Dear Supporters, Allies, and Members of the Media,
On Wednesday, May 5, the New York Times published a story about Americans who were directly involved in the disgusting human rights abuses that have taken place in the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad. Disturbingly, there is a direct link between Abu Ghraib Prison and the State Correctional Institution at Greene (SCI-Greene), a super-maximum security prison in western Pennsylvania and home to the overwhelming majority of the state’s death row prisoners. Charles A. Graner, Jr., an army reservist cited in a military report as supervising the torture of Iraqi prisoners, is a currently employed as a prison guard at SCI-Greene.
Reports of prisoner abuse have plagued SCI-Greene since it opened less than a decade ago as a “shining jewel in the crown” of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. In 1998, a DOC investigation found many instances of abuse of prisoners and took disciplinary action against a handful of SCI-Greene staff. The DOC refused to make public internal videotapes of the abuse and the Greene County District Attorney declined to begin criminal prosecution of any guards.
Pennsylvania Abolitionists and other organizations spoke out against the allegations of abuse long before the DOC acknowledged these heinous acts, and we took a clear position calling for much greater disciplinary action than the DOC was willing to take. In fact, the abuse has continued, as Pennsylvania Abolitionists has received compelling documentation of at least one savage beating of a non-death-row prisoner at SCI-Greene in 2004. The response of one DOC administrator to these serious allegations was seemingly feigned disbelief: “Abuse?! At SCI-Greene?! At Greene?!?!”
Exactly one year prior to yesterday’s NYT article, SCI-Greene guard Charles A. Graner, Jr., was called up for active duty in Iraq. According to the army report made public this week, Graner was given a supervisory positions at Abu Ghraib because he had civilian experience as a prison guard. It seems quite likely that Graner took what he had seen and experienced “working with” prisoners at SCI-Greene with him to Abu Ghraib where he instructed others involved in these major human rights abuses. The Times story details Graner’s background:
Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr., is a guard at one of Pennsylvania’s most heavily secured death row prisons, accused by his former wife of violent behavior.
An internal Army report made public this week described Specialist Graner, 35, as supervising some of the abusive behavior. He also appears in several photographs, including one in which he stands with arms folded over a pile of naked Iraqi men.
Specialist Graner, who wears a Marine Corps eagle tattoo on his right arm, served in the corps from April 1988 until May 1996, when he left with the rank of corporal, according to military records. He went to work immediately at the State Correctional Institution Greene, in southwestern Pennsylvania, where he has held an entry-level corrections officer position ever since.
Two years after he arrived at Greene, the prison was at the center of an abuse scandal. Prison officials declined to say whether Specialist Graner had been disciplined in that case, citing privacy laws.
Inmates and advocates for prisoner rights asserted in 1998 that guards at the prison routinely beat and humiliated prisoners, including through a sadistic game of Simon Says in which guards struck prisoners who failed to comply with barked instructions.
After an investigation, the warden was transferred, two lieutenants were fired and about two dozen guards were reprimanded, demoted or suspended.
Specialist Graner was involved in a bitter divorce. In court papers, his wife, Staci, accused him of beating her, threatening her with guns, stalking her after they separated in 1997 and breaking into her home. Since 1997, local judges have issued at least three orders of protection against him, records show.
One court document filed in February 1998 typified Staci Graner’s complaints. ‘Charles picked me up and threw me against the wall,’ she said. She added that he had begun sneaking into her home at night to scare her. ‘I just don’t think this is normal behavior, and he does frighten me,’ she wrote.
Whether Graner was involved in the SCI-Greene abuses or disciplined for them by our state’s DOC, one wonders if more aggressive investigation and a “zero-tolerance for abuse” policy by DOC administrators might have prevented some of the inexcusable human rights abuses that have further disgraced the U.S. and increased the likelihood of future terrorist acts. While it is unclear what will happen to the thugs who tortured the Iraqi prisoners, it is absolutely appalling that at least one of them — a supervisor of the torture, no less — is currently on [Pennsylavnia’s] payroll, receiving salary and benefits from our tax dollars!
At an absolute minimum, Pennsylvania Abolitionists believes that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections should immediately begin a serious and open investigation into allegations of abuse in our state prisons. Further, it is our opinion that the DOC should adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy on abuse, immediately terminating criminal employees who assault prisoners. We call on the guards’ union to cease defending abusive guards, as their actions jeopardize the safety and lives of decent human beings working in the prisons.
For those wishing to voice their feelings to the Pennsylvania DOC, contact information is provided below along with links to news articles about “our public servant” Charles Graner and links to articles about the 1998 abuse scandal at SCI-Greene.
Jeff Garis Executive Director
Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty
Pennsylvania DOC Contact Info:
Dr. Jeffrey A. Beard,
Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
2520 Lisburn Road
P.O. Box 598
Camp Hill, PA
tel: (717) 975-4918
Louis S. Folino,
Superintendent SCI Greene
169 Progress Drive
tel: (724) 852-2902
Pennsylvania DOC Policies for Employees in the Military Reserves: www.cor.state.pa.us/military.html
Links to Newspaper Articles about Current DOC Employee Charles A. Graner, Jr.:
- Fayette reservist implicated in scandal Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 5, 2004 http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/trib/fayette/s_192620.html
- SCI-Greene guard accused in Iraqi prisoner abuse case Observer-Reporter, May 4, 2004 http://www.observer-reporter.com/280447761063745.bsp
Links to Articles about Prisoner Abuse at SCI-Greene:
- News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International November 1997 http://home4.inet.tele.dk/lepan/lene/pennsy.htm
- “‘The Greene Experience’ – Life on SCI-Greene’s Death Row” by Roger Buehl January 22, 1998 http://www.ainfos.ca/98/jan/ainfos00284.html
- “Pa. Department of Corrections to Investigate Abuse at Greene” April 9th, 1998 http://legalminds.lp.findlaw.com/list/deathpenalty/msg01148.html
- “Brutality Scandal Explodes at SCI Greene” April 11, 1998
- “Guards Applaud Prison Official’s Swift Demotion” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 21, 1998 http://afrikan.i-dentity.com/wwwboard/messages/609.html
- “The Hole Truth” Philadelphia City Paper April 30, 1998
- “Whitewash in Greene County” by Mumia Abu-Jamal May 4, 1998
- http:// www.iacenter.org/whitwash.htm
- “State prison officers demoted, fired; Waynesburg officers reprimanded for abuse of inmates” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wednesday, May 06, 1998
- “13 More Guards Disciplined at Pennsylvania Prison as Scandal Grows” May 20, 1998
- http:// www.iacenter.org/13guards.htm
- “Dead Serious” Philadelphia City Paper May 28, 1998
- “Under Sentence of Death: Conditions on Pennsylvania’s Death Row” Amnesty International USA http://www.amnestyusa.org/abolish/reports/mumia/deathrow.html
- “Beatings at Greene County” by Dr. Julian Heicklen [provides extensive documentation of abuse at SCI-Greene] http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/j/p/jph13/BeatingsatGreene.html