Hard Cell

As inmates attempt to defy guards and air grievances, a wave of brutal "forced cell entries" rocks Colorado's supermax prison.

Lane once sued the DOC on behalf of a CSP inmate who was "zapped with their little stun shield," but the judge, unpersuaded that the extraction team intended to shock the unresisting inmate into submission, dismissed the case. Lane scoffs at the notion that the extractees pose any kind of security risk.

"The place is steel and concrete," he notes. "What kind of damage is going to be done by them pounding on the door? It's a psychological deal--you will knuckle under or else you get extracted. It's DOC's opportunity to brutalize them and have some fun. Why can't they leave them in their cells and ignore them?"

But Neal says her staff is only trying to protect prisoners from themselves as well as each other. "We are very controlled, but we really work hard at keeping abuse out of the facility," she says. "I think we have some obligation to make the environment in prison as safe as possible, and with the opening of CSP, we have certainly affected the safety of inmates in other facilities."

Donner says she's concerned that CSP's handling of the situation will only further compound the problems by provoking frustrated inmates into more desperate acts of defiance, prompting more cell extractions and longer stays in segregation. Lane suggests that many of the prisoners' complaints, such as the lack of due process involved in denying access to grievance forms or in filing secret negative reports, are unlikely to get an airing in a courtroom because of the increasing "hostility" in the federal courts to prisoner lawsuits.

"It's all legal," Lane says, "if the courts refuse to do anything about it."
Although Roy Slagle has been subject to only two extractions so far, he sees pepper spray and more gooners in his future.

"I was getting my ass beat up in 1987, and I'm still getting it beat up in 1998," he says. "And I'll still be getting beat up in 2008. It's a fact of prison life. So what if a few guards beat me up, put a taser on my nuts, choke me out and so on? I'm in prison. The justice system as a whole holds a blind eye to what we go through year after year."

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