that position, just trying to make it.
But where I was born and raised, and in every impoverished community in Amerika and on the planet, there has never been a time when there wasn’t a “recession.” A lot of these people in prisons are good people, just like you. And with just a little support, to help us help ourselves, a lot of us can make it out of prison without becoming hardened criminals full of anger and hate. We can make it out and lead productive lives building up communities, raising our children, and making the future a better place for everyone.
This is what I have dedicated my life to, and this is why I need your help. I do not want your money. Neither I nor anyone associated with me will ever ask a dime of you. I only ask that you volunteer your time. I need at least one person who is good at researching and finding things on the internet. I also need someone who is either an attorney or friends with one, not to take my case – I will fight these pigs myself – but to assist in some very minor ways that will be of great help. Even if you feel you have little time and no skills to offer but moral support, that’s okay. Please write in. I want to see from you.
If I am unable to respond immediately, as I have a lot of studying and work to do, another member of the August Initiative will contact you and keep you updated. The August Initiative is a prisoners’ rights and advocacy group that I created in 2005. It is dedicated to judicial and prison reform and community service. Right now it is just myself and a few other convicts. But we are committed.