A threat, but not to security

Deane Brown battles on
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  September 3, 2008

Maine prisoner Deane Brown, 44, who was shipped to Maryland in 2006 after blowing the whistle on prisoner abuse in the Maine State Prison’s Supermax unit, is no longer in solitary confinement, though he remains far from Maine.

In July, Brown was transferred from Maryland’s supermax in Baltimore to the maximum-security Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, in the Maryland mountains. After a month he was released from "administrative segregation" into the general population — the first time he has enjoyed this status in nearly two years. Among his new privileges, he can make phone calls several times a week. His latest home is “cleaner and newer,” Brown said in a call to the Portland Phoenix. He added: “I’m surviving, battling.”

He even has won a small victory. In his federal-court fight to be returned to Maine, in which he is pressing freedom-of-speech, due-process, and excessive-punishment complaints, a judge, while dismissing several of his complaints, in late August kept alive a key First-Amendment claim — that Maine Corrections Commissioner Martin Magnusson had responsibility in denying Brown access to the news media and then transferring him from the Warren prison to Maryland in retaliation for his whistle-blowing.

In court documents, Maine prison authorities accuse Brown of “providing confidential information to the news media.” They also call him “one of the greatest threats ever to the security of the prison.”

“I’m a threat, but not to security,” he responded, in a May interview with the Phoenix in Baltimore. (For background on Brown’s whistle-blowing, see “Torture in Maine’s Prison,” by Lance Tapley, November 11, 2005.)

A bright, feisty individual, Brown, serving 59 years for burglary, alternates between principled but practical actions asserting his and his fellow prisoners’ rights as human beings against the totalitarian prison system and, on the other hand, gestures that on the surface seem almost suicidal.

Brown is diabetic, and not taking insulin might kill him; he is fighting in Maryland courts, though, for the right to refuse it. He claims that the way insulin is administered to him is unsafe; he wants to control his treatment. But a judge, at the request of Maryland Corrections, has ordered insulin be given to him by force, if necessary. Brown said he is resisting the injections “passively and verbally.”

He can chalk up a small victory in these protests, too: His state-paid Maryland lawyer, Joseph Tetrault, said a prison nurse was fired for incorrectly administering insulin to him.

Maine’s Corrections Department disclaims any responsibility for his treatment in Maryland. The Maine Attorney General’s Office wouldn’t comment on the latest developments in the federal case; it is defending Corrections.

  Topics: This Just In , Health and Fitness, Criminal Sentencing and Punishment, Medicine,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   SUBVERSIVE SUMMER  |  June 18, 2014
    Prisons, pot festivals, and Orgonon: Here are some different views of summertime Maine — seen through my personal political lens.
  •   LEFT-RIGHT CONVERGENCE - REALLY?  |  June 06, 2014
    “Unstoppable: A Gathering on Left-Right Convergence,” sponsored by consumer advocate Ralph Nader, featured 26 prominent liberal and conservative leaders discussing issues on which they shared positions. One was the minimum wage.
  •   STATE OF POLARIZATION  |  April 30, 2014
    As the campaign season begins, leading the charge on one side is a rural- and northern-Maine-based Trickle-Down Tea Party governor who sees government’s chief role as helping the rich (which he says indirectly helps working people), while he vetoes every bill in sight directly helping the poor and the struggling middle class, including Medicaid expansion, the issue that most occupied the Legislature this year and last.
  •   MICHAEL JAMES SENT BACK TO PRISON  |  April 16, 2014
    The hearing’s topic was whether James’s “antisocial personality disorder” was enough of a mental disease to keep him from being sent to prison.
  •   LOCKING UP THE MENTALLY ILL  |  April 03, 2014
    The merger of the prison and mental-health systems continues

 See all articles by: LANCE TAPLEY