The saga of Timothy Muise, the Massachusetts prisoner who was punished after he exposed an alleged sex-for-snitching ring inside MCI Norfolk, has taken yet another turn for the worse. Once he made his accusations known, Muise was thrown into solitary confinement. He was brought up on disciplinary charges and given additional time in solitary. Last week, Muise was shipped off to another prison, MCI Shirley. There has been no investigation, and now the primary whistleblower has been removed from the scene and effectively silenced.
As we described in an earlier article, Muise last fall asked Deputy Corrections Commissioner Paul DiPaulo to investigate corrections officers whom he claimed were running a sex-for-information racket. Certain prisoners, he said, were being placed on one tier where they were free to have sex, provided they turned snitch and supplied the guards with information on other prisoners. Failure to do so, according to Muise, could result in various forms of retaliation, including placement in the general population, where they would likely become targets for assault.
Muise wrote letters to Solitary Watch as well as to friends and family in Massachusetts, asking them to support his efforts. The prison intercepted his mail, declared it “contraband, “ and put him into solitary confinement–which by the way, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections says does not exist in its system. They call it a “Special Management Unit,” and say that Muise was placed there “on pending investigation status.”
Once in solitary, Muise was brought up on disciplinary charges and accused of “engaging in or inciting a group demonstration or hunger strike,” based on statements he had made in a letter about a planned protest outside the prison. On investigation, that charge was dismissed—but in a triumph of semantic contradiction, Muise was found guilty under a disciplinary code in which “attempting to commit” or “making plans to commit” the offense “shall be considered the same as the commission of the offense itself.”
Muise’s student attorneys, from Harvard Law School’s Prison Legal Assistance Project, appealed the charges, pointing out that he was found innocent of one charge only to be found guilty of the same charge stated in a different way. Their appeal was to no avail.
Next, Muise was subjected to a “reclassification hearing,” in which MDOC officials decided to send him to another prison. Again defended by student lawyers, he argued that he should be allowed to remain at Norfolk, where he is active in the Lifers Group and the inmate council and has built the best life he can behind bars. The reclassification board voted unanimously to move him to MCI Shirley, in what Muise described in a letter as a “retaliatory transfer.”
Meanwhile, details of the alleged sex-for-information racket at Norfolk have surfaced in a separate civil complaint being filed in federal district court in Boston by Celestino Colon, a former Norfolk prisoner who is now at North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner, Massachusetts. He charges that various guards at Norfolk, along with former Commissioner of Corrections Harold W. Clarke and other Department of Corrections officials, violated his civil rights and denied him protections under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Colon and Muise were both members of an inmate council, and the sex-for-information ring Colon describes in his suit appears to be the same one Muise wants investigated. Colon’s complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Solitary Watch, describes a labyrinthine scene in which correctional officers had sexual relations with prisoners, whom they then set up in various housing units, into which they pimped other prisoners so they could all have sex. The quid pro quo was that the prisoners “with benefits,” were expected to inform on the general population. Colon claims he briefly participated in this set up, but when he tried to get out he was threatened, coerced, pressured to have sex against his will, and eventually transferred out of Norfolk.
Last month, Muise wrote to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice asked for a federal investigation–a request that was rejected on grounds that the DOJ does not investigate “the personal grievances of a single individual,” but only situations in which there is a systematic “pattern and practice” of rights violations. This would require that additional prisoners come forward–something that seems less than likely considering what happens to inmate whistleblowers.