Last week January 2, 2023 I witnessed a inmate hang himself from a bunk bed, I kicked my door and yelled for a officer yet no one came; I watched through the crack of my door the officers playing cards. As the inmate took his final breath I listened behind a cell door as he kicked and struggled for what was his last moments of life. He Died…Thirty minutes later after half of my unit banged as loud as we could on our doors, the unit officer casually strolled down the wing, acting as if was doing a routine security check, acting as if he did not hear us yelling “someone is dying!!”. The officer slowly made it to the inmate’s door and immediately panicked…He radioed for a code 66 (suicide) and opened the door. He stood there looking at a lifeless body. What matters worst is that the officer did not take the body down. NJDOC, issues officers 911 knifes, which is a specially designed knife that is designed to cut ropes and string for incidents like this one. The officer who was told that someone was hanging did not bring the 911 knife. So when back-up officers arrived they all asked “where is the 911 tool”, the officer than ran back to the desk to retrieve the knife that he left.
The officers cut the body down and begun yelling for medical, medical initially arrived (slowly) without much needed oxygen tanks. It took them some time to realize that the inmate did not have a pulse. I became frustrated and started yelling at all the officers and staff, I yelled to them ” start CPR” “get a a AED”, I yelled these things because while at Edna Mahan I became certified in CPR, so I knew that every second counted , after a while the medical staff begun performing CPR. The custody staff were still in shock. Yet the medical staff became exhausted from the chest compressions, so than custody stepped in. Compressions kept going until EMTs arrived which took entirely too long. The EMTs immediately pulled the body out of the room and requested a helicopter and then cancelled the helicopter request, they applied a breathing tube and managed to get a pulse. I watched all this unfolded in front of my cell. Eventually the inmate was taken to the hospital and later investigators arrived to question inmates who all witnessed the staff failing to do their rounds.
This story is Sick, its taken me some time to digest what happened, even now I keep having nightmares and dangerous thoughts, the kid was twenty years old born 2002, he was being bullied on the unit and asked to be removed from the unit, he asked for mental health numerous times. No one helped him, he was locked in a cell for 22 hours a day, and this is what happened!
Director Kendall, told Ms. Tome that this unit was safe, that this placement was safe, I have tried to explain the dangers of being in a male facility. The creation of this unit was designed as stated by Director Kendall to stop DOC from sending inmates from Edna Mahan, the unit is suppose to be a alternative housing for vulnerable populations. Yet the reality is this unit is hell its isolative conditions exacerbate mental health issues. Taking sex offenders, gay, bisexual, gang involved inmates and placing them in a unit with Transgender women, is not at all safe or ideal. This unit is a disaster, people don’t try to kill their self for nothing.
My hope is for DOC truly effectively figure out safe housing for all inmates. Safety is not some privilege its a right, and no one should have to worry about bullies or anti LGBT people taken advantage of them. This situation touched me, and made realize that DOC does not care about its vulnerable population. Instead politics and bureaucracy remain at play, suits and ties will walk around, attend meetings which does little to address the route issues of what is taking place.
This suicide was so real to me, I looked at the lifeless body and knew that it could have been me, I know what its like to hide the hopelessness and pain. The last months that I have spent in a male facility as a woman, have been apart of the worst moments of my life, I have been in that dark place. I have sought mental health and they have often been unable to cure my depression. How do you survive a environment that rejects you? How do you tell upper level management that you are a women stuck in the wrong prison?
I’ve spoken 1 on 1 to Director Kendall prior to this move, and know his ideology is that because of my genital status I should not be in a women’s prison, I strongly disagree with him, yet the least he could have done was make sure that my placement was safe, yet staff lied and only cared about politics and their own transphobic views.
Although I have requested safety hearings and spoken up, staff within Central offices PREA unit have denied, dismissed and ignored my concerns. I am a African American woman who is transgender, I don’t know how to explain to a older white man my views of safety. I cried and asserted that this unit is not okay, Mr. Kendall put a vulnerable population unit in the most dangerous youth prison in New Jersey, Inmate Pedro was 20 years old with not a lot of time left. Its clear no one cares.