This post was submitted via our Submit Page by Nasty Nathanial Thomas
August 28, 2016
California Department Of Corrections And Rehabilitation
21633 Avenue 24, Chowchilla, CA 93610. Phone: (559) 665-6100. Warden: Raythel Fisher
Howdy folks. Last August Brian Sumner and I went out to Chowchilla, California, which is about forty minutes north of Fresno, to do a First Amendment Audit Check of a state prison there. As explained in my previous submission, the purpose of this audit was to see if the officials at the prison would respect and honor our right to film in public, a right which is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
As a videographer I take the First Amendment very seriously as it protects my right to film anything that is in view of the public. Or at least it is supposed to. The problem is that there are many people, including those in law enforcement, whom don’t honor the First Amendment and will attempt to use intimidation as a means of preventing us from exercising our right to film and photograph in public. This was the case at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, California.
I have been Cop Blocking now for more than a year now. But my realization of the importance of the First Amendment really didn’t start to sink in until I joined the cast of a television show. This was during the time that I was still living in Hawaii and I remember how it seemed that whenever me and the production crew would go out to film scenes for the show we would so often get hassled about where and what we were filming. It times it would get pretty intense. I remember once a woman threatened to let her angry pit bulls tear me apart. Please don’t ask me what the name of the show was. It was so stupid that I don’t want my reputation as a Cop Blocker to be damaged because of it.
Ok let me fast forward in time and move across the Pacific Ocean to California. I learned a lot about the importance of the First Amendment from my good friend, and fellow Cop Blocker, Brian Sumner. Prior to meeting Brian I had no idea that private citizens could film the police. This shows how ignorant I was during this time. But once I started accompanying Brian on Cop Blocking excursions during my trips out to Fresno I learned of our right to film police activity and what an important right this is. I would later come to learn more about First Amendment Audits from the California Guardian.
Now lets go back to Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. If you watch the original video, 1st Amendment Audit, Valley State Prison, you will see that Brian and I’s presence at the prison was pretty peaceful until we maid our way down to the front gate. That is where we encountered prison staff who accused us of violating “Prison Law”. What I find really interesting about this is that this correctional officer threatened to call the local police on us if we didn’t stop filming the prison. However, when Brian responded that if he felt that we were actually breaking the law then to go right ahead and call law enforcement, this correctional officer actually admitted that were not breaking the law. He clearly states this in the video. So with that being the case, why would he feel the need to call enforcement on us?
Finally this ignoramus gave up and drove back inside the prison. But his departure was followed by the arrival of another ignoramus who also threatened to call law enforcement on us if we didn’t stop filming the prison. Only this guy took a different approach. Instead of accusing us of violating “Prison Law”, he explained how it was not safe for us to be where we were because there were “inmates out”. Huh? Yes that is what he said followed by his continually repeating that we needed to leave. So let me get this straight. It is nearly midnight and this correctional officer is telling us that there are inmates out and about. Why would the prison let inmates roam around freely in the middle of the night? The answer is simple. There were no inmates out. It is just that this ignoramus couldn’t think of a logical reason for us not to be where we were. When his threats of calling law enforcement didn’t work he instead resorted to spouting out some nonsense in an attempt to get us to leave. When that didn’t work he resorted to something else entirely.
Finally Brian and I decided that it was time to leave. Not because were we told we had to. We had accomplished what we had set to accomplish and therefore did not feel the need to remain outside the prison any longer. Now the video should have ended right there. But instead, this correctional officer who warned us that there were “inmates out” and whom kept insisting that we needed to leave was now following us in his vehicle. Brian and I had actually parked quite a ways away from the prison itself and while we maid our way back to our vehicle this correctional officer continued to follow us. A few times Brian and I attempted to make contact with this guy in an attempt to get an explanation as to why he felt the need to follow us on a public road in the middle of the night. But we never did get an explanation. Instead he would just drive off every time we got close only to turn around and resume his stalking of us.
Ok now this is where this guy really screwed up. Correctional officers love to throw around the fact that they are state peace officers. Yes that is true. However, as correctional officers they have limited policing powers. This basically means that their jurisdiction does not extend beyond the prison. So with that being the case, why did this correctional officer feel the need to follow us on a public road in the middle of night? He would probably claim that he was just doing his job. I would say that that he was in violation of 646.9 PC, which is the California penal code for stalking.
Basically what this all boils down to is the fact that if this correctional officer really felt that we were actually breaking the law then he should have went back inside the prison and called the local police instead of following us and acting like a stalker. I’ve read some of the comments that people have posted on YouTube. One individual, whom I suspect is an employee of the prison, claimed that we “ran from the CHP”. Mmmm? The video itself is twenty three minutes and fifty seconds long and at no point did any officers from the California Highway Patrol, or any law enforcement agency for that matter, ever show up to talk with us. In fact, Brian and I were there much longer than the actual running time of the video. So where were the cops?
Speaking of comments, I received some negative feedback from some folks whom I would learn are related to the correctional officer that was harassing Brian and I. They were posting public comments and using their real names to do so. That is really intelligent people. Because of this we now know exactly who that correctional officer is. But I’ll be a nice guy and refrain from putting his name and photograph out there for all to see. But I will give you all a friendly little piece of advice. If talking smack in your comments gives you personal satisfaction then by all means do so. But please keep in mind that it is not wise use your real name when doing so.
So I believe I will go ahead and wrap up this article. But before doing so I’d like to share something with you all. I just recently conducted a First Amendment Audit of another California State Prison located in beautiful San Luis Obispo. Check out my State Prison 1st Amendment Audit, California Men’s Colony video. But unlike in Chowchilla, I was able to film the prison without experiencing any harassment whatsoever from prison staff. The only contact maid from inside the prison was when a correctional captain drove out to the road to ask me what I was doing. He seemed to have no problem with my filming the prison and even told me to be careful. Mighty kind of him don’t you think? I guess “prison law” doesn’t apply in San Luis Obispo.