CeCe’s back in St. Cloud: Show her some love!

Our sweet CeCe got transferred to Stillwater and back again. Please send her much love by sending her a letter, book or the good vibes!

Dear CeCe Supporter,

As was previously announced, CeCe was transferred  to MCF-Stillwater, at her own request, at the beginning of March.  She was enrolled in the Atlantis treatment program there, which operates in a separate unit from the general population.  She was glad to be at Stillwater for a number of reasons, but was quickly frustrated with the program because of issues ranging from blatant transphobia in the program to the snitching culture that is fostered within it.  We are unclear on the specifics, but she was kicked out and placed in segregation within a few weeks of being there, and received an additional 30 days onto her sentence as a disciplinary measure.  After repeated pleas from her and her advocates to remain at Stillwater and be placed in the general population there, she was instead transferred back to St. Cloud recently.  She remains in segregation.

We are still unsure where she will be placed for the remainder of her sentence, but in the meantime we are calling on folks far and wide to write to her immediately!  Send her your love and let her know she is not alone, that we are all watching out for her, and that we got her back!

Chrishaun McDonald
Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud
2305 Minnesota Boulevard S.E.
St. Cloud, MN  56304

Keep an eye on this website, or sign up for our mailing list, for the latest information.

With many thanks and lots of love,

CeCe McDonald Support Committee



Join us May 4th in Harrisburg to take a stand against the Silencing Act, a law designed to silence incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. We will meet on the Capitol Steps to share for 24 hours the words and ideas of people in prison and others who are potentially impacted by this law. Need a ride from Philly? Register at

For more info on the ‪#‎SilencingAct‬, check out
Facebook Overhauls Its Inmate Account Takedown Process | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Our Constitution grants everyone– even convicted criminals– the right to speak to the public, and I don’t remember any social-media exemption in that august document. Shame on Facebook for ever having complied when it wasn’t forced to, and shame on the states (Alabama and Louisiana) that are forcing it to now.

Settlement of class action about male guards filming strip searches of female prisoners at the Chicopee Jail

We are pleased to report that last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor granted preliminary approval of the settlement in our class action lawsuit about the policy at the women’s jail in Chicopee permitting male guards to videotape female prisoners being strip searched. The settlement requires the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center (“WCC”) to change its policy to prohibit male officers from filming strip searches except in an emergency. Defendants, Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, and Patricia Murphy, head of the WCC, will pay $675,000 to settle the case. Any woman held at the WCC and videotaped by a male officer during a strip search since September 15, 2008, is a member of the class. The parties have identified 176 class members. Each class member who submits a claim form is expected to receive $1,000 or more.  

We were contacted by the lead Plaintiff, Debra Baggett, more than five years ago. Debra, who at the time was still a prisoner at the WCC, wrote that male guards routinely videotaped strip searches when women were taken to segregation (whether for disciplinary or mental health reasons). The firm receives many letters from prisoners describing many disturbing prison practices, but this one stood out. Suspending disbelief, we sent a public records request to Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe. We were shocked to learn that the WCC had a written policy permitting male guards to videotape strip searches of women prisoners in non-emergency situations. We had never heard of a policy permitting cross-gender videotaping. Nor had any of the prison experts we spoke to.

We wrote a letter to the Sheriff stating that the policy was unconstitutional and requesting that he change it. Because the policy so clearly violated the women’s privacy and dignity, and was so contrary to national correctional standards, we thought we would be able to resolve the case without a lawsuit. We did not ask for any money; Ms. Baggett and the other women we spoke to just wanted the policy changed. But the Sheriff refused to change the policy in a meaningful way, so we filed a lawsuit in September 2011.

The lawsuit has been hard-fought, requiring some 2,000 hours of the firm’s time. Defendants’ lawyers fought the case at every turn. By October 2014, Defendants Ashe and Murphy had paid $476,000 in attorney’s fees to the private law firm defending the case. (If it is ultimately approved, the settlement agreement provides for $475,000 in attorney’s fees to be paid to our office.) In August 2014, Judge Ponsor ruled that Defendants’ policy violated the Constitution. The Court found that “the degradingly vulnerable position the inmate is forcibly placed in” violated her privacy and “basic dignity.” The Court found that the policy served no legitimate purpose.

Defendants appealed the judge’s ruling. Finally, during a mediation in the federal appeals court last November, Defendants agreed to change the policy to prohibit males from videotaping female prisoners in non-emergency situations. The Settlement Agreement requires a formal change to the written policy and should effectively eliminate the practice. The Settlement Agreement requires payments to class members who file claims in the coming months. The minimum will be $850, though we expect this amount to be more than $1,000; the amount depends on how many class members file claims. The payments to class members, many of whom have histories of sexual abuse or suffer from mental illness, represent an acknowledgement of the harm inflicted by the finally eliminated policy. For information about the claims process, as well as a copy of the settlement agreement and the judge’s opinion ruling the policy unconstitutional, visit the class website at

For news coverage of the settlement, click here. For a blog post containing an unedited statement from our fantastic client, the brave and tenacious Debra Baggett, click here.

By David Milton              


Trans friends! 

I have been watching Orange is the New Black and the transgender character is being denied her hormones (because prison officials are claiming liver damage?) Is that really a thing? Also, what is the status of this is actuality? I was thinking the prison has to maintain the current level of hormones etc…the prisoner is on when they are admitted to the prison? However, I’ve done some research and I’ve noticed there are instances where inmates requests have been ignored or denied. Does anyone know where there is some good comprehensive info on this issue? Thanks!
Voices from Solitary: Walk With Me —— Life on the Inside of the SMU at USP Lewisburg - Solitary Watch

The following account comes fromLive from Lockdown, a website focused on “using technology to provide voice and access to gang leaders and other influential inmates who are known personally by the community. Rather than glamorize street gangs, the mission of LIVE is to utilize gang leadership as credible messengers to provide an unvarnished view of prison and the harsh reality facing gang members who are behind bars. A message delivered by those best equipped to deliver it to our youth in a way that will ensure the message is received, believed and heeded.”

Many of Live from Lockdown’s authors are doing time in the Special Management Unit, or SMU, at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, which holds dozens of gang members convicted under federal racketeering charges. Lewisburg’s SMU holds men in 23- to 24-hour lockdown. Most are double-celled, and a few are triple-celled, in cells originally designed for one person–a practice increasingly common in the federal Bureau of Prisons, as it claims reductions in its use of “solitary” confinement. This piecewas written last year by Quaheem Edwards, who is 6 years into a 20-year sentence.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

The white paint on the walls that surround me is chipped and stained from years of blood, sweat and tears. The doorways are so small you have to enter sideways and even a person standing at 5 feet 9 inches has to kneel. You may hear the saying “Prison is prison.” This is far from being true.

This place where I lay my head every night may be the size of a walk in closet and that is without the normal furnishings. But even with the usual stainless steel sink and toilet, bunkbeds and table, these cells are only enough room for one person. If you have a roommate (and most likely you will) the two of you can’t even be on the floor at the same time. In this place there are holes in the walls where spiders and other insects hide until they think we’re asleep.

It’s hot as hell outside. I know America can relate to this summer’s heat wave. Now picture being trapped in a room where the window barely opens; not to mention the 12-foot pipe that sits in the corner of the cells. All year long this pipe is beaming! I’m talking about a pipe that is so hot, we can boil water in at least twenty minutes! In the hallways on the tiers there are two fans. What good are they on the other side of the door? Our only hope for not passing out is covering these pipes with our sheets and blankets then sleeping by the door. But remember, it’s two of us in a cell……

Welcome to USP Lewisburg a.k.a. “The Big House”, recently labeled the (S.M.U.) Special Management Unit in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. This is a super-max prison where you are locked down 23-hours a day with the chance of one our rec, but even that is not guaranteed. This is an 18-24 month program originally designed for inmates who were/are unable to conduct themselves respectfully in population. The SMU Program is ran from three institutions. The others are in Louisana and Alabama, but Lewisburg is by far the worst of the worst.

This is a place where speaking your mind can get you handcuffed and shackled with a belly chain. You can be in this position for anywhere from 72-hours to weeks, maybe even months. You are stripped down to your boxers and in a cell barefoot. A cell that may not have been cleaned in months! Imagine having to use the toilet shackled down…..It is impossible to wipe yourself properly. Depending on what side of the prison you’re housed in, you may not even get a shower.

Now you’re probably wondering what are we doing to get this treatment. Don’t get me wrong, there are some of us who raise hell but also, as I mentioned earlier, as little as speaking your mind will get you tied down. And the cuffs and shackles are tight to the point where your skin peels and bleeds. Where I live is far beyond inhumane. the treatment is brutal and has pushed many over the edge to commit suicide.

Imagine being locked in a cage with another inmate holding a shank (knife). God forbid if you’re getting stabbed, the person has at least a 30-second head start before the C.O.s show up. Even then they don’t go into the cages until both inmates are cuffed. You could be struggling to find your last breath and may be asked to “Cuff Up”.

Welcome to the Big House!

This isn’t a place for any human being. If you have been walking with me through this story, please take heed. This is as real as it gets. Brothers are dying behind these walls and the days continue like nothing ever happened.

To the children of today’s society, don’t become a victim to these surroundings because everything is a cover up. What you see on the Discovery Channel and MSNBC is only what they’re allowed to broadcast. Those programs are edited to scare kids and protect the prisons. This here on LIVEFROMLOCKDOWN.COM is as real as it gets.

To our youth, please take heed to situations and circumstances such as mine and stay positive. They have a cell open for the tough guys too.

Voices from Solitary | February 2, 2014 at 7:18 am | URL: Comment   See all comments

On May 4th, Decarcerate PA and our allies will travel to Harrisburg for a 24-hour protest against the Revictimization Relief Act, a law designed to silence incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Join us on the Capitol steps as we share–for 24 straight hours–the words and ideas of people in prison and others who are potentially impacted by this law.

REGISTER: Are you planning on joining us? Do you need help getting to Harrisburg or have a ride to offer someone else? Please take a minute to register here so we have a sense of who is coming and what everyone’s needs are. Fill out the registration form:

SUBMIT: Do you or someone you know want to contribute something to be read at the protest? Check out the Call for Submissions here:

LEARN MORE: The Revictimization Relief Act, also called the “Silencing Act”, was introduced by Representative Mike Vereb and rushed through the legislature during Governor Corbett’s final days in office. The bill was introduced in response to political prisoner, writer, and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech at Goddard College, and is a clear attempt to silence Mumia and other prisoners and formerly incarcerated people from advocating for their human rights or participating in movements for social change. The Silencing Act allows victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.” This law is so broadly written that seemingly any statement, no matter how unrelated, could be construed as causing “mental anguish.” And it can apply to any form of public speech: from a commencement speech to an interview on the radio to a letter to the editor.

We believe this legislation is not a genuine attempt to help victims, but a cynical move to stop people in prison from speaking out against an unjust system. The bill was pushed forward by the Fraternal Order of Police, passed by cowardly legislators more interested in what is politically expedient than what is right, and signed into law by an unpopular Governor hoping to mobilize right-wing voters on Election Day. If this law is allowed to stand, it will be a huge blow to the movement against mass incarceration. People behind the walls play a leading role in these struggles and provide analysis, perspectives, and strategies that are essential to this work. Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who speak publicly, write books, contribute to newspapers, or testify about prison conditions run the risk of being criminalized simply for sharing their ideas.  

Already two lawsuits have been filed in Federal Court to try and overturn this law on constitutional grounds. One of these lawsuits, Abu Jamal et al v. Kane et al, was filed by the Abolitionist Law Center, the Amistad Law Project (featured later in this newsletter) and others. The second lawsuit, filed by the ACLU, is Prison Legal News et al v. Kane et al. Both legal teams have filed preliminary injunctions to try and stop the law from being implemented.

But the fight against this law won’t just be waged in the courts. We also want to send a clear message to Governor Wolf and the state legislature: For years, politicians have rubber-stamped repressive legislation like this without any fear for their jobs–but those days are over. That’s why on May 4th, we will stand on the steps of the capitol and share the words of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people for twenty-four straight hours. Through this public act of civil disobedience, we will defy the Silencing Act and show that unjust legislation like this will never hold our movement back. We’ll also highlight the profound contributions that people who have been and are imprisoned have made to our culture, our literature, and our social movements. Finally, we expect to bring nationwide attention to this issue as we build momentum not just to repeal this law, but to dismantle mass incarceration altogether.

The protest will begin at 11 AM on May 4th, 2015, and continue all day and all night. We will read words from people inside Pennsylvania’s prisons and hear speeches from formerly incarcerated individuals who are also targets of this law. We’ll hear music and watch plays by and about people in prison, and we’ll read important works from history that could have been suppressed by laws that silence prisoners: What if Martin Luther King, Jr. could not have published his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”? Or if Henry David Thoreau had been sued for writing his essay on “Civil Disobedience”? Or if Angela Davis had been barred by a court order from publishing her autobiography? When the sun rises on May 5th, we’ll still be there. We’ll also make sure to visit our legislators while we’re in town and let them know how we feel about legislation like the Silencing Act.

Our protest will make clear demands on our political leaders. To the legislature, we say: Repeal this law! To our new Governor, we say: Take a stand against this law by asking Attorney General Kathleen Kane not to defend it in court! And last, but not least, to the Department of Corrections, we say: Stop all forms of silencing prisoners! Allow the media full access to DOC prisons, stop mail censorship, don’t restrict people’s visitation rights, and cease all retaliation against individuals who speak out in protest!

The Silencing Act is an especially heinous law, but it’s only one of the many ways that the punishment system tries to silence people. When prisoners are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution, when they must pay exorbitant fees to use the telephone, or when their mail is censored and tampered with, the state is working to silence people in prison. When politicians and TV pundits demonize people who have convictions, they are saying that people in prison have nothing to teach us. Through stigma, steel bars, and outrageous legislation like the Silencing Act, the punishment system tries to deny a voice to people in prison and people with convictions. Our protest will demonstrate not only that Pennsylvania’s prisoners will not be silenced, but that we all need to hear from incarcerated people.

The politicians who passed the Silencing Act are doomed to fail because they do not understand that prison walls aren’t strong enough to keep the truth locked away. The very fact that they created this law is a sign that they are frightened of what people in prison have to say. Together, inside and out, we all must raise our voices against the rotten system of mass incarceration and demand real change. From Ferguson to Philadelphia, resistance is rising against mass incarceration, institutionalized racism, and police brutality. Change is in the air, and no one’s voices are more critical to hear in this moment than those of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Our movement can’t be contained by walls or laws–and we’re going to make sure Harrisburg knows it.

Debtors' Prison or Prisoners' Debt?

“Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand misdemeanor offenders to probation overseen by private companies that charge their fees directly to the probationers. Often, the poorest people wind up paying the most in fees over time, in what amounts to a discriminatory penalty. And when they can’t pay, companies can and do secure their arrest.”

Like last time, Rikers Island is apparently not being evacuated in advance of a hurricane

In this article Bloomber says they have no plans to evacuate Rikers.

Which is how it went down for Irene. Note that in 2011 it apparently wasn’t just that there was no evacuation - there was no evacuation plan in existence for the contingency of  Rikers needing to be evacuated.

The CCR: “the fact that the Department of Corrections admitted there wasn’t even a hypothetical plan for 12,000 people who can’t exactly evacuate themselves if the situation worsens is disturbing.”

Another example of how people in power (and those who could hold them to account) not caring if prisoners live or die. 

I wonder if a plan was ever made, people were ever trained on it, or anything as changed? Somehow I’m not hopeful but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

On May 4th, Decarcerate PA and our allies will travel to Harrisburg to take a stand against the Revictimization Relief Act (AKA the ‪#‎SilencingAct‬), a law designed to silence incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Join us on the Capitol steps as we share the words and ideas of people in prison and others who are potentially impacted by this law. Help spread the word on facebook:

To read the full piece from which this quote is taken, check out David Lee’s essay “Rights of the Condemned” here:

The ‪#‎SilencingAct‬ has been overturned, but the fight is far from over. There is a world of difference between the right to speak and the ability to be heard. Pennsylvania laws and policies silence people in prison in multiple ways, and lawmakers routinely pass legislation that leads to mass incarceration and erodes prisoners’ rights. That’s why on May 4th we will occupy the capitol steps and share the words of currently and formerly incarcerated people for 24 hours straight. Learn how to get involved at

The ‪#‎SilencingAct‬ has been overturned, but the fight is far from over. There is a world of difference between the right to speak and the ability to be heard. Pennsylvania laws and policies silence people in prison in multiple ways, and lawmakers routinely pass legislation that leads to mass incarceration and erodes prisoners’ rights. That’s why on May 4th we will occupy the capitol steps and share the words of currently and formerly incarcerated people for 24 hours straight. Learn how to get involved at