United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect

Heartbreaking Story of Edward Rister

Rister with Brothers & Sisters

Heartbreaking Story of Edward Rister 

Imagine that you are a mother  andyour son is diagnosed with a psychotic disorder and multiple personalities.

Imagine that your son, who is the father of three of your grandchildren, commits a crime due to his mental illness and goes to prison.

You cannot know with whom he will be celled  or whether or not he will receive treatment.  If a inmate with a history of violence and assault is put in the same room  with your  son, there is nothing you can do about it, if you even found out.

You visit your son as often as you can and then one day the phone rings and it is the prison

He tells you that your son has been attacked and beaten by his cellmate the day before.  It 
is a head injury. Your son is near death but no, you may not visit him.

Your son was taken to the hospital the day before the doctor calls to tell you basically that his life is over.

"These things happen" the doctors says.


You are now alone in to learn what has happened to your son and inquiries to the warden produce no response.

His status has changed now that he is near death and has only brain stem function, his upper brain will never work again.  All he can do is breathe on his own and blink his eyes.

He cannot walk, talk, recognize anyone or feed himself.

His scrotum area is so badly injured that reconstructive surgery is necessary. 

What do you do?  Where do you go for help?

Finally when your loved one is expected to die within 24 hours the prison decides that your family may finally visit him.

The real purpose of pulling everyone together is get permission to unplug the life support barely sustaining your son's life.

When the tubes are pulled, he begins to breathe on his own but his brain is permanently destroyed.

He is shackled to the bed even though he is beyond powerless.

There are two guards over  him 24 hours a day.

Now he begins to be moved from facility to facility. Those who will take prisoners are limited.

You may not visit him. One day he disappears without your permission or knowledge.

You are told he is in a long term facility in Delano but you may not know which one.

A year goes by.

Is your son dead or alive?

You cannot get his medical records or any information about what transpired other than "his cellmate beat him and he will never have use of his upper brain again."

This is the true story of inmate Edward Rister which was brought to my attention by an anonymous letter which included the CDC incident report. Someone who obviously worked inside the prison sent it when they saw we support the lawsuit filed for the Donald Swisher family

This story was covered up by CDC and kept from the media.

I located Edward's sister, mother, brothers  and sisters and they will be at the press conference tomorrow.

Edward's mother can only get around with a walker and in a wheelchair.   Like most mothers who have lost their sons to prison, she is very ill. 

Pat Rister is coming to finally be heard. 

After nearly a decade of hearing these complaints,  I think that I have seen all CDC's methods of cover up. 

But this is a new low, even for them, and  where did it happen?

AT CSP SOLANO, eleven  months ago.

I had this information  sitting in the hearings as they were asking how to save money on
 medical care and I could not fit it  into my two minute allotment of time.

What is the expense of mentally ill inmates carelessly double-celled and the administration never held accountable for the thousands of deaths and permanent injuries that predictably result from these bad decisions?

Edward Rister's mother is his next of kin and she  may not have his medical records, get a response from anyone at the  prison FOR NEARLY A  YEAR or even know where he is physically located.

WHAT IN  GOD'S NAME IS GOING ON HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What is the cost of two guards watching a man  24 hours a day who can only blink  in a  long term care facility?

The Compassionate Release bill that was  vetoed by Schwarzenegger would have directly affected this devastated family.

They wept tears of joy and relief that the UNION families care enough to be organizing a citizen's group to stand up to this kind of destruction.

Edward's sister is a teacher and his children students.  They also lost another member of their family and this preventable tragedy has affected them all with such grief that no American citizen should ever have to endure.

They will be present at the press conference tomorrow.

There is much more to this story but Mark is reviewing and investigating it so this is all I may tell you about it right now.

Six to eight members of the  Rister family are expected to attend.  They are certainly glad to find the UNION people - please be there to welcome them to  our group and to our hearts.

We are building a web site for Edward Rister the most recent tragedy now which should be up with his photograph and family picture tomorrow night at this link.

February 3, 2005

Here comes Peggy......hooray for this heroines! 

My brother lies in a hospital bed, unaware of anything around him. He doesn't know he is fed by a tube, nor that his hygiene is seen to by others; neither does he see the guards that watch him day and night. In October of 2003, Ed was beaten in his cell at Solano Prison. Three days later, it was discovered. Never known to be hostile, Ed was serving a term that was supposed to last several years for a drug related mistake. 

That term became a life sentence. The neurologist likened Ed's head injuries/brain damage to those sustained by a helmet-less motor-cyclist in a high speed crash. Still mourning the loss of her youngest son to heart failure not ten months prior, my mom was devestated and could not bring herself to elect to discontinue care. 

She felt she would be finishing the job of murder that someone else had started. I heard that the guards for Ed alone cost over $1,000.00 per day. And what of the hospital? Expensive? You can bet! And a full day's drive from family.  They didn't do a good job guarding him in life. Now that he is little more than dead, the job is being done. Where is the sense in this? He should be released. 

Peggy Rister 


Posted on Thu, Mar. 03, 2005 

New case of comatose inmate shows violence, spiraling costs

By Mark Gladstone
Mercury News Sacramento Bureau

As tensions escalated inside cell 224 at Solano Valley State Prison, inmate John Rigoni finally snapped. And in the seconds that followed, he beat up his cellmate.

Days later, guards discovered Edward Rister in the 6-by-11-foot space unconscious with what his family says were early signs of gangrene.

Ironically, Rister has been looked after more closely for the past 16 months as he lies comatose and shackled in a private hospital bed than he was for those harrowing days inside his prison cell.

What happened in that cell in October 2003 touched off a series of events that so far has cost California taxpayers more than $1 million -- an estimated $600,000 for guarding the severely brain-damaged Yuba City man 24 hours a day and conservatively at least $474,000 more for medical care.

Rister's is the latest, and so far the most expensive, in a series of cases highlighted by the Mercury News in which the state pays officers primarily on overtime to watch incapacitated, brain-damaged and brain-dead inmates.

The case of Rister, a 44-year-old convicted child molester, exemplifies some of the most troubling aspects of the $6.5 billion-a-year state prison system that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to clean up and bring under financial control. It helps illustrate the high rate of violence in California's 32 prisons, soaring medical expenses and the Department of Corrections' costly insistence on round-the-clock guarding of comatose inmates.

Task force creation

After previous news reports, Corrections Director Jeanne Woodford formed a task force to scrutinize the handling of these cases. ``It's a priority for the director to balance public safety, officer safety and our commitment to providing adequate medical care to inmates,'' said department spokesman George Kostryko.

He emphasized that sworn officers must be used to guard comatose inmates such as Rister because of the state's labor contract with the influential California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Today, Rister lies motionless in his private hospital room in Delano. While his relatives wait for a miracle, they also remain puzzled over how the onetime Yuba City farmworker who struggled to finish eighth grade wound up unconscious. They wonder whether the prison did enough to protect him and if anyone at the prison other than Rigoni, 37, a rapist from San Jose, will be held responsible. Citing an ongoing investigation, a prison official refused to discuss details of the case.

Rister's beating raises anew concerns about the ability of the Department of Corrections to protect its 165,000 inmates in California's increasingly overcrowded prison system. Statewide, the number of reported assaults and batteries on inmates and guards, for instance, doubled between 1993 and 2003.

Last week, Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill said that, based on the most recent figures, California has nearly twice as many assaults as in Texas and almost three times the number as federal prisons -- both with roughly the same number of inmates.

Rister's plight stands out because his assault appears to have gone undetected for as long as five days. What remains a mystery is what happened when officers made their regular inmate counts -- the linchpin for tracking prisoners to ensure they haven't escaped. Corrections officials say that policy typically calls for four such counts a day, including one in which inmates must stand.

Kostryko acknowledged that Rister's case prompted an administrative review that probably dealt with this issue. However, citing confidentiality concerns, he would not say whether anyone was punished for failing to realize Rister was unconscious.

``How come he wasn't accounted for?'' asks his mother, Patricia Rister, a retired nurse in the town of East Linda north of Sacramento. ``They should have known something was amiss.''

Events in cell 224

One thing is clear. Even though Rister's family has been told he is breathing on his own, he is in no condition to say what unfolded in cell 224.

John Harris, a deputy Solano County district attorney, doubts Rister will regain consciousness. ``It would be a real miracle if he was ever to come out of his coma,'' said Harris. The prosecutor expects to soon file criminal charges against Rigoni, who is already serving a 25 years-to-life sentence for a Santa Clara County rape.

For at least a week before Rister's injuries were discovered, he and Rigoni had been restricted to their cell, according to corrections officials. Rister's injuries first came to light shortly after noon Oct. 27, 2003, when Rigoni handed an officer a note and said he needed to talk. According to an initial crime report obtained by the Mercury News, Rigoni said that a few days earlier he had fought with Rister and given him two black eyes. Now, he told officers, he was scared because Rister hadn't responded ``for days.''

Officers were dispatched to the cell, where Rister was unconscious. He was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Rigoni was arrested on a charge of battery and remains at Solano Valley, a prison with about 5,700 inmates in Vacaville, halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.

Shortly after Rigoni, a onetime San Jose construction worker, alerted guards, he made the following statement: ``My cellie was acting weird for about three weeks, and I finally snapped and hit him in the face about two time (sic). I did not hit him anywhere else. All of the other bruises are from him falling down all the time. Anything from the neck up I did, anything below that I did not do.''

Treatment of inmates like Rister is one reason overall prison medical bills more than doubled in five years to $1 billion annually. Separately, the cost of transporting and guarding inmates like Rister who are taken to community hospitals has shot up 60 percent in six years.

Under state policy, inmates usually are required to be shackled and guarded by two officers, one armed, when they are hospitalized outside prison walls.

A brain-dead inmate

The Mercury News previously reported on the case of Daniel Provencio, who was shot in January by a guard with a foam projectile. Prison officials now estimate the state spent about $110,000 on his medical bills before releasing the brain-dead inmate to his family. In addition, his guarding cost taxpayers an additional $30,000.

As for Rister, his guarding costs are $35,000 a month, including an officer and a portion of his supervisor's time. For the first four months of his hospitalization, Rister was guarded by two officers. Prison officials are trying to determine the exact guarding costs for his first two months, when he was probably in an intensive-care unit.

Rister's family recalls visiting him in the fall of 2003 at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, where he was watched by two officers. ``Every time we came, they were watching TV,'' said Pat Rister.

Eventually, her son was transferred 300 miles away to Delano Regional Medical Center. Family members complain that they had trouble learning his exact whereabouts, but corrections officials say Pat Rister was alerted.

She hopes that her son can be moved closer to her Yuba City-area home so she can visit him. ``A patient in his condition, you don't know what level his consciousness is. So you talk to him,'' she said, ``like he was talking back to you.''

After Rister entered the hospital, the family was shown X-rays and told ``there was practically no hope that he would ever be able to do more than blink his eyes,'' said Rister's sister, Peggy, a Marysville schoolteacher. ``He was a functioning human being when they put him in there.''

Contact Mark Gladstone at  mgladstone@mercurynews.com  or (916) 325-4314.

Posted on Fri, Mar. 04, 2005 

Senator blasts prison policy

By Mark Gladstone
Mercury News Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - A key state senator Thursday chastised the California Department of Corrections for spending $35,000 a month to guard a comatose inmate.

The round-the-clock watch of prisoner Edward Rister, first reported Thursday in the Mercury News, ``essentially verifies that we are spending exorbitant amounts of money on a policy that's eerie,'' said Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, chair of the Select Committee on the California Correctional System. ``It's a policy that must come to an end.''

Rister, 44, a convicted child molester from Yuba City, was beaten by his cellmate and left unconscious for days in October 2003. Ever since, he has been guarded in community hospitals at a cost so far of about $600,000, much of it overtime. His medical bill has been estimated by authorities at $474,000.

Thursday, prison officials indicated that, as of the end of 2004, six comatose inmates were being guarded in hospitals outside prison walls. However, details of the cases were not available.

Both the Mercury News and Romero have sought a full accounting of cases like Rister's. Romero said that almost a month ago she asked Department of Corrections Director Jeanne Woodford for details of cases of brain-dead and incapacitated inmates, including the number of such prisoners and the cost of treating and guarding them.

Romero voiced frustration that Woodford so far has not responded to her letter, sent in the wake of publicity surrounding Daniel Provencio, a brain-dead inmate who had been shot by a guard with a foam riot-control projectile. Provencio was guarded 24 hours a day while he was restrained in the intensive-care unit of a Bakersfield hospital. He was later released from custody but remains hospitalized.

Todd Slosek, a Department of Corrections spokesman, said Woodford is attempting to respond to Romero ``in a thoughtful way'' and had not received her letter until the middle of February. He noted Woodford had formed a task force to examine the issue.

Prison officials have previously said that sworn officers must be used to guard comatose inmates such as Rister because of the state's labor contract with the influential California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said Thursday that cases like Rister's demonstrate the need to change the labor agreement.

``Ultimately, the only way you dramatically change this kind of wasteful spending is by renegotiating the contract,'' said Speier. The state needs to restore the ability of management to make staffing decisions, she said.

A representative of the guards union could not be reached for comment.

After Rister's initial hospitalization, his relatives said, they had a hard time learning that he had been transferred to a hospital in Delano. They were assisted in finding Rister by B. Cayenne Bird, the founder and director of a prison reform group called United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect.

Corrections officials say Rister's family was told of his whereabouts.

Contact Mark Gladstone at mgladstone@mercurynews.com or (916) 325-4314. 

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