Prison Radio
Dontie Mitchell

“The quality of moral character.”

Today, September 4th, 2019, I was singled out of line on the way to morning chow by Sergeant Reynolds who is the grievance sergeant who screens prisoner complaints submitted to the inmates grievance office. He pulls me into an office known as the Sergeant Bunker. He starts yelling at and berating me about a letter I wrote to Captain Fisher expressing my concerns about the facility administration’s impending change to the evening rec phone procedure.

Sergeant Reynolds yelled, quote, “Who the fuck do you think you are writing to a captain with suggestions about the phones? We do what the fuck we want here. You think so highly of yourself, you feel you can write a captain. Who the fuck do you think you are? You’re a fucking inmate. Next time you write a captain or anybody else, I will do more to you than just having all your shit piled on top of your fucking bed. Now get the fuck out of here,” end quote. When I returned to myself after my morning program, my property was ransacked and left in disarray. What wasn’t broke or missing with scattered on the floor and piled on top of my bed. All for what?

In my third federal lawsuit argued that there existed a culture of retaliation and intimidation perpetuated against prisoners who write complaints about staff misconduct or prison policies. This culture of retaliation and intimidation derives from a policy and custom aimed as systematically suppressing prisoners’ First Amendment right to petition for redress of their grievances. Why should this matter to the public? Because when you deprive prisoners of a legitimate means to air their grievances, it leads to escalating staff misconduct and increasingly bad prison conditions. This, in turn, leads to prison riots and violence.

During the Enlightenment period, one writer, I believe was Baron de Montesquieu, said to the effect that the harshness of a society’s laws and how it punishes its crime reflects the quality of its moral character. How moral are we as a society where we lack forgiveness and won’t allow other American citizens the dignity to petition for redress of their grievances and fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution.

Sergeant Reynolds’ actions reflect the lack of respect he has for the laws he has sworn to uphold. He threatened my wellbeing and had my property abused simply because I wrote a captain to suggest ways to come- they can come up with an equitable phone procedure. As it stands now, prisoners here fight over phones because the facility administration is slow to install enough phones to accommodate the entire prison population. I simply offered my suggestions on how conflict can be avoided, and I get attacked. Sad.

This is Dontie Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY. Follow me on Facebook at @freeDontieMitchell. Thank you for listening, and God bless.

(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.