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The sad truth about jail life — by Matt’s mom Leann DeHart


The sad truth about jail life in the prison industrial complex is little known unless you have been inside or you just plain care about other human beings and do the research yourself.

My son Matt has seen the ugly and inhumane side of US jails and prisons. After his deportation from Canada, he ended up in a County facility in Niagara, New York that granted tours for the public to see their beautiful facility — if you can call a jail beautiful. On the website, the facility boasts of how it deals with inmates it considers unruly. There is a video showing someone being extracted by full combat geared guards and then forced into a submission chair. The facility is quite excited about this.

Matt moved to Ohio for a short time and then on to Oklahoma. As you travel south, the food becomes steadily worse and in many cases unrecognizable. In Oklahoma, the nightly fare was bologna sandwiches and corn chips. Sometimes the inmates wouldn’t get fed until 8:00 at night — if the staff remembered to feed them. One day, for entertainment there, the guards tasered a man, put a hood over his head and rolled him on by in a submission chair for all to see.

When Matt arrived at the Oklahoma facility, inmates were sleeping on the floor. I think the jail there is a clearing house for prisoners that will be moved to other places across the country. Moving prisoners in this way is supposed to save taxpayer dollars, although I certainly haven’t been able to figure out how — it took Matt three weeks to reach his final destination because of this!

Being a vegetarian for the past year, Matt now deals with diarrhea from the less than nutritious fare. In Canada, correction facilities have to follow the government guide for nutrition. Most of the inmates, as Matt noticed, rarely became sick. Unfortunately, most US jails and prisons will provide food that is not fit for human consumption.

Currently, Matt is in Bowling Green, Kentucky where the Feds rent space. On his way there, he and several others were made to wait on the tarmac in short tees for about 2 hours in the cold rain while the Marshals sat in a van before being transported to their respective facilities. He is residing in what he calls the “dungeon.” It’s the basement of the jail with no windows with 10 other men. There are bunks and mattresses on the floor. The food amount is small and most times unidentifiable. Matt shares his commissary purchased soups, tuna and whatever protein he can find with some of the guys who are hungry. The lack of vitamin C is a real concern, but he found some vitamins on commissary to help.

Commissary — now that is the real beauty of capitalism at work. One can obtain snacks, toiletries, shoes (the infamous Bob Barker brand), books, and a host of other items depending on what a facility approves. For two years, when Matt was in pretrial detention in Bowling Green, we spent hundreds of dollars to help him get protein rich foods and vitamin C. The items are usually 100% markup from the price in an average grocery store. We had to buy him underclothes (not provided) and books to read. This of course was in addition to the telephone service that equally bilks families of thousands of dollars to stay connected to their loved ones. Add in all the taxes and fees — plus one is paying a small fortune for a phone call.

Of course we wouldn’t need to buy Matt new underwear if he had access to his property from the jail in Canada, but in Matt’s case the FBI took his property and we aren’t too sure where it is right now. When he was in pretrial detention a few years ago at Bowling Green, he could not have access to his property — which included his glasses.

At the moment, my big concern is the tuberculosis. Matt was tested a few days ago. He said there is a guy in his group that has scabies up and down his arms. Poor nutrition, lack of sunlight, and spotty health care contribute to sickness and disease. As of today, Matt has not seen the sun for 6 days.

I often read how people will rise up and champion dogs, cats, horses and other animals when these poor creatures have to face the same kind of abuse. I love animals, too; but, I think we need more outrage and support against human abuse don’t you?


Follow Matt DeHart’s mother, Leann — aka @Leann02 — on Twitter.