Tortured in Prison, Mark Grangetto Probably Won't Live to See Reforms
Dr. B. Cayenne Bird
As the headlines all scream that low voter awareness is causing support of a $7 billion plus prison expansion, a young man is dying a slow, tormented death. I have mentioned Mark Grangetto and his courageous elderly mother Nora Weber, an insurance agent from Bakersfield in my columns many times over the past three years.
Nora Weber had no choice but to file two separate lawsuits for the ongoing abuse and slow State murder by medical neglect of her son at several California prisons. In my daily newsletter to UNION members I have journaled the major crises of his deterioration and our combined efforts to get him help from any source from a bureaucracy that is spending billions on prisons. You'd think we could get help for ONE dying prisoner with all the big headlines about medical reform, wouldn't you?
Thousands of people have died preventable deaths during this struggle to get medical care provided to the prisoners since 1990 and probably before that time. I have been involved in this drawn out process in dozens of cases and done my best as an unpaid volunteer to try and help UNION subscribers get relief. The brick walls are high and a number of people have died at my feet so to speak.
It is probable that Mark Grangetto, like thousands of other prisoners, won't live long enough to see reform of the medical care system. He will likely be unable to spend his last days with his mother or be cared for in a comfortable place such as an outside care facility.
What you are witnessing here in the photos below is a young man who had a motorcycle accident in 1990 which killed his friend and almost severed his left arm. It was never established which one of them was driving the motorcycle, but he is the one who lived, and he received a 20 year to life sentence over the accident. Mark was born brain-damaged (Respiratory Syndrome Distress)due to deprivation of oxygen from birth and his decisions weren't always the best ones, but he was never a violent person.
When Mark Grangetto went to prison, the incompetent doctors misdiagnosed his brain damage and deliberately prescribed him many drugs over the past 17 years of confinement. Elavil, Neurontin, Prozac, Risperdal, Ativan, Seroquel, Doxepin and other drugs to silence him from writing 602's asking for medical and other relief. He was put in five point restraints and injected with Geodon in retaliation when Nora filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections (CDCR). In fact, their forced administration of anti-psychotic medication to Grangetto without court approval under the "Keyhea law" took place on two occasions according to medical records.
But denial of surgeries and medical appliances is commonplace by the California Department of Corrections, even when it will result in permanent disability. Soon his left hand clawed up due to lack of a brace and proper medical care so that he cannot ever use it again. His paralyzed left arm was re-broken and intentionally injured several times by both prisoners and guards. He also lost his ability to walk when a brace and surgery were denied for injuries to his knee which occurred while he was incarcerated. This medical neglect was intentional and resulted in permanent disability.
Those are not sunglasses on Mark's collar in the photo. They are special glasses for the legally blind who are extremely sensitive to light which is why Mark keeps his eyes closed when he is not wearing the dark glasses. He caught Hepatitis C from the filthy conditions in prison and weighs only about 100 pounds even though he is 5'8" tall. His elderly mother who standing next to him is 4'll' and weighs about 94 pounds, so you can see how abnormally thin he is as he barely clings to life.
Mark has been in the hospital three times in the last two weeks and that only happened because of the hand of a Hanford judge who made it quite clear to CDCR that Nora Weber is the legal guardian of her son and that she currently has the right to accept or refuse medical care for Mark.
It has taken many court dates (over two years since Nora Weber started the court actions) and reams of paper work by an attorney to obtain medical care. Thanks to a very honest Judge, progress is being made with the lawsuits. In April, Mark was taken to Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield . They kept Mark for 24 days for a blocked intestinal track and found large lacerated, inflamed ulcers caused by the H-Pylori bacteria which tens of thousands of inmates have but are never treated for, an abuse which is causing untold damage to the health of thousands of prisoners.
Grangetto spent most of his seventeen years in prison cast into Administrative Segregation and a Security Housing Unit (SHU), a concrete tomb with very thick walls that isolates thousands of mentally ill and brain damaged prisoners from everyone until they go mad. Mark was too physically vulnerable to be double-celled with another prisoner. At one point he was stabbed 11 times at Salinas Valley Prison by another prisoner and robbed of his belongings. This victimization is typical within the prison system and one of the primary reasons why they should not be there at all.
Grangetto was forced to crawl around on the floor of his cell as if he were an animal because the prison supplied him with a thin mattress thrown on the concrete floor. With only the use of one hand he could not even use the toilet properly. He was denied the use of a wheelchair cell and at most times even denied the use of a wheelchair.
The families of the UNION (link) appealed to Warden Darrell Adams, the warden of the Corcoran Substance Abuse Treatment Facility to get him out of the SHU and into a hospital. Adams' response was to transfer him to the SHU at Corcoran - not the hospital - and to deny him his own wheelchair which Nora bought him with her money. They took the wheelchair she bought for him away from Mark and used it for other inmates.
Nora recently sat with her son in the prison hospital at Corcoran when they were finally forced to allow her to visit. Imagine being in a hospital where they have no equipment to revive you in an emergency and no one comes when you ring! This is the level of care that is taking place in most of California's prisons, which is a violation of the California Constitution, the US Constitution and of natural laws of ethics and religious beliefs. Yet thousands of prisoners such as Mark Grangetto have suffered and are suffering now while the Republican politicians continue to vote down bill after bill which would allow prisoners such as Mark a dignified death at home with their family members and reduce an enormous cost to the taxpayers.
Grangetto was finally moved to North Kern State Prison instead of an extended care facility. Mark Grangetto cannot change his own diapers with only the use of one hand. His hair and beard are long because his electric razor was lost in the prison system. His nails were over half an inch long when Nora was finally allowed to see him at Corcoran Prison. The prison doctors have not written a chrono so Nora can buy Mark a new electric razor. A letter has been sent requesting such a chrono, which is the term for the permission that the inmates need for even the most basic items which often never come or can take months and years to arrive.
Assembly Bill 1539 (AB1539) is currently on its way to the State Senate floor for a vote. This is an amended Compassionate Release bill that would include prisoners who are in the physical and medical condition of Mark Grangetto.
After more than a decade of pleading by his mother Nora Weber, who wrote to everyone in power, to every group claiming to help prisoners and finally had no choice but to file lawsuits, North Kern State Prison has now stationed a person outside of Mark's room who does nothing but sit there and watch him and every five minutes makes a log entry. If only medical help would have come years ago there would not be so many disabled prisoners for which the taxpayers are forced to pay.
They have a total of four employees who sit at his room around the clock 24 hours a day who does nothing but log every move he makes and every word that he says. Their hand written report is then typed and put into his medical chart.
10:05 a.m. He laid in bed and watched TV
He sat on the side of the bed and watched TV
He sat in his wheelchair and watched TV
He got in his wheelchair and went to the bathroom to urinate
10:10 a.m He laid in bed and watched TV
He drank one diet Pepsi and watched TV while he laid in bed.
He told staff that he is not a rat in a lab for experiments.
and on and on. Their report goes 24 hours around the clock every five minutes.
I can't imagine any prison taking this much time and personnel cost to watch one person but they are doing it...finally. The lawsuits currently pending in court against the CDC, some of their doctors and a warden must have a great deal to do with the creation of these kind of detailed reports which is not the same as medical care. After he spent more than a decade cast into solitary confinement, Administrative Segregation and the SHU, this is quite a turnabout.
But it's too late, the damage from long term neglect cannot be undone and Grangetto should be released now. AB 1539 has not been passed and God knows how much longer it will take to implement it once it is passed. It isn't likely that Mark Grangetto will make it until next January when the new laws may take effect. He should be released now but who in the bureaucracy has the courage and compassion to step up to the plate to help Nora Weber?
Mark can't bathe himself. He can't walk. He can't prepare his own food, cook or go grocery shopping. He can't dress himself without assistance. He now has a colon problem that requires the use of diapers and laxatives or his colon does not work at all. He also is legally blind. Plus he has medical diseases that can never be cured including Hepatitis C and Diabetes. He requires 24-hour care. Mark has recently had a stroke and his brain shows signs of atrophy. Two prison doctors have previously signed for a compassionate release of mark but it was denied by Warden Darrell Adams.
What prison doctor will step up to the plate and sign for a release under AB1539 which may pass too late to ease the suffering of Mark Grangetto and his family? What Judge in Kern County will then recall the sentence and release him. The bureaucrats are more worried about their "image" than in making certain people are treated with a regular standard of community care as the law requires. This mismanagement is morally reprehensible, cruel and expensive for the taxpayers.
Each time Nora sees her son Mark for a brief time, she knows this might be the last time. Nora hired attorney Cindy Cannon to file the lawsuits and the Attorney General's office has done everything possible to protect the California Department of Corrections in each and every one of their motions. UNION families have filed 28 lawsuits so far against the state for wrongful deaths and abuse. The AG's staff attorneys are ruthless in dealing with these families at what is probably the worst time of their lives.
It is a David and Goliath struggle that Nora Weber is using her retirement money to fight. A fight that others have tried to win but could not due to the distortion of evidence, withholding of records and just plain old lies told by correctional employees. Legal actions by the families are a form of accountability that the State won't provide to the individuals responsible for ongoing medical neglect but winning them is nearly impossible.
Punishing the sick and disabled serves no public safety interest and is a Constitutional violation. Yet CDCR employees, with the permission of the legislators, are getting away with this type of torment that devastates the entire family unit as they are helpless and unable to find assistance anywhere.
Most family members are denied visits completely once their loved one goes to a prison or a community hospital which happened to Nora Weber several times. I have watched people deteriorate and die in this tormented manner dozens of times and the pattern is clear to me. They are not only denied visits to their loved ones but often not even called when they are taken to the hospital. It's a tragedy from which the family will never recover to be treated in such a callous manner by our "public servants" and it happens only to the poor and uneducated who can't wage a battle or organize to take those who support such inhumanity out of office.
CDCR is more worried about legal exposure than they are about taking care of the human beings that they are holding captive. The California news media was correct in saying that poor voter knowledge is hurting us because I am very certain that compassionate and God-fearing people would be unhappy about their tax dollars being used to punish people to this degree. This is why the media is banned from the prisons, to hide this type of rampant abuse which could only be described as what it is - TORTURE.
I have brought case after case to the attention of all who are in power and part of the prison reform debate. We have held protests in front of the CDC offices in Sacramento, brought scores of people to attend a CDCR rules hearing on Ad Seg and SHU policies where our comments were haphazardly recorded and many testimonies left out of the record, Nora has informed legislative committees of this torture to her son which are documented in the public record, we went as a group with many similar problems to appeal to Robert Sillen the minute he took office. We have appeared hundreds of times before legislative committees but there is no real help available for the medically incapacitated and terminally ill.
Not only have I witnessed Nora Weber's repeated appeals for help for more than two years, but UNION subscribers and I have also appealed with little results.
For seventeen years that her son has been literally destroyed by the system, Nora Weber has had no relief. This is why the voters must demand in their letters to editors urging the Republican legislators in particular to pass AB1539. A similar bill passed both houses of the legislature last year but was vetoed by the Governor.
The Governor knows of this suffering and instead of cutting back on the prison population wants to expand it because prisoners create funding for the bureaucracy. Is this really what you want to see being done with your tax dollars in the name of justice?
There are approximately three million Californians attached to a state prisoner. If they all voted we would have no Republicans in elected office to promote this type of cruelty, worse than that of Abu Ghraib.
We have set up a website with ways you can help terminally and ill and permanently incapacitated prisoners be re-sentenced
go to http://www.1union1.com/ab1539_index_page.html (link)
As of this date, the bill is about to enter the Senate and then on to
the Governor who vetoed a similar bill last year.
On June 27, 2007 a hearing set by Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence
Karlton will be held in SACRAMENTO about whether or not to impose a prison
cap. Keep checking the UNION alerts page for more details. A crowd is needed
at this one to prove that people DO care enough about prisoners to write
and show up at such important hearings.
Remember that YOU are the one who needs to be up in arms about prisoners. The whole world is waiting for the families to find their organizing legs so they can elect people to office who arenít going to engage in and support such inhumanity. Punishing people beyond the point where they know what is being done to them is an expensive, cruel and ridiculous philosophy that is robbing our education dollars, building the bureaucracy and devastating too many families.
We can vote the bums voting "no" out of office by organizing and only
by organizing. Get active with us before tragedy predictably knocks at
Here is the list of Assembly members who voted against taking the medically
incapacitated and terminally ill for re-sentencing. Remember these names
because this inhumanity is only taking place with the full permission of
the voters and this group of Republican politicians with a few Democrats
chiming in with them.
This block to reform by the Republicans has been taking place since
Pete Wilson came in and took the prison population from 20,000 to 150,000
in a few short years. Gray Davis also voted with the Republicans on criminal
justice issues. They do it for the money since this is California's number
one industry. I will publish the names of the Senators who vote against
this bill as it travels through the committees within the next week or
two. We can do something about low voter knowledge.
We can do something about teaching the poor how to vote and to organize
so that they and their loved ones never experience what Nora Weber and
Mark Grangetto probably won't survive - the slow state murder by medical
neglect. This situation is very likely in everyone's future who has a loved
one in prison with a ridiculously long sentence unless the reform is forced
by lawsuits and initiative campaigns.
The Democrats who passed AB 1539 out of Assembly need to be thanked.
The real hurdle will be the Governor who vetoed a similar bill last year.
Remember these names of people who voted against AB1539 and make certain
you advise their constituents of what they did to block this important
Adams Aghazarian Anderson Arambula
Benoit Berryhill Cook DeVore
Duvall Emmerson Fuller Gaines
Galgiani Garcia Garrick Horton
Houston Huff Jeffries Keene
La Malfa Lieu Maze Nakanishi
Niello Plescia Sharon Runner Silva
Smyth Spitzer Strickland Tran
Villines Walters Wolk
ABSENT, ABSTAINING, OR NOT VOTING
Blakeslee Richardson Salas Soto
Subscribe to my daily newsletter so you can know when, where, how to
fight back for yourself and others. There is no need to be a victim if
you organize now before injustice and these same types of brick walls loom
before you. Your help is needed to save sick, disabled and dying prisoners
and their families and to put an end to torture in California's prisons.
The Grangetto trial is coming up August 22, 2007, please watch our alerts
page for announcements of this and other trials in progress where a crowd
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
Forming an active voting lobby to stand up to this inhumanity is the
only way to save lives and turn this prison mess around. Get active with