On September 5, political prisoner Herman Bell was beaten by guards at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. The following letter, by attorney Robert Boyle to Commissioner Anthony Annucci (New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision), sheds additional light on the circumstances behind this vicious attack, and explains what needs to be done.
Supporters of Herman are encouraged to take this time to send him a card or letter, to let him know that we care about him and wish him a speedy recovery, and also to let the prisoncrats know we are watching. Herman can be written to at:
Herman Bell #79C0262
Five Points Cor. Fac.
P.O. Box 119
Romulus, N.Y. 14541
Here is the letter from Robert Boyle:
Dear Commissioner Annucci:
I am the attorney for Herman Bell, age 69, an inmate now at Five Points Correctional Facility. I am working with Prisoners Legal Services on this particular matter.
As I believe you are aware, on or about September 5, 2017, there was a fight between inmates in the Great Meadow Correctional Facility yard. All parties acknowledge that Mr. Bell was not involved as he was on the telephone with his wife. Officers responded and ordered the yard closed. Mr. Bell ended the telephone call and, as directed, lined up to return to the housing units. As other inmates entered through one door, a guard, identified as C.O. J. Saunders approached Mr. Bell, removed him from the line and escorted him to another door that leads to a corridor between two messhalls. Mr. Bell was the only inmate escorted in this manner.. Once inside, now out of the view of other inmates and any cameras, another officer joined the escort. After proceeding some distance, the first officer smacked Mr. Bell. He then pushed Mr. Bell against a wall, causing him to fall to the ground. This officer then beat Mr. Bell about his head and body. Within minutes other officers arrived and joined in the beating. Among other acts, officers raised Mr. Bell’s head and slammed it against the concrete floor on at least three occasions. There were numerous blows to Mr. Bell’s face. At one point, an officer or officers raised Mr. Bell off the floor partially and kneed him in the chest and stomach. Mace was sprayed in Mr. Bell’s face, including his eyes, nose and mouth. Finally, Mr. Bell was raised off the floor and taken to the prison infirmary.
A x-ray confirmed broken ribs. In addition to overall pain and bruising, Mr. Bell’s left eye is injured resulting in a loss of vision. He is suffering from headaches. Instead of taking him to an outside hospital, your staff moved him to Five Points Correctional Facility where he was served with a disciplinary ticket and placed in SHU. On Friday September 8, I telephoned Prison Health Services. I informed them that Mr. Bell had not received blood pressure medication and prescribed eye drops. I was assured they would be provided. I learned today that the medication was not provided until Sunday September 10. This is irresponsible and dangerous. Although Mr. Bell likely suffered a concussion, there has been no CT scan of his head to rule out a subdural hematoma or other head injury. Neurologists have informed me that this is standard procedure for even much less serious head trauma. There is also the risk of stroke, especially in someone of Mr. Bell’s age. Mr. Bell has not seen an ophthalmologist to evaluate his eyes. These failures when considered individually or collectively, constitute deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1977).
As you know, Mr. Bell is just shy of 70 years old. He has not had a disciplinary infraction in over 20 years. The day following the beating, Mr. Bell had been scheduled to commence a family reunion visit, his first in 2 ½ years. Moreover, witnesses confirm that CO Saunders led Mr. Bell alone, into an area where he was under the view of staff and not inmates. C.O. Saunders maintains in the disciplinary ticket that Mr. Bell refused to end the telephone call with this wife. Yet the tape of that call, obtained by the IG’s office, shows that Mr. Bell terminated it immediately. At the same time, it appears that guards at Great Meadow targeted Mr. Bell. Visitors to Mr. Bell – including myself – have heard staff processing visitors and in the visiting room refer to Mr. Bell as a “cop killer” or “terrorist”. This unprofessional – and juvenile – behavior by your employees has no place in the prison system. Great Meadow itself is notorious for bearings by guards, many racially motivated. In the two weeks prior to the beating, Mr. Bell’s cell was searched. No contraband was found but personal property damaged and trashed.
The instant incident was not only a racist attack. It was elder abuse. Moreover, there is certainly probable cause to believe these guards committed assault in the first degree, P.L. §120.04 and/or gang assault in the first degree, P.L § 120.07. The law applies to everyone. When prison guards commit violent crimes, they should be prosecuted like anyone else.
I am aware that those who have contacted DOCCS have been told that the “investigation” must run its course. That may be true. However, while that “investigation” runs its course, it is Mr. Bell who is in the SHU, suffering from headaches and other pain and denied adequate medical treatment.
Consistent with your legal obligation to insure the safety and well-being of inmates within the Department, the following should take place:
1. Mr. Bell should immediately be removed to an outside hospital and seen by a neurologist and ophthalmologist;
2. The disciplinary infraction should be quashed and, upon Mr. Bell’s release from a hospital, he should be placed in general population not at Great Meadow Correctional Facility;
3. C.O. Saunders and the guards responsible for this attack should be immediately suspended from duty, without pay;
4. This matter should be referred to the appropriate agency for criminal prosecution of the guards involved.
I am available to discuss this matter at your earliest convenience.
Very truly yours,
ROBERT J. BOYLE