Sam Levin Profile picture
15 Sep, 11 tweets, 3 min read
NEW: Oregon prison guards have repeatedly pepper sprayed evacuated prisoners who are trapped in overcrowded facilities and already sick from smoke.

I spoke to folks inside who were sprayed and are struggling to breathe...

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/s…
As fires approached, Oregon crowded four prison populations into one facility, and violence and fights immediately broke out.

The prison responded by repeatedly deploying pepper spray.

"I couldn’t breathe. When I got sprayed, I had to stick my face into a sink to rinse it off”
“The pepper spray got on everyone. Everyone was coughing and sneezing. There was just so much in the air.”

“My eyes and lungs are still burning and soot is still floating all inside the prison."

“These officers just pull out their cans of spray and start spraying everywhere."
People suffering from pepper spray effects said they were unable to get medical help and some have been wearing the same clothes for a week since evacuated, unable to shower for days. They are sleeping within inches of each other on the floor. They say Covid spread is inevitable.
When evacuations began, prisoners + advocates warned that conflicts would break out when populations from two facilities mixed. They were right. Fights and assaults immediately broke out in the dining area.

A prison spokesperson said pepper spray was used “to gain compliance.”
The pepper spray was so bad that some prisoners with respiratory problems were skipping meals because they couldn't handle the impacts from chemicals in the dining hall, one prisoner told me.

At the same time, the prison is still filled with smoke and horrific air quality.
Civil rights lawyers, prisoners, their loved ones, etc have again urged mass releases, noting that more people will die in these conditions and that the evacuations and transfers could be a Covid "superspreader" event worse than the San Quentin prison outbreak in California.
Some evacuees from women's prison did not receive medications. Some only received two meals a day. Some were put in “bug-infested, unsanitary housing” + in “units where the roof is falling apart."

That's according to Rep Janelle Bynum who confirmed details with corrections dept
John Persinger, 44, evacuated to OSP, told me he was concerned about elderly + at-risk prisoners suffering through =smoke and pepper spray. “It’s a state of emergency. At what point does Governor @OregonGovBrown say, ‘You know what? I need to do something.’”

"Enough is enough."
Even before the pepper spray incidents, Oregon State Penitentiary was already extremely hazardous for many due to the fires + conditions inside. It's an old structure with no HVAC system, so windows are open and people are breathing in smoke and soot and ash.
Not only are there high risks of Covid spread now, but the fires + pepper spray are leading more people to cough, which is increasing risks AND could make them more vulnerable to complications if they're infected. Many already have serious health problems and are at risk of death

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More from @SamTLevin

22 Sep
NEW: Kao Saelee worked as an incarcerated firefighter in California.

But when his release date came, the state partnered with ICE and transferred him to detention. He now faces deportation to Laos, a country his family fled when he was two years old.

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/s…
Kao, now 41, has been imprisoned since he was a teenager. Even though he completed his sentence and fought wildfires, @GavinNewsom + CDCR handed him over to ICE.

“I paid my debt to society, and I think I should have a chance to be with my family," Kao told me from ICE jail. Image
When his release date came on August 6, Kao's sister was waiting outside the prison to take him home for the first time in two decades. Instead, guards handed Kao over to a private security contractor for ICE who shackled his hands, waist and legs, put him in a van and drove off.
Read 17 tweets
16 Sep
NEW: In Oregon, there is now a confirmed Covid-19 outbreak linked to the evacuation of Coffee Creek prison in the fire zone. Two prisoners have tested positive + Dept of Corrections says they mixed with groups outside of their units during evacuation to Deer Creek, another prison
Here’s part of DOC statement to @TaraHerivel and other attorneys. “Female AIC” refers to an incarcerated woman who tested positive. State is now expediting return of evacuated prisoners to Coffee Creek. Delays in tests results have made this situation more complicated, DOC says. Image
DOC says it appears the two Covid+ prisoners didn’t mix with the population at Deer Ridge, the prison where evacuees were placed. There is still fear about a possible mass outbreak. The fire threat is not over. For thousands of impacted families, this is an unimaginable nightmare
Read 7 tweets
15 Sep
I spoke with men incarcerated at Oregon State Penitentiary, who are stuck in overcrowded facilities in the fire zone + have repeatedly been pepper sprayed. They're begging for help.

Here's a short thread with audio from my prison calls, shared with their permission.

LISTEN ⬇️
Parker, 23: "Pepper spray got on everyone, everyone was coughing and sneezing. I couldn't even take a drink of my water. There was so much in the air. I still have lasting effects. I was scared. I didn't think they would put us in that situation. DOC is supposed to protect us."
John, 44: "It's smoky in here. It's horrible in here. Some of these inmates are elderly, some have heart problems + respiratory problems. This is no place for them. What you're brewing is a perfect storm for violence and pandemonium. How do you plan on protecting these inmates?"
Read 12 tweets
10 Sep
NEW: Oregon's fires have wreaked havoc on the state’s incarcerated population, with thousands now packed into a single overcrowded prison that was already a major Covid-19 hotspot.

I spoke to families + attorneys about the worsening catastrophe:

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/s…
Some key points:

-1,450 evacuees were moved into the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP), which already had more than 2,000 prisoners + has had 143 Covid cases.

-Evacuees are sleeping on the floor and on emergency beds throughout OSP in indoor facilities not used for housing.
-Problems are already escalating, with families reporting people packed into makeshift sleeping quarters, some struggling to breathe due to smoke, prisoners facing long waits for food, fights breaking out.

-Populations are reportedly mixing for meals + lines to make phone calls.
Read 9 tweets
6 Sep
NEW: During the pandemic and protests, police in Los Angeles have continued to kill civilians at alarming rates.

Many of these deaths barely make headlines. Here are a few stories from this violent summer...

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/s…
LA sheriffs in Lancaster killed Michael Thomas, 61, inside his own home on June 11. LASD claimed they were responding to a possible domestic violence call, but his girlfriend said there was no threat or violence.

Police fatally shot Michael in the chest. He was unarmed. ImageImage
Michael's daughter, Myesha Lopez, told me he had watched a George Floyd special the night before and was terrified of police and didn't want deputies in his house.

“He said, ‘I know if I open this door, you’re going to kill me.’”

The officers, it appears, did just that. Image
Read 17 tweets
1 Sep
NEW: Phoenix police held a teenage girl on the hot asphalt until the pavement burned through her skin, forcing her to be hospitalized in the burn unit. She has permanent scars.

theguardian.com/weather/2020/s…
Police were called to break up a fight between a group of high school students during a record-breaking heatwave. The fight had died down when officers arrived. Then one of the policemen grabbed Roniah Trotter and held her face down on the sidewalk while trying to arrest her...
“My face was burning. I have never felt nothing so hot,” Roniah said, recalling how she screamed for help and felt like she was going to pass out. “When they did eventually get me off the floor, the pavement had burned my skin off." (image of her arm after incident + scars today)
Read 14 tweets

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