|Writing to end the abuse
of mentally ill at Vacaville and other prisons.
Published March 14, 1999
with beautiful artwork by the Vacaville Reporter in Vacaville, California.
Cruel and unusual punishment
Vacaville Prison officials
By B. Cayenne Bird
When Jimmy Diesso's devastated
mother came to our prison rights group, United for No Injustice, Oppression
or Neglect, asking us to review his case in January, her son had been held
in 11-point restraints for nine days. Restraints violate international
law, and the most usually used are five-point devices.
What is the California Department
of Corrections achieving by pinning a mentally ill person down so that
he cannot move for days at a time?
A Vacaville prison associate
warden readily admitted that Mr. Diesso was in these restraints when I
telephoned him and demanded he be released from them. He not only admitted
this practice to me, but to several other UNION members laying the blame
for the cold room and restraint tortures on a Vacaville prison doctor.
The associate warden said,
`I've been doing this for 25 years and no one ever complained.''
When James Diesso came to
Vacaville's California Medical Facility in 1994-95, his doctor explained
that he suffers from a form of brain epilepsy, a serious neurological condition
he has had since childhood.
Without medication, he loses
control, blacks out, and does not remember what transpires. He also has
Hepatitis C and is seriously physically ill.
We have obtained not one, but two, prison documents that reveal an inmate Mr. Diesso is accused of murdering had fought twice with the guards within a few months of being placed in Mr. Diesso's cell. The guards know that few people care when one inmate kills another. We believe it was no accident that Mr. Ford was housed in the cell with someone who has a long history of mental illness and is known to be violent when not medicated.
The symbol drawn in blood
on the cell wall was not a pentagram, it was a Wiccan symbol. Wicca is
not devil worship, as astute Religious teachers will tell you. Guards who
would put an inmate into a dangerous situation like the one in which they
placed both Mr. Ford and Mr. Diesso are capable of anything. They should
not be trusted. Wicca is Mr. Diesso's religion, as far as he can understand
The prison has blocked Mr.
Diesso from his mother, tortured him by placing him in cold rooms and in
restraints, as well as other forms of abuse, for days on end. In spite
of his long history of mental illness, which is extremely well documented
over the years, the prison called his mother last week and told her, ``Mr.
Diesso isn't mentally ill; he's more of a deliberate behavior problem.''
Mr. Diesso beat up and swallowed
his reading glasses in one suicide attempt. Last year, he swallowed a razor
blade, which required surgery. The year before, he stabbed another inmate
17 times. I wonder what they consider mental illness if this isn't it?
Mr. Diesso has a mother who
knows he isn't safe inside the Vacaville prison. They treat the mentally
ill with retribution. The mentally ill are innocent. If Mr. Diesso had
been given his medication and not forced into a double celling with another
inmate (who was also documented to be violent), this crisis wouldn't exist.
There are too many people
in prison who should be in a real hospital, undergoing treatment by compassionate
people. Prisons are not hospitals, and prison guards are not nurses.
It isn't fair to imply that
the tattoos represent any sort of a gang affiliation. Mr. Diesso hates
those tattoos and doesn't know how he got them in the first place. Getting
unwanted tattoos is just one of the way mentally ill inmates are exploited
by other inmates.
In prison, the mentally ill
are victimized by rape, by guards and inmates who steal their property.
They are beaten and left for days at a time in restraints and in cold rooms.
Last year, California executed a mentally ill person. How does this benefit
anyone? The real criminals are the ones who would treat the mentally ill
in such a manner.
UNION, which comprises citizens
of California, wants the cold room and restraint tortures stopped at Vacaville
and all California prisons statewide. If cold rooms aren't meant as torture
why are they freezing cold. It is so inhumane to punish someone for being
mentally ill, especially when the outburst are the fault of prison mismanagement,
We want Mr. Diesso sent to
Reno to a hospital so that his mother can supervise his medication. The
medical association ought to hold all prison doctors just as accountable
as they do others outside the walls.
Every prisoner is some mother's
child. Every mother in the state of California ought to be shaking in her
bed for the injustice and abuse
To contact UNION, e-mail
can be sent to :
The UNION Website is here: Home Page
Sunday • April 2, 2000
System gone awry
How it is possible that a
recent commentator, who responded to the mother of a Vacaville prison inmate,
could be so well informed about all the facts of
Could the writer be one of
the prison guards or administrators who
Since the writer is preaching
a holier-than-thou sermon to James Diesso's
The case for Mr. Diesso's
long history of mental illness is very
There are two documents in the hands of the top criminal justice reporters in the state that prove the inmate whom James Diesso killed had several fights with prison guards just before he was killed. They know that few people care when one inmate kills another.
When unmedicated, inmate Diesso has blackouts. Anyone could have blamed this on him, and who would know or care, except his family?
Judge Harry Kinnicut has
already shown prejudice toward the defendant by
What was James Diesso doing
in the psychiatric unit at Vacaville prison in
This inmate was dispatched
out of Vacaville Medical Facility because the
Prisons aren't hospitals,
and prison guards aren't nurses. The mentally ill
The system is so corrupt
it is advisable not to believe anything you didn't
The Vacaville prison is being
sued over this case by the family of the dead
• The author is director
of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect, a
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