Payne recalled how in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch read the newspaper aloud to his daughter. So, Payne employed the same strategy with Haas, organizing it so they would read from the same material so Haas “could learn word recognition (syllables, root words, etc.), so I would read to him every night, and he would follow and read back the last sentence of each paragraph. … It was both heartbreaking and admirable that he would struggle through these endeavors in front of all these other prisoners (some who actually ridiculed him just like the [Utah State Prison] admin!).”
In January 2012, Haas alleged, through Payne’s written grievance, that because he said “fuck you,” he was denied dental treatment. The grievance officer noted that he left out of his story that he had been asked several times not to say “fuck,” but continued to use the expletive. “Your right to free speech exists only as far as it does not impinge the rights of others,” the officer wrote. An official’s “right to work in an environment in which the word ‘fuck’ is not used was impinged by your use of the word.”
Haas and Payne wrote several times to the warden requesting that they have neighboring cells, as Haas couldn’t hear Payne that well. Bigelow wrote back March 1, 2012, “It is admirable that Inmate Payne is assisting you with your learning, but your constant outburst of negative behavior and attitude towards staff leads us to believe you are not learning to control your verbal outbursts.”
Haas was moved to another section in Uinta 1.
In a short note, he holds little back, writing that he tried to kill himself because “I do not feel I shud be alive I feel like I sined to much & Im no good to any one I personly hate my self & I want to find love.”
“We Will Do What We Can Do”
Coleman Stonehocker’s mother, Deborah Stone, and Jeremy Haas’ mother, Jacqueline Krum, attended the Disability Law Center’s Sept. 12, 2012, public meeting to set their goals for the next two years. “I’d like to see more help in the jails, in the prison for people with handicaps,” Stone said. “I know they’re being warehoused.”
Krum told the DLC staff that she saw Haas the previous Saturday after a year without seeing him because of his privilege matrix—privileges, such as seeing visitors, are taken by the prison when inmates break rules. “He’s not on his meds,” she said. “He’s gotten worse. He has this really bad tick. He was talking to somebody who wasn’t there.”
Afterward, Krum met with Kinikini and learned he and Boswell were going to check up on Haas. “Tell me what you can do, so I don’t get my hopes up,” she said.
Kinikini was silent for a moment. “I can’t get him out of prison. But I can try and get in there on a regular basis.” The conditions they are living under, he told her, were leading to more time being tacked on to their sentences. “Our mission is a reduction in the using of solitary confinement as a treatment tool. We will do what we can do.”
When a guard led Laura Boswell to meet with Haas, she was shocked when she sat down in front of the barred cell and looked at the young man in the orange jumpsuit and white T-shirt. City Weekly had shown Boswell prison photographs of Haas, but now, “He was very, very thin,” she says. “That was what was startling. He was just kind of sad.”
She tried to explain to him who she worked for, that she was there to check up on him. His arms were covered with what appeared to be tattoos. On one hand was the word Lotus, a reference to Homer’s The Odyssey, a book he and Paul Payne had read together. When Boswell asked about it, she says Haas told her it was about being strong, about protection and surviving.
Haas was polite to her, which made Boswell feel guilty. “No one has come to check up and see him, yet he’s being wonderfully polite and complimentary, despite the dehumanizing situation he finds himself in,” she marvels. “At some point, though, you do give up. I hope there’s something we can do before that happens.”
The next step, Kinikini says, is to secure Haas’ records and try to determine when the prison put him in solitary. After that, they plan to make a reasonable accommodation request that Haas be moved.
Haas is only two years younger than she is, and Boswell couldn’t help but compare their lives. While she sleeps in her Ikea bed, he sleeps on a metal slab. When Boswell left Uinta 1, she told Kinikini, “He’s in a dark place, maybe near to giving up.”
One thing Haas said to her struck her to the core. “He told me, ‘I would have cleaned up my cell if I knew you were stopping by.’”
Note: On Oct. 1, 2012, at 6 p.m. Utah State Prison staff will attend a quarterly focus meeting at Adult Probation & Parole (36 W. Fremont St., Salt Lake City), where agencies and individuals, including inmates’ relatives, can raise concerns.