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Okay, the title to this post makes it sound like I’ll be making a habit of recording these stories of abuse. I will not. That isn’t because these episodes aren’t regular (unfortunately, they are quite regular), it is because I don’t have the time most weeks to adequately collect the many stories of misconduct from across this America.

So, why this week? Well, I came across two particularly disgusting and glaring examples of abuse. In both cases, they are presented with great clarity. The first is courtroom video footage. The second is a diaristic, written account.


Above, we see a video from September 2012, in which Denver Sheriff Deputy Brad Lovingier slams a handcuffed prisoner into wall. Face first. Totally unprovoked.

Following the judge’s ruling, the defendant Anthony Waller requested clarification. At which point he is grabbed, from behind, by the handcuffs secured by behind his back, spun around, and flung into the wall. Waller falls to his knees after the impact and is then dragged out of the courtroom and into a holding cell. In the video Lovingier can be heard saying, “You don’t turn on me,” as the only explanation for his actions.

Madness. Ordinarily, a citizen guilty of such an assault would face a 6-month jail term. Lovingier was suspended for 30 days. And he’s appealing that.


The story is as simple as its logic is baffling and its behaviours are brutal.

Man witnesses a bike accident. Calls 9-1-1. Is handcuffed by police for unknown reasons. Taken to jail. Asks legitimate questions. Faces retribution from deputies. Stripped. Thrown in a shit-stained solitary cell.

You just have to read it to believe it: Good Samaritan Backfire or How I Ended Up in Solitary After Calling 911 for Help

This kid —  Paretz Partensky — is a young, educated, white, computer programmer. His abuse is likely no different (it might be less egregious?) than abuse meted out to people in San Francisco far more vulnerable than he. But Partensky gets on hot-new-story-telling-platform Medium and tells the story of his 12 hours of detention.


Officer Durkin, in the foreground, is telling Ben that he cannot take this photo. According to Attorney Krages, you are allowed to take photos in public places. Officer Durkin’s reprimand is in violation of Ben’s rights.

Partensky’s account is nuanced — he provides necessary details; he gives benefit of doubt to most of the characters involved; he tries to put himself in the position of others throughout the ordeal; he is aware of his white privilege; he ponders what different outcomes may have arisen had he and others interacted differently. In short, it is a compelling read.

Let’s not be churlish and say this is a young, comfy, SF-coder-class entrepreneur using an online platform to have a whinge. Let’s be civic and responsible and say no-one should be subject to arbitrary and vengeful treatment from law enforcement. Let us not allow our uncomfortable relationship to racial and income inequality, nor our relationship to white privilege be an excuse to dismiss Partensky’s story. Let us be shocked. Let us be angry. Let us thank Partensky for bringing his account to light.

Recruit Gill and other recruits shout as they count down from 10 after being ordered to "clear the head", which means to exit the lavatory area. When the count reaches zero, everyone is expected to have put away their toiletries and be standing in line.

A couple of weeks ago, before Theo Stroomer headed off to Bolivia, we sat down for a beer.

After studying photojournalism at the University of Colorado, Stroomer went to work as a photographer for a newspaper in Vail, Colorado. He documented the Colorado Correctional Alternative Program (CCAP) in Summer 2008 as a personal project.

The CCAP, a boot camp style program, was the only program of its kind in Colorado and one of very few across the States. The three-month camp, which opened in 1991, offered physical & mental challenges, a GED program and substance-abuse treatment. About 90% of the offenders had drug or alcohol abuse problems

In March 2010, as part of Colorado State budget cuts, the boot camp was closed down. “There’s no political consequence in making a decision like that,” says Stroomer. The photographer observed change and believed it was a worthy program. Upon hearing news of the closure, Stroomer wrote, “I held a high opinion of the program, its staff, and its role in the lives of inmate participants after observing it over a three-month period in 2008. I am sorry to see it go.”

Staff use a technique called "corralling" to discipline Recruit Cardenas on Zero Day, the first day of the three-month program. Zero Day is the most intense day for new recruits. They are subjected to extreme physical and emotional stress, including supervised physical contact from staff members.

Recruits are rushed off the bus on Zero Day. To break new recruits mentally and physically, staff bark orders constantly, move them on and off the bus repeatedly, and batter them with physical exercises.

Recruits on the obstacle course during the CCAP program's daily physical training.

Admittedly, the boot camp program was more costly than simply warehousing prisoners. And costs were rising; from $78/day to $109/day per inmate in 2009 alone. Also unhelpful were the gradually increasing year-on-year recidivism rates among CCAP graduates. The Denver Post, in a rather damning summary, reports:

51% of the 155 inmates released from prison through boot camp in fiscal year 2007 have already returned to prison. The 51% recidivism rate of these nonviolent offenders was only 2% points better than the record of inmates convicted of crimes such as robbery and murder.

Another huge problem for CCAP – which only took non-violent first-time offenders – was the statewide rising proportion of inmates classified as “high security” compared to when CCAP opened in the early nineties. Indeed, it is telling that as the CCAP boot camp was being shuttered as another new maximum security prison was under construction in Canon City.

It should always be noted that the most inventive and progressive programs are more expensive than those which simply lock people up without rehabilitation efforts.

Ari Zavaras, Colorado Department of Corrections executive director, rolled out the stats to support the decision. I suspect negatively-spun statistics surface about any particular service whenever a state department is about to bin it. The closure of CCAP boot camp is forecast to save $1million in operating costs per year and relocate 33 full-time staff.

Recruit Greene log-rolls in "the pit", a gravel area that is used for group discipline and physical trials that are rites of passage in the program.

Recruits Shock, center, Davis-Gonzales, left, and Gill, right, smile during Prison Fellowship, a nationwide Christian prison ministry program that meets once a week during CCAP.

The squad bay, where recruits keep their toiletries and clothing in addition to sleeping at night. With good behavior from the entire platoon, recruits can earn amenities such as pillows.


The Pain the Pride (Waterside Press, 2000) by Brian P. Block is an exclusive fly-on-the wall account of life inside the Colorado Correctional Alternative Program. It is available on Google Books.


The Denver Post reports on the unexpected, welcome and only half-explained trend of decreasing prison populations in Colorado (2009: 23,186 – 2010: 22,127).

Why the surprise? Shouldn’t one expect a drop in prison population if the state ceases to pursue (due to budgetary constraint) harsh, punitive legislation of boom years? After the postponement of insane policy, we should be looking how to reverse the damage and plummet the figures further. In 1981, Colorado had fewer than 3,000 prisoners. That’s the baseline to focus on.

Graduate Davis-Gonzales hugs his girlfriend, Povi Chidester, during a graduation ceremony at the conclusion of the three-month program. Inmates who complete the program attend the ceremony and are allowed one hour with family and friends. Their sentences are then sent to a judge for reconsideration. "I came here from a huge house with a bunch of coke, a bunch of money, a bunch of guns ... and now I have none of that. And I feel like more of a person now than I did then," said Davis-Gonzales.

Screengrab - Inmate Benjamin Terry stands with Sierra, a mustang he trains as part of the Wild Horse and Inmate Program at the Cañon City Correctional Complex on March 17, 2010 in Cañon City, Colorado.. © Dana Romanoff

Screengrab - Inmate Benjamin Terry stands with Sierra, a mustang he trains as part of the Wild Horse and Inmate Program at the Cañon City Correctional Complex on March 17, 2010 in Cañon City, Colorado. © Dana Romanoff

This is a great photo essay, simply because it is a great story. Unexpected.

Dana Romanoff documents efforts by The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to round up wild horses and consequently tame them and offer them up for adoption.

“There exist approximately 63,000 wild horses under BLM management. The BLM currently has more than 36,000 horses in captivity in short term corrals and long term pastures. In 2009, the BLM removed 6,300 horses from the wild and in 2010; the BLM plans to remove nearly 13,000 more.”

“A few thousand of the rounded up horses temporarily live at the Cañon City Correctional Facility, Colorado. Under the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) inmates care for, train and ready selected horses for adoption by the public. Some say the Wild Horse Inmate Program “takes the wild out of both the man and the mustang.” Often an inmate has one horse that he works with and gets to name. Inmates learn a trade and the responsibility of having a job while horses are taught to trust humans, and be saddle and bridal trained. Both a bit spooked at first, the tattooed and muscled inmate and the scared and wild horse learn to trust each other form a bond.”

Who knew?

Well, probably many if they follow Getty Reportage, who are now also on Twitter at @GettyImagesRPTG.

See the prisoner-stereotype-busting images of ‘Wild No More’ here.


As a footnote, if you go ever go camping in the West do so on BLM land. It is well run, sparsely occupied and has fewer restrictions than any other government run land. For camping, conditions are perfect.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Who Knew? UPDATE (07.06.10)

Matt Slaby has also covered this story in the past.

BLM UPDATE (07.06.10)

While I’m yapping on about the quality of undisturbed camping, Ellen Rennard is bringing more serious questions to the table about BLM’s relationship with environment-killing big business. (See comments/sources below). Thanks Ellen!


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