Stop the Lockdowns at USP Hazelton

Stop the Lockdowns at USP Hazelton

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Justice for Hazelton started this petition to Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons Colette Peters and

USP Hazelton, a high security federal prison located in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia uses facility wide “Lockdowns”. A Lockdown means everyone in a unit or an entire prison is restricted to their cells  24 hours a day, without regular showers, without access to education, recreation, or communication with family. Unlike typical Security Housing Units (the hole) which often get 1 hour out of the cell a day - Hazelton often is locked down a full 24 hours.

The continuous use of facility wide punishment in the form of Lockdowns is inhumane. The most recent lock down started on November 4th and is ongoing. USP Hazelton has been locked down for weeks at a time almost every month since the beginning of the year - when most other prison shifted from their covid lockdown protocols.

Neither the prisoners nor the guards are safe at these institutions and what we want people to understand is that staff contributes to the violence.  In a letter received this week one loved one wrote, “The false narratives and lies spewed out around here by staff is horrifying and unsettling.”

Our grievances:

  • Lockdowns 
  • No commissary during lockdowns. People do not have access to personal hygiene products or writing supplies, stamps and supplementary food. Many units go 2 months without getting to commissary when they are supposed to go every other week
  • No Visits - Hazelton has not had in person visits for almost a year. One of our members hasn’t seen their son for three years. They have no virtual options. Maintained contact with family and friends is instrumental in maintaining mental health and peace in the prisons.
  • Legal/Medical care obstructed - Even though the form responses from the executive warden state that everyone has access to legal and medical care they need, we know this is simply untrue. One of our members missed a hearings and two of our members have put in for medical help to no response.
  • Mail –The mail is unreliable on both ends - going into the prisons and coming out.
  • Cold food - During lockdowns the men who work in the kitchen are forced to work 10 -12 hour shifts. Everyone receives inadequate portions - cold sandwiches. No access to hot water to heat up commissary food.
  • Showers - Men go without showers for 4 days at a time taken in handcuffs with their cellies. Heat has been broken on and off and reports of no hot water for showers.
  • No Phone Calls - Many of us have not spoken to our loved ones in 3 weeks and some units over a month. 
  • SHU Overflow in housing units- The prison has filled up it's solitary cells. The regular units are becoming extensions of the SHU due to overflows. This causes greater safety concerns and the Bureau Of Prisons  direct response is to lockdown the whole prison. This calls into question whether the SHU is being used appropriately or if discipline is often used as a retaliative measure. 

We are asking you to investigate the conditions at USP Hazelton,  stop the use of facility wide lockdowns and address the conditions above.

Multiple Family members and loved ones have attempted to reach out to USP Hazelton several times regarding many different questions and concerns; just to receive a generic response. Seldom does anyone pick up the phone at local, regional and federal levels.

Contact Us:

We are Justice for Hazelton, a new advocacy group made up of family members and loved ones of people incarcerated at the Federal Prison compound at Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.  We are brought together by the horrible conditions our loved ones continue to face with no accountability. We make these claims on behalf of our loved ones. We are the proof. 

Recent Relevant News: 

  • USP Hazelton corrections officer convicted Sep 13, 2022 - USP Hazelton corrections officer convicted on 2 counts of lying about excessive force Case involves contentions that inmates were being beating & mistreated in Special Housing Unit of West Virginia high-security prison - West Virginia News
  • FCI Hazelton Called Misery Mountain for a Reason.September 5, 2022 - More Than Our Crimes       This expose of first hand testimony describes the same situations that happen at the USP. (There are three prisons at Hazelton - United State Prison - High Security. FCI Hazelton Medium Security and SFF Hazelton - Women)
  • Lawmakers Send Letter Urging Federal Bureau of Prisons to Reduce Solitary Confinement: September 28, 2022     WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Congressman David Trone (D-MD) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Colette Peters urging BOP facilities to reduce the frequency and length of solitary confinement. The letter comes just four months after President Biden issued an Executive Order stating that people in prison must be “free from prolonged segregation” and that isolation must be “used rarely, applied fairly, and subject to reasonable constraints.”

In the letter, the lawmakers assert that more than 10,000 people are in some form of solitary confinement in BOP facilities on any given day, making up nearly eight percent of the total federal prison population. Trone and Durbin argue that this amount is unacceptable, citing research indicating that solitary confinement has little-to-no effect on maintaining safety and has proven harmful to prisoners’ health.

  • Frequent Prison Lockdowns Backfire Feb. 2022, Politico  The following is excerpt by Robert Barton, currently incarcerated a USP Coleman in Florida. He explains the exact dynamics that are happening at USP Hazelton. 

“In most cases, the CIC found that the lockdowns weren’t due to widespread misbehavior among the incarcerated residents. Instead, as it noted in its Atwater report, “many were in response to fights between small numbers of people, as opposed to facility-wide incidents.” In other words, everyone is repeatedly punished for the actions of a few.

I just experienced this in my prison in Coleman, Florida. Two men got into a fight over who got to use the five phones available for the 120 people in my unit, resulting in one losing his eye and another being flown out to a hospital. That’s how desperate we get to talk to our loved ones. The result: The entire prison was locked down for three weeks, making the anger and frustration that caused the fight in the first place even worse. (The prison administration knew one of the phones was broken, upending our usual order. If it had planned ahead by allowing more phone time, letting fewer people out of their cells at one time, or creating opportunities for us to engage in other activities like exercise outside or educational programs, the fight could have been avoided.)

Meanwhile, all those days and weeks locked down not only result in frayed family ties; they also mean no education. I’ve seen people take three years to complete what should be a 12-month rehabilitation program because of frequent halts.

The real issue isn’t prisoner misbehavior. It’s a culture within the Bureau of Prisons that views its main function as warehousing, and sees its residents as adversaries—animals even—who must be locked away when they get too restive after weeks and months of forced inactivity.” 


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