December 2004: Prisoners in Coleman Exposed to Radiation Overdose and Cancer Risk
David Correa 03627-068
In re: Exposed to Excessive Radiation
Dear Committee on Unjust Sentencing,
Here at the United States Penitentiary at Coleman, Florida, things are going from bad to worse. I could surely use your help on a health issue. I need to get word out on what officials here are planning in the name of "security." The problem we face is this.
I work at the prison factory called UNICOR. I need to work to be able to survive and maintain myself in prison, and help my parents and my daughter by sending them money from time to time. However, at this UNICOR factory a new division and factory will be opening in December or January next year. This new factory will be located adjacent to our regular factory, in the same building and sharing the same floor space. The new factory will be making plastic signs, and that is where the problem starts. In order to make sure that all the plastic material remains on the factory floor and that no knives are made and taken into the general population, officials here have come up with a great idea. They intend to install a body scanner, similar to those used at airports, and scan us every time we come in and leave the UNICOR building, to ensure that nothing is removed. At first the idea appeared to be a good one, but here is what I have discovered about the scanner machine and how the officials here intend to use it.
The scanner is a model type "Secure 1000," which is found at some airports. However, at airports the machine is used only on persons suspected of carrying something illegal. Here at UNICOR the machine will be used to scan everyone - inmates, that is - who come into the building and leave. That means six times a day, five days a week, 51 weeks a year.
The Secure 1000 scanner will give off 3 micro rems of radiation to each person being scanned, per side. I understand that this institution will scan each of us twice (two positions, double the dose of radiation) each time we step in or out of the building. The machine will emit 6 micro rems per entry or departure from the building. At an average of 6 times a day that we will enter or leave the building, this will amount to a dose of 36 micro rems per day. A five day week will result in exposure to a total of 180 micro rems per week, and, on the basis of a 51 week year, a total of 9,180 micro rems of radiation per year.
From my school years, I recall that radiation is cumulative, and that receiving so much radiation will take a toll on my immune system, exposing me to an increased risk of cancer and related problems. This is why I need your help in contacting the press, the Surgeon General, and members of Congress to stop this potentially lethal action. There are other methods of ensuring that no one takes objects out of the factory, such as strip searches. I would much rather be strip searched than be subjected to daily radiation. Please stop these people from exposing me and others to this practice, especially when there are alternative methods to ensure that nothing dangerous leaves the floor.
I need to work while I am incarcerated, but I should not have to risk my health for a dollar an hour. What is being planned is an abuse of power.
Please know that a similar machine was installed at the UNICOR factory in Marianna, Florida, but it was determined by officials there that so much radiation was affecting prisoners that the practice was stopped.
This is not an issue about UNICOR work not being compulsory, which the standard response to concerns raised by inmates. You don't have to work at UNICOR if you don't want to. The issue is about the health of inmates. Staff officers are neither willing to nor are required to undergo scanning. In essence, what UNICOR is saying is that some people will risk cancer just to work for them. Someone who refuses to be scanned can quit. This is a calculated indifference to the health of inmates.
Please do what you can do defeat this plan.