The Hunger Conspiracy

[editor’s note: Sean wrote this a few weeks ago, but didn’t want to go public with it until he confirmed some facts, and made sure the guys who were put in the hole wanted it published. We made some calls to the CIIC and waited for word from Sean. One of the last messages before Sean’s access to email and phones was cut off said it was time to go public with this story. All but one of the guys is out of the hole. Updates will be forthcoming.]

In a perfect world, just by sending this, prison officials would straighten the situation out before this had to be published. Let’s hope… Freedom, Sean.

17:04, 20April. I’m typing, coughing and sneezing.

It started at shift change. Second shift officers came on shift and decided that they wished they had stayed in school longer so they could have gotten jobs as janitors at the library, rather than getting stuck in a prison job. Unlucky for all of us held in L5, tenth grade was way too hard for these specimens. So here they are.

On the excuse that it was too loud in the block, the guards didn’t let anyone out for phones or showers but left us locked in our cells an extra fifteen minutes. This is the kind of collective punishment that lazy, malicious hacks of the inbred variety employ in order to set the stage, so to speak, for locking everyone down later on in the day; that way they can deny everyone showers and phone calls.

When count cleared at four o’ clock, the guards again refused to allow showers and phone calls. Again, it was too loud.

In case I need to remind you, this is a fuckin’ prison. Not only is it a prison, but it’s a prison where the fronts of the cells are bars, where 40 humans are captive on two tiers that face 40 more humans held on two other tiers.

None of us are here for complying with the librarian’s directives.

The place is sometimes loud. But it wasn’t any louder earlier today than on any other day. In fact, it was considerably quieter than on other days when these two specimens ran the phones and showers.

I can only guess that something went bad for these two at the Klan Lynchfest and Crab-Cake Bake-Off over the weekend. Maybe no one liked the short one’s streudel. Maybe the fat one wore the same leopard print pillowcase on his head as the Grand Poo-Bah.

Who knows. But it wasn’t really the noise level… in prison.

Keep in mind, we had recreation earlier and everyone needed showers. Also keep in mind that four o’ clock to eight o’ clock is the principle phone time. A lot of people had calls to make, including my neighbor, Skinny. Skinny lost two family members, a brother and sister, within days of each other. Very recently.

So, when the fat guard made a round, a guy on my range, Ant, asked him about the phones. Ant didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t make any aggressive move. He didn’t call the guard names.

While Ant was mid-sentence, the guard stepped back from the bars, ducked as if he was being spit on (one of those tricks they use, so the camera will show him responding to the nonexistent spit– probably something they train at the Lynchfest), and he sprayed Ant with pepper spray. Strange, but he already had the spray in his hand. He didn’t even have to draw it… Almost as if he intended to spray someone…

Since Ant had not in fact spit on him, the sudden use of pepper spray was particularly shocking and traumatic. Almost inexplicable. Chances are, the rationale for this use of force won’t include mention of Ant being Black. It probably won’t mention that he’s more than six feet tall. It will probably omit that he’s twenty-five.

With his hands up in the classic pose all too familiar to Black people in America, Ant looks a lot like Mike Brown.

You won’t read that in the report either.

As you can probably expect, the totally unnecessary use of force provoked outrage and incredulity from the vast majority of the other 79 of us. Ant’s not a bad guy. He’s pretty well liked. And he got shot in the face with pepper spray for no fuckin’ reason.

A fairly pedestrian observation here, but the fake noise became justification for collective punishment, which then led to the escalating frustration and unprovoked State violence.

Yep. Prison guards are still changing the world through violence.

Go figure.

So, the fat guard who shot Ant in the face, in response to dozens of woahs!, and damns!, and what-the-fucks!, said first that he was spit on, and when someone responded that he was full of shit, which he was, he then changed his story and said that he got poked in the eye, which was just as overflowing with shit as his first excuse.

The waffling and deception didn’t serve well to ease the tension.

Neither did the pepper spray we were all breathing.

The trigger-happy genius looked pretty regretful, standing there on the range. He looked like he knew he fucked up. But you can’t put the shit back into the donkey.

Our unit manager came strolling in the block, in the midst of the trigger-happy genius losing an argument with 79 captives locked in cages. So, what began as an ordinary day had turned into a veritable shit-storm.

Needless to say, the objectionable noise level didn’t improve with the introduction of mass punishment and pepper spray.

But, fortunately, the unit manager was on site, because this was definitely the kind of fomenting situation that would get so much better with the inclusion of more prison-career white men.

They cuffed Ant and off he went to the hole.

That’s procedure. When staff use force, they have to add insult to injury and toss you in the hole; they can’t very well excuse violence if you did nothing wrong. So, after getting assaulted for no good reason, you also face fabricated disciplinary charges.

Needless to say, the noise level went up.

For future reference, random assault, pepper spray, efforts to cover it up, and denials of phone and showers don’t do much to calm down humans locked in cages. I know. Such an unexpected outcome, right?

By this point, everyone was pretty indignant. And that’s when the other guard, the short one who had refused to allow calls and showers, decided to stroll around and see what he couldn’t do to make the situation considerably worse. He walked up to my neighbor Skinny’s cell and told him, “Take all that shit down.”

To which Skinny responded, “Why are you harassing me, though?”

The guard: “I said, take that shit down.”

Skinny: “I don’t have nothin’ hangin’ up to take down.”

Skinny then accused that the guard was just trying to start something as an excuse to spray him too. He made a point to narrate loudly for all to hear. He said he was going to the back of his cell, away from the bars, so the guard couldn’t do the “fake spit” trick like that guard’s partner had. When the short guard finally left after spending way too much time provoking Skinny– who just wanted to use the phone because two family members just died –the noise level was pretty fuckin’ high.

No wonder these two clowns couldn’t get jobs in the library.

We were still coughing and choking from the unprovoked assault on Ant when they called chow. So, the first range of cell doors opened, 20 cells. Somebody said, “Don’t go. They got two guards in the bullpen.”

We knew what was up. Two guards with pepper spray and billy clubs can do a lot of dumb, useless damage from the other side of the bars.

Nobody stepped out of their cells.

The doors shut. The second range opened.

As my cell door opened, I stuck my head out and looked up and down the range… to see a dozen other heads sticking out their doors.

Nobody went.

Third range. Nobody.

Fourth range. Dumb Kid Nate stepped out of his cell.

Several prisoners: “What the fuck?”

Dumb kid: “I’m fuckin’ hungry.”

Others: “We’re all hungry, dickhead. Get back in your cell.”

Dumb Kid: “What am I gonna eat? I’m hungry.”

Someone: “Here, asshole.”

Dumb Kid Nate got hit in the face with a package of Raman noodles. He picked it up and stepped back in his cell.

Nobody from L5 went to chow. Nobody. Not even Dumb Kid.

While the guards previously said no white shirts would be coming to talk to us (sergeants, lieutenants), we knew that SOMEBODY would be asking questions now. SOMEBODY would know something was going on.

But, I knew from experience that what we did, a whole block refusing chow, would trigger panic. What THEY saw was NOT an effort to get the attention of people in charge; what they saw was an organized, unified block of 80 prisoners… in a prison where prisoner organization led to a riot.


They wouldn’t believe it was spontaneous. They wouldn’t believe we were really trying to avoid getting attacked in the bullpen.

Shit was going to get worse.

The white shirts came. One of them was our unit sergeant, a big block of cornbread with a head. The other one was a scowl on two feet. No one so much as asked what was going on.

It wasn’t important to ask, simply because we had the addition of more career white men to the equation. That had to make everything better.

The guards who provoked all of this unnecessary nonsense started rattling off cell numbers of “ring leaders.” About 8 of them. All of them were Black.

Cornbread said, “Put ’em in the hole.”

Yeah. You know, for wanting showers and phone calls. For wanting to avoid unprovoked State violence.

You can’t have prisoners in a correctional setting trying to shower and talk to loved ones and avoid getting pepper sprayed in the face. The whole SYSTEM would break down.

Holy fuck.

So, wouldn’t you know it, but so long as the short guard had a blank check to toss anybody in the hole, he came bounding up the stairs two at a time to come get Skinny. Skinny, the guy with two dead loved-ones, trying to call home.

Skinny became a ringleader in the conspiracy to go hungry. So, as they cuffed him and Skinny said, “Come on, man, those are way too tight,” the sergeant who was a walking scowl already had the pepper spray drawn.

Yep. Right in the face.

Off Skinny went to the hole.

I expected the scowling sergeant to stop and turn and tell the rest of us, “Whut we got heah eeyiz… uh failyuh tuh cuh-municate…”

But just another disappointment to stack on top of all the others, he didn’t.

The ringleaders in the hunger conspiracy got dragged away. All of the staff members dragging them off were white. All of the prisoners were Black. Every single one of them.

Perhaps there was some kind of Jesse Jackson Leadership Conference here in Shitville that I must have missed. Or maybe L5 is the cosmic anomaly where all of America’s Black leadership is held captive.

Or maybe, just maybe, I went to sleep last night and woke up in the second segment of the mini-series, “Roots.”

I tell you what, this plantation sucks.

The pepper spray has dissipated. The time for calls and showers is over. On L5, we’re hungry, demoralized, and smelly. But, tomorrow’s another day.

And then another. And another.

Jesus creepin’ shit.

* * *

Anyone concerned about the health and welfare of the L5 prisoners who were pepper sprayed and tossed in the hole can contact the prison: phone: (740) 259-5544

email: (not really)

[At the time of this posting all the “ring leaders” but one have been released from the hole, but have been chraged with RIB violations. Sean: “They are turning an incident where 80 prisoners were attempting to avoid state terror into “gang” activity and protest. Everyone framed up as ringleaders will spend a year or more at 4B, etc., for NOTHING.”]

Follow up:

I was called as a witness for a prisoner rounded up in the hunger conspiracy. The R.I.B. Chair didn’t let me testify as to anything that mattered, so I am forwarding the following kite to the R.I.B. Chair:


I send this kite further to my testimony in the R.I.B. case against Robert Mahone this morning, 23 April. As I only answered 3 questions, I want to make sure that as the fact finder you have all of the determinative information you need for your disposition.

On the date that all of L5 did not go to dinner chow, I refrained from going, not as a demonstration, but because I heard others loudly yelling that there were officers with pepper spray in the bullpen. Because another prisoner had been sprayed less than an hour prior, a prisoner in cell 35 had been sprayed, seemingly out of the blue, after the yelling that officers with pepper spray were in the bullpen, I saw that nobody was going to chow.

I do not know who it was that was yelling about the officers in the bullpen with pepper spray, but it was not Mahone in the cell next to me. Prior to this event, the yelling about pepper spray, Mahone and I had a conversation out the back window and had agreed that, when we got to the chow hall, we would attempt to speak to a sergeant or a lieutenant about the events in L5. But after the yelling about officers with pepper spray in the bullpen, I didn’t go to chow and Mahone didn’t either.

After 80 of us did not go to chow, white shirts came in the block. All of the officers and white shirts were white. All of the prisoner “ringleaders” were black.

I am sending a carbon copy of this kite to my counsel, Richard Kerger, who is currently representing me in a civil rights action, Sean Swain v. Gary Mohr, et al., in federal district court. If, for whatever reason, this kite does not reach you, my attorney can send you a copy.

Thank you for your time.


Sean Swain

c: Richard Kerger