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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Demands IG Investigation of Appalling Prisoner Conditions Reported at BOP Hazelton Facility After Two D.C. Inmates Killed This Year

Oct 18, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released Norton’s letter to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horwitz requesting he open a formal investigation into the alleged appalling conditions inmates are facing at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) Hazelton facility in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.  Two inmates from the District of Columbia have died at Hazelton during violent altercations during this past year alone amid reports of brutal treatment of others.  Hazelton houses inmates who have committed federal crimes, but D.C. Code felons are the only local felons housed by BOP.

In her letter, Norton wrote, “Serious allegations have been raised concerning brutal treatment of inmates housed in the Special Housing Unit.  I urgently ask that you open an immediate investigation into the operations at Hazelton… Based on the evidence presented to my office, I believe that the federal employees serving in this facility have likely received inadequate training, are under-supported, and are being compelled to perform duties outside the scope of their positions and their training, which is leading to these horrific and entirely unacceptable outcomes.”

Norton’s full letter is below.

Michael E. Horowitz
Inspector General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Suite 4706
Washington, DC 20534

Dear Inspector General Horowitz:

I write regarding the appalling conditions inmates are facing at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) Hazelton facility in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, and ask that you investigate and report your findings.  Two inmates from the District of Columbia have died at Hazelton during violent altercations during this past year alone, and serious allegations have been raised concerning brutal treatment of inmates housed in the Special Housing Unit.  I urgently ask that you open an immediate investigation into the operations at Hazelton.

We recently learned from the family of my constituent that he had been, in their words, “beaten badly by… prison guards to the point they fractured his ribs.”  His family also reports that he told them that three weeks prior to this incident, guards went to his cell three times, taunted him and eventually handcuffed and beat him.  They further claim that “[d]uring the incident he blacked out and woke up chained, [hand]cuffed and left in a dry cell with a half mattress for 17 HOURS with NO medical assistance.”  His family says a padlock was used to tighten a chain around his waist, causing the lock to dig into his pelvic area for 17 hours.  His family further claims that his food arrives with pubic hairs, his property has been stolen and he is taunted to elicit a reaction, allowing BOP guards to beat him with alleged justification.

Another of my constituents at Hazelton claims he was attacked by guards and left in solitary confinement for several days, where he was unable to receive medical attention.  He has indicated that the chain wrapped around his stomach made it difficult for him to breathe.  I understand that this matter was referred to the Office of Internal Affairs, but, given its serious nature, I believe it merits an investigation by your office as well.

Even worse, two District residents have been killed at Hazelton in violent altercations just this year alone.  On April 2, 2018, Ian Thorne was killed in an altercation with another inmate in which homemade weapons were used, and on September 17, 2018, Demario Porter was killed in another violent altercation with a fellow inmate.

I am concerned that these examples may be indicative of larger, ongoing problems at the facility.  For example, I was informed by the D.C. Corrections Information Council that in a recent survey of 58 inmates at the facility, only 29% said they felt safe at Hazelton.  These inmates also indicated there were staff who had been performing duties outside the scope of their work, which may account for some of these issues.  Based on the evidence presented to my office, I believe that the federal employees serving in this facility have likely received inadequate training, are under-supported, and are being compelled to perform duties outside the scope of their positions and their training, which is leading to these horrific and entirely unacceptable outcomes.

I ask that you open a formal investigation into these incidents and conditions at Hazelton.  I appreciate your attention to these serious issues.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton

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