La Teatrista

guerillera de la cultura

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Voices of the 99%: Dear Mayor Bloomberg

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,


As you have created new regulations to protect the interests of your political alliances and not your citizens, we urge you to seriously consider the aftermath of what is going to be your own undoing.   It is clear and evident you are part of the nation’s percentage that is pinning Americans under their knees like the NYPD on peaceful demonstrators.   The government which you serve has economically exploited, unlawfully criminalized, and unjustly marginalized Americans for too long. Whether you like it or not, this Occupying Movement is the true democracy of our time.   

From reporters, lawyers, elderly, minors , legal immigrants, homeless, students, workers, labor unions, educators, nurses and more are all the contributing citizens in this demonstration. Your baton bashing, dishonest enforcements  have pushed the frustration with your unethical politics beyond a breaking point into a solidified resolve among your New Yorkers.  Cities across the nation are organizing and uniting in efforts to bring awareness and call for reform peacefully, transparently with collaborative consensus, community, and consciousness.   These citizens are a mirror of the first American Revolution,  now emerging in this new century.  

We urge you to listen. We urge you to have dialog with your citizens to discuss the reform that this country is urgently due.  Your dismissal of the message with patronizing actions and words only highlight the true interests of your ambitions.  Your interests are not with the majority of tax-paying citizens living in the city which you serve.  These peaceful demonstrators from all walks of life have joined to make a stronger voice to change a nation in the interest of all, to reclaim pride and no longer assume the role of victims to violent and salient profit-mongering, social injustice, policing of our rights.  
Criminalizing this movement will not be in your best interest, Mr. Bloomberg.  Do not attempt to sweep away a national outcry.  The founders of this nation instituted the right for free assembly.  Do not infringe on our rights.  Like a child abuser trying to snuff the noise of the abused, you are choosing to muzzle the abused Americans of your city. The noise you are trying to prevent will only get louder.  The world is watching. 

Claudia Acosta

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Voices of the 99%: Echoes from Brooklyn Bridge

For all those who were suspended on that concrete slab over a river, The of Battle of Brooklyn Bridge left an imprint in our memory.  The media that evening had difficulty assessing who the specific group was that took the movement to the bridge and unsurprisingly held up the Police statement before anyone else’s on that bridge. There are seven-hundred stories. Seven-hundred accounts of that day, seven hundred voices that all were there for a reason and were arrested. Seven-hundred New Yorkers took a stand, here is one of them.

“My name is Dion Mucciaccito and I am an Actor, Director, a teaching artist, and activist for at risk youth / inner city youth. I have worked as a teaching artist, teaching self empowerment through the arts, in New York, New Orleans, South Africa, San Diego, and South Florida.   I was part of the Battle of Brooklyn Bridge on Oct 1st.  This is my witnessing of the events. 

We were marching towards the Brooklyn Bridge. I started walking on the pedestrian lane somewhere in the middle of the march.  I looked over to my right and saw white collared police officers in a line walking in the direction of Brooklyn on the street portion of the bridge in front of the arm of the march that started going down that way.  From my perception, it seemed that the police were going to escort us across the bridge. So, I joined them. 

As we marched across, we noticed Police were also marching behind us.  Then the march stopped as we were barricaded from the front, and the back.  A panic then surged through the crowd and people started to climb the fifteen foot wall to the pedestrian walk way.  A girl next to me started to cry.  Two women in their fifties were next to me and were very worried about what was going to happen next.  We linked up arms and exchanged names as we were complete strangers.  It then seemed that the police were letting people leave in a bottle neck that they created in the back of the march where I was.  I asked the two women I was linked up with if they wanted to leave, and they said "yes." We tried to make our way to the choke point, but made no progress.

I later found out from my arresting officer that there were individuals in the choke point that refused to move, when given the choice to leave, which gave the police the ok to start arresting people for disorderly conduct.  There was a monk in his sixties who sat down to meditate in peaceful protest, and was dragged off.  I would later share a jail cell with this man.  Many people sat and had to be carried out. I was singled out and ordered to come out to be arrested. I was cuffed and put in a police paddy wagon along with nine others. My arresting officer was an extreme gentle man and very courteous and communicated with me in a very civil way. There was no excessive force by this man, and I found him to be quite compassionate and had a good sense of humor about things. I wish there were more like him. 

I was one of the first fifteen or so people to be arrested in the back of the protest.  There were ten of us in the back of the paddy wagon, all cuffed with hands behind our back, sweating it out as we waited in the dark.  The guy next to me had to urinate and was not allowed to do so until forty-five minutes later after we had arrived at the station and the first van had been processed.  The guy across from me had a previous rotator cuff injury and was in a good deal of pain with the cuffs behind his back. 

After an hour of waiting in the rain with the police officers, I was finally brought inside to be processed. I was put into a big holding cell with about twenty others.  Within two hours we had one-hundred men in the cell.  As each new man came in, they were greeted with a standing ovation and cheers.  The women being brought to their cells were also applauded as we could see them through the window of our cell.  Immediately strangers became friends and this motley crew of mixed races, classes, sexual orientations, and ages started engaging each other in dialog about democracy and solidarity with each other. 

There was an African American Pastor from a Brooklyn church there, and was the first one arrested, because he "couldn't, as a man of faith, stand by and watch people be hurt."  The Monk in his sixties who was earlier arrested while meditating had no ID on him, and was told that he might be kept for three days.  The group then voted to see if they wanted to go on a hunger strike to get him out. Those that agreed did not eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk that was provided. Those that did not, ate the food. 

I found myself serving as the guy who pours the water for people.  They brought in two big five gallon jugs of water with cups. These are heavy so we needed to have one person pour while the other person holds the cup.  This became my service for the next five hours, which I gladly did.  
I was released at 12:45 out of 1 police plaza, and then proceeded to call all of my family and friends that were worried about me.  I made it home by 2:30 am.”

How did this community become criminals? A teaching artist, a Pastor, a monk where processed as criminals.  This response from the NYPD to the prior march on Police Plaza, proved to be ineffectual.  It only created deeper bonds within the protesters.  It only made the reason for resistance stronger.

The day following the event, Dion friended me on Facebook after seeing my videos and posts. I was still reeling from it all. I had to share my experience with someone since I had gone alone. In an effort to piece together this event, I asked for stories and I discovered I must have been only a few feet from Dion.  The monk he spoke of was right in front of me. We were connected.
Another protester, Danny Valdez, described the most vivid part of the memory,
"I remember during the intense moments on the bridge when we all knew arrest was imminent someone yelled out and we repeated: “Mic check! It is an honor and a privilege to be arrested with you all today. Fifty years from now, when you tell your grandkids about this, you can say that you were a soldier in the Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge!” And there among the tears and the worries and the panic, we found a place to cheer and stand together."
When I read this in the account he wrote for Indypendant, I posted it on my wall. Edward Pages, I had previously quoted in my last letter, also a new Facebook addition as a result of this event, replied, “That was me!”.  He is forever remembered. Though we are all still strangers, we have an unforgettable bond.  Unfortunately, this spirited arrest was not the same experience for everybody.
I marched this past October 5th for the Community Labor March. The day New York broke open and swelled into a true picture of democracy that hasn’t been seen in decades.  Again, I fly solo trying to maybe meet up with friends but in the sea of people I found myself floating with them. There was an indescribable joy and fervor.  As the spirit and mass movement encouraged, I started conversations with fellow protesters and began talking with a man behind me. He was older, large, heavyset and Polish. He was also there at the Bridge. John was held for thirty hours only given milk and no water.  As we marched on, I got his information.
The Voices of the 99% will be documented. These stories will offer truthful accounts and perspectives of a new movement to inspire dialog in a now rapidly changing America for observers abroad. There is power. Change is possible.  For more information and access to the declaration go to:

Friday, October 07, 2011

Voices of the 99%: Battle at Brooklyn Bridge

“As I was getting walked into the police bus, I told a cop that he too is in the ninety-nine percent and they rich don’t care about him either. His exact response to me was, ‘I know but it’s the NYPD, common sense is not a common virtue’ ” -Edward Pages Age 30 Cinematographer.

What started as a wondrous and promising event on Saturday afternoon that reverberated through the financial district from Liberty Park to Brooklyn Bridge, ended with an even louder cause for the reprimand of the one percent currently in control of the United States economy and law. Thousands of protesters marched up Broadway demonstrating peacefully with energy and spirit, a unified voice to demand attention from the nation as the ninety-nine percent. Together, these Americans painted a vibrant portrait of the ninety-nine percent from all colors, ages, cultures, backgrounds, occupations and walks of life including children, students, and the elderly. By the time the sun went down, reports of seven-hundred Americans were arrested for allegedly disrupting the peace and obstructing traffic.

After two weeks of building awareness and organized sustainability, the Occupy Wall Street movement reached another peak in its momentum to demand accountability for the corporate rape of America. The Declaration of the Occupation approved by the consensus on September 29th was drafted twelve days after the first demonstrations which resulted in arrests and evidence of excessive force used by New York Police. 

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known. ”

Twenty facts where addressed in the new Declaration mirroring the same structure and effort of the original Declaration of Independence. This is a powerful symbol, clearly suggesting a new era after two-hundred and thirty-five years since the country’s first revolution. The Declaration identified corporate impunities, discrimination, worker’s rights, environmental crimes, profit-mongering, torture, murder, brutality and healthcare issues among others.
I witnessed the announcement of the Declaration in the General Assembly broadcast via the people’s microphone. A powerful call and response method for amplification of speeches through people’s voices not only used to comply with NYPD regulations, but to embody the message of the protest with the collective use of voices. Participating as a voice, gave me pride as an American like I never felt before.

The event that preceded Saturday’s chaos was momentous, the largest gathering in support of Occupy Wall St. With tremendous clamor, the assembly before the march warmly received the presence and public support from New York’s Transit Workers Union Local, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union). The March Against Police Brutality was an invigorating message to the NYPD that their tactics were unlawful and their actions needed to be held accountable. Almost three thousand demonstrators sat down on One Police Plaza in front of armed and riot geared wall of officers with waves of speeches filling the plaza. The assembly met their agenda and dispersed peacefully. Based on the following day’s event, the NYPD actions were a clear and planned response.

This is my account.

At three pm the large assembly gathered and made their way to Brooklyn Bridge. I was at the back of the march. I attended alone, but felt peaceful and safe among my unfamiliar marchers. The police were watchful and respectful of the protesters making sure we were staying on the sidewalks. When the end of the train finally arrived at the base of the bridge, there seemed to be a split. A trail of our train went onto the pedestrian walkway, we continued on the road. As the road descended, some scaled the fence to join others on the walkway. The majority continued onto the road. We walked by police and they said nothing. The wall of police behind us kept distance and followed us. They said nothing. The march stopped. There was an uproar to keep marching, but the frontline communicated chants that echoed and reached us in a wave. It was clear the police had blocked the frontline. The crowd spread and filled the entire road from one side to another. No cars were able to pass, we were stalled.

Officers were advancing when next to me, a man in orange quietly sat down crossed his legs with his sign in his lap, closed his eyes and exhaled. In an instant, this powerful and peaceful gesture charged me with emotion. I moved forward, my legs drawn to join him, but before I could make a solid decision, police officers descended on him. I backed away and began recording the arrest with my phone. Six officers surrounded him and we cried “Let him go!” We chanted, “He did nothing!”. A high ranking officer waved over the other officers in his command. With that, I stopped my camera, knowing what was coming. 

Trucks drove up. The fast approaching officers were clearly prepared with dozens of zip-cuffs on their belts. The orange nets were being carried in and I kept close to the side of the bridge. A few others began to leave and I slowly walked away. Once I felt that they were not going to stop me, I gained speed. I made eye contact with one Officer, who only replied with shaking his head. Officers yelled at us to keep moving. I was lucky, but I have this residue of mixed emotions of relief and guilt with anger and frustration having watched my fellow protesters trapped on the bridge.

People who made it back to the Manhattan entrance were told to disperse by police. It was comforting to be able to approach complete strangers I marched with to debrief, consult and share. In our shared eye contact, moments of true solidarity and support was felt in ripples. A group re-convened at the base of the bridge and confronted police with calling out names they captured of the arrested. Finally, I found friends that were on the pedestrian level. They noted that police had threatened them to disperse or face arrest. They were witnesses with cameras recording all what had unfolded below. What was certain by the majority who where there: police led the group onto the bridge, giving the impression they were offering protection when indeed they planned to kettle the protesters.

These unlawful arrests and the entrapment ordered only fueled a stronger solidarity. Media attention from major networks clearly supported the NYPD statements. New York Times changed their reports. This story is intended as a beginning.

The Voices of the 99% will be documented. These stories will offer truthful accounts and perspectives of a new movement to inspire dialog in a now rapidly changing America for observers abroad. There is power. Change is possible.

For more information and access to the declaration go to:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Art of Education: Memoirs of a Teaching Artist

The Graduate

I was back from an unsuccessful attempt to make it for a second year at Texas Tech University when I got my first contract as a teaching artist. I moved to Lubbock, when I got a small playwright’s scholarship from Texas Tech for “Girlie Stories”. The county college production won festival honors and got a run in a great local theater. Glad to tell that part of the story first, since my once promising high school track derailed sophomore year turning four years into five. I finished at an alternative school where I moved through classes with work packets and assignments at my own pace checking in with teachers along the way.

My graduation ceremony was initiated when I turned in my final test for Math of Money (the last math class I could possibly pass to graduate). Once graded, numbers where crunched and submitted. My name was called on the intercom. Walking by the wall of graduates on my way to the office, I only felt relief knowing it was all done. The secretary had a blue cap and gown waiting for me. I put it on to begin the small school’s tradition. My parents and a family friend were in the office. The office staff came around blowing bubbles and tossing confetti in the air very warmly. The Principle hit play on a small boom box offering “Pomp and Circumstance” to mark my graduation march for some semblance of tradition in this informal version of a rite of passage. I smiled, camera’s snapped, bubbles popped on my nose and I went home brushing confetti and the end of an age off.

I chose not to walk the stage. I had walked my own way without school spirit, prep rallies or proms. My attempts at high school involvement only helped me stay away from it.

The advancement from high school to community college to receive a university scholarship felt like a victory. I still bombed my academic classes left and right for three years, while I seemed to do well in my newly discovered pursuits. Thankfully my first professors believed in my abilities and recognized a drive that I could harness. With their help, acting and writing had brought me recognition in an unexpected way. I won a Best Actress Award my first year at Tech, but none the less I couldn’t hack it in a university either. To make sense of it all, I had to step away and be realistic about my education.

I moved on from completing a degree in theater to find opportunities on stage, taking in every ounce that resonated in me from local writers, directors, actors in the community of theater in Fort Worth, Texas. I figured I could also make my own way to master a craft that I found ultimately drives my strongest instincts.

A friend mentioned a listing for a bilingual position with an after school program as a theater instructor. I learned to swim as a small kid, when I was thrown in the pool. This method still proves most effective for me. Acting, writing, directing, producing, cooking or living: I learn best in sink or swim situations. I was hired.

With a rocky start, many triumphs and failures, I found what it really means to learn by doing. I have been a teaching artist for eight years and found the art of teaching has single-handedly taught me how to learn. The effects on my artistry are reflected in my diversified career path and progress as a professional in my field.

I am convinced the arts and imaginative learning can create bridges for many students to tap into a well that will give them tools to access what was previously inaccessible. In a time of devastating results of American academic practices and standards, the current crisis from public to private institutions are making headway to shift traditional learning paradigms.

Economically -challenged communities are facing record numbers of school closings in a country where prison construction is on the rise and wardens receive ample funds to build state of the art facilities. The generation informed by technology, raised in an era of convenience and speed are in the hands of underpaid educators. Advocates are desperately reaching for new answers to empower students and prepare them with more options and resources.

Teaching artists are taking creativity to the next level by engaging learners to develop practices that instill decision-making, reflection, empathy, and creative problem solving skills. They are raising informed audiences supportive of arts and culture one classroom at a time. Through theater, music, visual arts, dance, writing and film professional artists can transform the landscape of American education.

I cannot say if my career would have benefitted from a degree or not. I have also seen the flip side of higher education that only accrues debt with no promise of a return in the form of career or stability particularly in the arts field. It is also uncertain if returning for my degree will help or slow me down now. Would I have the opportunity to work with some of the top arts organizations in the country? Does my one thousand hours of creating and implementing curriculums as a theater artist over eight years make me a master in my field without a piece of paper? What kind of education is respected in America?

I made my own way the best I could navigating through an education system to offer an alternative voice for learning while strengthening my own as an artist. Inspired by the community of artists armed with vision and pedagogues that brave the nation’s best and most dire classrooms to foster innovation and expression, these memoirs share a lifestyle guided by the learning and culture crisis in America. There is an education in art and it is an art to educate.

Mayan Calendar created by the students of White Bird Creative Theatrics lead by Erin Orr

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Para Nuestras Perdidas Muertas

Just in rememberance....

Para nuestras perdidas muertas

#156 had long black hair, dark skinned,
eyes brown
#208 made four dollars a day
#289 worked the late shift…
had a long dark walk home.
#315 wanted to be a movie star

then another
y otra
una mas
and there will be more pink crosses
marking lamp posts, bus stops, dark alleys
where stars of innocent eyes vanished
where vampires prey on faraway dreams.
dreams turn daggers
leaving scores of vacant bodies,
with cut-off breasts, disembowled, torn, beat
left with no trace of face and teeth
left ripped from the inside
souls caged…our little birds
and no sound.

From pueblos, hungry farms, and wastelands
These birds flock to find a brighter sky
on the other side
of nothing
only cardboard, concrete, tin roofs
tiny shacks held together by strings of tiny hope
for something better…
green lawns, paved roads
running water and $5.15 an hour
over there, al otro lado
just past the bridge and blood…
just past the gaping wound our sister Anzaldua called it.

I remember 16 years of mountains
and smog disguised as gilded sunsets,

I remember desert winds like cold dead fingers living there…
where las muertas hang over desert graves

Their cries swallowed by dirt
erased by careful watch and careful want
lost under high ranking boots of men,
bought men, scared men, gluttonous men.

Still they come to Juarez the golden city:
City of fortune
City of dollars
City of greed
City of bloodshed
Of caged birds bitten by the devil’s own sons
These leaders in their shiny badges and shiny seats of laws

See our dead children!
Que la sangre corre por las calles

Mother Mary, Virgin, Tonantzin
Help me mother goddess
que la rabia dentro mi piel me come viva
like the animals that feed on the dead of the deserts of Juarez
these men like animals that feed on the dead of the deserts of Juarez
Justicia para las muertas de Juarez
Justice for the women in Juarez

-CA 2004

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CRYING OUT FOR A SENSE OF ADULTHOOD: What can we learn from the incarcerated youth?

I have referred to Riker's Island teen detention centers as the black and latino boarding schools. This check point in the system, as it functions now, is the problem as opposed to "a" solution. In this system that processes the underprivileged like money launderers (to be this outspoken is a conscientious risk as my personal opinion not CAT's) there exists a class that cannot progress without radically re-thinking collective perceptions of identities, communication, choices and consequences during the fragile transitional stage of adolescence into adulthood for a society that is not giving many options to what is a frightening majority.

This workshop with the trainers in the academy for correction officers is such an opportunity to really understand patience, acceptance and how to find solutions in the most delicate and dangerous of rehabilitative living conditions. How do Officers cope with a generation of youth that was created by the system for the system? What power do we have to offer the questions to that will create room for change?

Gwendolen Hardwick, Associate Artistic Director of Creative Arts Team and Keith Johnston, the Adult Services Program Director, are guiding the development of this workshop. In lieu of last year's homicide, the indictments of several officers and the further investigations of the teen centers at Riker's, the Academy is incorporating this training session as part of the curriculum for the new recruits.

These last two days the team has been exploring these questions as we devise our scenes that will be the base of the workshop and the activities used to have the participants find possible solutions. We first assess the populations and their conditions:

How do the Correction Officers perceive the teens?
How do the teens perceive the COs?
What are both groups experiencing?
What are the learned patterns of dealing with communication and conflict?
What is the difference between respecting the person vs. position?

What is an adolescent?
How do they rebel?

What exactly is a correction officer?
How do you think your position is perceived?
Who do they serve?
What do they service are they providing?
How do you gain respect as an authority figure?
What constitutes their authority?
What made you take your job?
What are they dealing with?
What are effective coping skills?
How do you cope with the resentment on the job?
What are the challenges of dealing with gender specific populations and/or different sites?

Tomorrow we meet an officer to learn more about the culture of Correction Officers.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Back to Riker's Fight Club

I still try to hope and put
the best intent in mind and heart
always connected in my actions.

Next week I return to Creative Arts Team to revisit Riker's. The program is being brought in to do the same workshop we did in 2008 right after the homicide of Christopher Robinson at RNDC. It was for the entire unit..beginning with the Correction Officers. We devised a scene to facilitate a workshop to address trust and conflict.
Now we meet the ones who train the Officers. Should be interesting...running with wolves again.
Rikers Fight Club: The Knockout Punch
Documents show that top officials in the city's jail system were regularly briefed on violence and extortion between teen inmates.
By Graham Rayman
published: April 15, 2009


For a year prior to the murder of 18-year-old Christopher Robinson on Rikers Island, the second and third highest officials in the city Correction Department had been receiving regular intelligence reports about gang violence and extortion—some of it encouraged by correction officers—in the jail for teenagers, documents obtained by the Voice show.

In weekly meetings and in monthly reports, the Chief of Department Carolyn Thomas and Chief of Facility Operations Patrick Walsh were briefed repeatedly about an alarming series of fights, assaults, and serious injuries connected with gang members controlling the phones, commissary, and access throughout the Robert N. Davoren Center, Correction Department sources say and records show.

The violence climaxed in October when a gang of inmates beat Robinson to death. Three correction officers have been indicted for organizing a "team," inmates who carried out punishment beatings of other inmates, over a four-month period, in the unit where Robinson died. The officers trained the inmates to use wrestling holds and punch and kick their victims in the torso, where the injuries would be hidden by clothing, the indictment alleges.

At the officers' behest, the "team" would ask inmates whether they were "with it." If the inmates said no, they were beaten. In exchange, the indictment says, the inmates were allowed free rein to extort phone, food, and access privileges from other inmates.

Just one month prior to Robinson's murder, an 18-year-old inmate named Alicedes Polance suffered a broken eye socket in a beating by a "team" of inmates in the same unit while those same indicted officers were on duty, records show. Polance's attackers beat him after he said no to the question, "Are you down with it?" In the aftermath, however, DOC officials failed to uncover the alleged scheme in time to prevent the fatal Robinson assault.

In the first 10 months of 2008, 39 inmates at RNDC suffered serious facial injuries—broken noses, broken jaws, or fractured eye sockets, records show. Twenty-eight of those inmates were teenagers. Twenty of those cases directly involved gang inmates attempting to control or extort other inmates.

Again and again, the ominous question, "Are you with it?" appears in the reports. On March 23, 2008, an 18-year-old inmate was asked, "Are you with it?" before his orbital was broken. A fight on May 19, which led to a broken nose, had "earmarks of control," a report says.

The investigation into an assault on May 3, which led to a broken jaw, found allegations that an inmate was extorting all new inmates. An attack on June 15, which led to a fractured nose and eye socket, was sparked after the victim was asked, "Are you with it?"

The investigation into a June 26 fight that resulted in a broken eye socket determined that one inmate got to use the phone all the time, while the 16-year-old victim never did. An inmate who suffered a broken jaw on July 15 was told that only Bloods gang members used the phone.

Moreover, on 40 occasions between July 1 and October 31, guards ordered unit lockdowns because of violence sparked by extortion or attempts to control the phones, commissary, and access. That's one every three days.

On July 14, for example, three inmates told a fourth that he was not allowed to use the phone at 9 p.m. The inmate refused to comply and was beaten. An inmate alleged on July 15 that three inmates told him that they run the house and refused to allow him to use the phone on certain days. On July 18, an inmate was assaulted after he told others that he was not "with it." On July 31, an inmate was beaten after he refused to be "with it."

The list goes on and on.

For some perspective on the numbers, the Voice contacted Steve J. Martin, a consultant on the use of force in jails who is based in Austin, Texas.

Martin says 39 fractures in a 10-month period is off the charts: "That's an extremely high number any way you cut it," he says. "It's evidence that there's something incredibly wrong in that institution."

Martin says he recently studied a jail system in which just one fracture was recorded over a six-month period. "If you're having more than one or two fractures in any 30-day period, you should be bringing in major oversight," he says. "You should be all over it."

In addition to the drumbeat of broken bones, correction officials had also seen a number of newspaper articles, including stories by the Voice, suggesting that there was a problem in RNDC, dating back to the summer of 2007.

And the department had already been embarrassed by the indictment in February 2008 of Lloyd Nicholson, a correction officer who also used inmates as enforcers at RNDC. He called his operation "The Program."

Every Friday, Walsh met with intelligence division investigators and wardens to discuss issues at individual jails. Time and again, investigators highlighted the incidents at RNDC involving extortion by gang inmates or attempts to control privileges, and suggested that a disturbing trend was developing, three correction sources said.

But Walsh, the sources say, treated each incident as isolated and failed to act on the overall problem. He merely ordered the attackers to be transferred and handed out infractions. He also treated stabbing and slashing incidents with much more seriousness than the broken bones. And few of the assault cases resulted in criminal charges.

"He used a Band-Aid approach," a senior correction official says. "They would deal with the incident, but not see the big picture: that it was widespread throughout the jail. No one questioned what actions the COs took."

Meanwhile, the serious injury reports were coming across Chief of Department Carolyn Thomas's desk, one after another, but it remains unclear whether she did anything to specifically address the problem. And it remains unclear whether DOC Commissioner Martin Horn himself saw the injury reports or was briefed on them.

The sheer volume of serious injury reports raises new questions about exactly what top correction officials did to prevent violence and inmate extortion at RNDC.

"They failed to address the culture of the adolescent housing areas," a senior correction official tells the Voice. "They needed to break that culture and make this kind of thing unacceptable, but no one put it together. It's all on management and a lack of leadership."

In a lengthy response to Voice questions, Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello insisted that Commissioner Horn not only publicly identified the problem in 2007, but initiated some two dozen system-wide policy changes and new programs to address it.

Morello said that many of the policy changes Horn advocated in 2007 in testimony to the city Board of Correction—including the right to monitor inmates' phone conversations—were designed to combat problems like inmate extortion and bullying.

"The list of actions we have taken both prior to and since Robinson includes plenty of steps the department has taken to address violence, including, specifically, in adolescent housing units," Morello wrote in response to a Voice query.

Morello cited department statistics, which he said show that serious injuries among teens at RNDC was steady at 32 per year from 2005 to 2007, and declined to 27 in 2008. He noted that the Robinson murder was the first in the city jail system in four years.

Morello also attacked the Voice's reporting on the subject, suggesting that this newspaper and other media were being unfair to the commissioner.

The spokesman did not directly answer a range of questions, including whether Horn assigned more staff to RNDC, whether correction staffers were told not to tolerate extortion, whether inmates were told that such behavior would not be tolerated, or whether they ordered a crackdown on such behavior prior to Robinson's death. Morello refused to address questions regarding Walsh and Thomas.

At RNDC, Morello listed 32 changes that he says address the problem.

A Voice review and discussion with correction sources indicate that many of them were done following the Robinson murder, not before. Indeed, it was only after Robinson's death that Walsh ordered a broader review of the incidents, which resulted in a report, obtained by the Voice, that detailed the problem. This report, completed four days after Robinson's murder, disclosed information that could have been learned at any point in the preceding 18 months: There was a specific five-tier hierarchy to the extortion scheme, ranging from the bottom tier of inmates who were "with it" to the top tier of the "team." The setup resembled something out of the world of organized crime. The hierarchy existed throughout RNDC, the report also revealed. Despite the warnings, correction sources say, some investigators have themselves been questioned about what they said about the problem, in what appears to some as an effort to essentially kill messengers who first sounded alarm bells.

When officers Michael McKie and Khalid Nelson were indicted last month, correction officials insisted that guard complicity in the beatings was limited to one RNDC unit, 1 Main, and they claimed they could never visualize a worse case.

But statements from some 300 inmate interviews conducted after Robinson's death indicate that "teams" were common in RNDC. Beatings by those teams were also common. One after another, dozens of inmates said they heard the phrase, "Are you with it?" and heard of the "team" or "The Program."

Twenty inmates claimed that they were part of a team. Forty-six inmates said members of a "team" beat them at one point or another. And at least four inmates claimed that guards were complicit in other units. One of those inmates gave the following detailed account of the atmosphere under McKie and Nelson in 1 Main: "Most of the problems started with the CO," he said. "He would open the cell while you were sleeping, and he would let the team come in your cell. The team would put you in a chicken-wing position and they would beat you."

The same inmate talked of a similar setup in a different RNDC unit: "When I was housed in 5 Main, the officer would ask you if you were 'with it.' If you were not, he would lock everyone in and let the team out, and he would watch the team beat you. He used to like watching inmates beat me up because I never fought back. This happened two months ago, and he still calls me a pussy when he sees me."

The violence creates a pervasive atmosphere of fear, says Martin, the correction consultant. "Whether you're talking about a vulnerable youth or a tough youth, every kind of behavior is dominated by the fear factor," he says.

Today, Walsh has been shifted to a senior post where he has less responsibility, but retains the same salary. Thomas remains as Chief of Department.

A call to Thomas's office was transferred to the Correction Department spokesman's office. Walsh did not return a phone call to his office.