Breaking Prison News Reports HRC
News from the Inside
Pennsylvania state police allege no foul play in death of John Carter as prisoners demand justice:On Thursday May 10, the Pennsylvania State Police released a statement regarding the investigation of the death of prisoner John Carter at SCI Rockview. According to the statement, Carter was found “unresponsive in his cell”, but goes on to describe that he had “barricaded himself in his cell and refused numerous orders” which precipitated “the DOCs response to the inmate’s cell”. The response that the statement refers to but does not mention was a cell extraction that officials at SCI Rockview confirmed took place the day that John Carter died. The Pennsylvania State Police, who are in charge of the investigation of any prisoner death not determined to be from natural causes, also failed to mention the use of pepper spray or electroshock weapons in their May 10 statement. It is the practice of the PA DOC for guards in full riot gear to wield both weapons during the cell extraction of a prisoner. Numerous prisoners have also reported to the Human Rights Coalition that the day John Carter died, guards used three canisters of pepper spray and a stun shield during the cell extraction. Despite these reports, the PA State Police alleged that “Evidence including video evidence of the incident, does not indicate any foul play at this time.”
Reports received by HRC from SCI Rockview in the last three weeks portray prison officials as callous and abusive, and indicate that a decision was made almost immediately after the lethal cell extraction to allege that the death of John Carter was a suicide instead of a homicide. One prisoner reported that Carter was “murdered . . . here in this RHU torture zone, where guards come the tier calling people racial slurs.” The report also states that when Carter was cell extracted on April 19—one week before the extraction of April 26—guards were heard yelling “f*** him up” several times as the extraction team rushed into his cell.
This eagerness to engage in brutality was also evidenced in the April 26 extraction when Carter agreed to be handcuffed and peaceably led out of his cell, and was instead told by Lieutenant Sutton: “You should’ve come out of the cell when we told you the first time.” Guards continued to pump pepper spray into Carter’s cell after Sutton’s statement. Lieutenant Sutton has also reportedly stated that Carter “deserved everything he got.”
Other information received by HRC stated that SCI Rockview’s Superintendent Marirosa Lamas appeared in the RHU soon after Carter died and alleged that he had committed suicide. Superintendent Lamas appeared at a Muslim prayer service in the prison the day after the cell extraction and repeated the allegation that Carter’s death was a suicide.
In the weeks since the death of John Carter, the Human Rights Coalition and Carter’s family have both received numerous letters attesting to John’s good character and strong spirit. John had been held in solitary confinement in several different prisons for the last ten-to-eleven years, but continued to help others. A prisoner at SCI Rockview wrote of Carter: “He was a person of integrity. He did not believe in abuse of others, especially the abuse of prisoners from prison guards. If he could help someone in understanding the law, he was there. And he had a lot of patience with others, especially the mentally impaired.” Another prisoner from SCI Camp Hill stated: “Its no question in my mind. He died fighting against oppression. His name and memory will not be forgotten.” Carter’s death has been a shock to many prisoners, and they want justice for him; “Why isn’t there a big investigation, an outrage about John Carter’s death like there is about Trayvon Martion? John Carter was black, he was someone’s son and he died senselessly. Let not his death go in vain,” said an SCI Frackville prisoner. Many of the letters received simply shared memories of Carter, who was sentenced to life in prison at the age of sixteen and spent half of his life there, but continued to be a strong and loving person. Another prisoner said there were three words for John; “Loyalty, intelligence, fearless.” A man incarcerated at SCI Huntingdon wrote to his departed comrade: “You’ve made that transition to the other side, wherever that may be. But what I say shall come to pass, for it is written J-Rock, that children of the night shall forever find each other in the dark.” He will be missed.
One of those writing from inside SCI Rockview ended his report with the following expression of outrage and call for solidarity: “We’re in here dying, getting murdered, beat, starved to death, abused, threatened, and our rights as human beings are being violated. When will it stop? Who’s going to help us receive justice?”