Thursday, March 02, 2006

Abusing Connecticut Prisoners for Fun


My story of being hidden from Federal Prison Inspectors to hide abuse of prisoners in Connecticut

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State Inmate Testifies In Civil Rights Lawsuit
March 2, 2006 By DIANE STRUZZI, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

BRIDGEPORT -- Inmate Duane Ziemba remembers many excruciating moments during the 22 hours he spent in four-point restraints at Northern Correctional Institution, the state's super-maximum-security prison in Somers.

In a slow, metered tone, the 38-year-old convict testified in U.S. District Court Wednesday how, in August 1998, correction officers twisted his wrists, placed him face down on a metal bed frame and attached his arms and legs to restraints, then hit him in the face. He was left in that position, he said, for so long he urinated on himself.

"It's hard for me to calmly and coolly and collectively explain how I was feeling," Ziemba testified, only a portion of his 260-pound frame visible above the witness stand.

"It was unbelievable. I didn't think it would end because it just went on and on and on. ... I really did think they were going to kill me or I was going to die and I didn't know when it was going to end."

Ziemba is the plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought against past and current correction officials. The case has placed the use of restraints within the state's toughest prison under the legal spotlight, and offered jurors a glimpse into a concrete-and-steel world not often seen by the public. The trial comes at a time when so-called supermax prisons have been under increasing fire for their harsh conditions, which, critics claim, merely isolate inmates rather than attempt to rehabilitate them.

The lawsuit originally was brought against several other defendants, but a ruling from the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals removed former Correction Commissioner John Armstrong and former Northern warden Giovanni Gomez.

Ziemba alleges that in August 1998, while he was in four-point restraints, three staff members - Capt. Sebastian Mangiafico, medic Reginald McAllister and registered nurse Margaret Clark - denied him medical and mental health care in violation of his civil rights. He claims he was "deliberately denied psychotropic medications that had been ordered by his treating psychiatrist."

Before his transfer to Northern, Ziemba testified, he had been serving a prison sentence for a larceny conviction at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown and had been diagnosed with severe depression. After smashing a window in his cell at Garner - out of anger, Ziemba said, that water in the cell had been shut off for days, causing the toilet to back up with human waste - he was brought to the mental health unit, placed in four-point restraints and given a drug to calm him, he testified.

"Once I was moved to the acute mental health unit at Garner I was treated fairly and decently," Ziemba said.

"A nurse sat there and talked to me. They let me up after three hours. I ate. I was calm. There were no problems."

Ziemba testified that he remained a target for correction officers. The next day, he said, they served him with a stack of disciplinary reports for smashing up his cell and then made threatening comments as they listed addresses of his family members.

He said he lost control and ripped the ceiling down from his cell, which got him transferred to Northern, the facility where inmates with chronic disciplinary problems or violent behavior are often placed.

When he wasn't fed breakfast or lunch at Northern, he said, Mangiafico told him he wasn't going to eat because state police had to be called in on the incident at Garner. In the hopes of getting attention and help, Ziemba said, he broke the sprinkler in his cell, which brought a team of correction officers.

As Ziemba recounted the event, his lawyer, Antonio Ponvert III, played a videotape of the incident. For more than 10 minutes the video followed Ziemba as officers deployed pepper spray in his cell, took him out, brought him to a shower to decontaminate him and then brought him to another cell under heavy guard, his arms behind his back. Throughout, Ziemba's voice can be heard screaming that he is not resisting, that the officers are hurting him.

Once in his new cell, the officers placed Ziemba face down on a metal bed frame, their knees firmly in his back, as they attached the restraints. He screamed, "I'm not resisting. Stop hurting me. Please don't do that."

When he was placed in four-point restraints on the bed, Ziemba testified, he was hit in the face and a finger was pushed into a pressure point behind his ear, which caused extreme pain.

According to court documents, Ziemba alleges that Mangiafico punched him in the face.

The videotape was made by correction officers, which is common practice when they forcibly remove an inmate from a cell.

Lawyers for Mangiafico, McAllister and Clark tried to poke holes in Ziemba's statements and, under cross-examination, Ziemba confirmed that he had previously served time at Northern before the August 1998 incident.Mangiafico and McAllister still work in the prison system.

Mangiafico is a captain at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield and McAllister is a correction officer at Robinson Correctional Institution in Enfield. Clark, who was a nurse at Northern, said she now works at a medical hospital and lives outside Connecticut.

The defendants are expected to begin putting on evidence today when the trial resumes before District Judge Janet C. Hall.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Beizer, representing McAllister and Clark, and Cheryl Johnson, the lawyer for Mangiafico, declined to comment outside the proceedings.

Ziemba is currently an inmate at Garner, according to a correction department database.

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Blogger Cool Hand Luke said...

Good I hope this scumbag Ziemba will have to pay for his incarceration and all the damage he has done since being locked up. Broken toilets that he smashed, fire sprinkler heads, ceilings. Nevermind the medical and housing expenses.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gone_Bzrk said...

Enjoy the rest of your stay Ziemba...Since you'll be paying for it!!

You think you can tear things apart and act up like a little baby now? Wait until you're given the bill for everything from the doughnut and oatmeal you had for breakfast, to the toilet you decided to rip from the wall.

And when the victim(s)of the crime(s) find out you actually have a little money put away after your Hotel stay in the Connecticut system (and don't forget the lawyer bill you have to pay...ouch), you'll be sued for whatever your worthless, waste of skin @ss is actually worth.

We giveth...and taketh away


Sunday, March 26, 2006 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor Guy...Well too bad you! Guess you should get a job & earn your money like a normal person does. Stop trying to sue, like you did when Ross wanted to die. G'me a break.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 5:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what we have here is a liberal judicial system and media. the story is way out of wack , portraying the felon as the victim. this is a common attack on northern; which houses the most dangerous of human animals. the inmates cause and most times self inflict these injuries, then use their willing allies in the press and judicial system to once again hurt society. if you are fooled by these devious criminals i pray for you

Monday, March 27, 2006 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole case is a farce. This idiot goes to the worst facility in the state because he is an animal. He then claims to be mentally unstable... until it is time to testify. He claims this Capt. hurt him by protecting him from hurting himself and others. He is a waste of a shell of a man. Did the jury know that Northern is for inmates we don't want in our neighborhood? If I worked there I would work with self preservation in mind first. This poor Captain was only doing his job and they could not even back him up. What if this man hurt one of the corrections staff while he was in one of his tirades?
Where do we draw the line on this type of scum destroying property and hurting others?
By the way, didn't he admit to wrongdoing on this very day. When I want my doctor I have to wait for him. Why does he get immediate gratification? This whole sysem sucks!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 6:08:00 PM  

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