Selections from Recent Statements by Vaughn 17

Published January 30, 2020

Vaughn 17

After the February 1st, 2017 uprising at C-Building in James T. Vaughn Correctional Center at Smyrna, Delaware, 18 prisoners faced felony charges. From the initial 18 charged, one became the state’s star snitch (Royal Diamond Dawns). Kelly Gibbs committed suicide mysteriously right after his mandated transfer to the facility where the state housed multiple of their witnesses (rest in power). Jarreau Ayers and Dwayne Staats, two “lifers,” are currently residing in different facilities in Pennsylvania. They were found guilty on various charges after taking it upon themselves to shoulder the responsibility in order to protect the rest of their co-defendants, who were serving shorter sentences at the time of the trials.

Roman Shankaras, Abednego Baynes, Kevin Berry, Deric Forney, John Bramble and Obadiah Miller were found not guilty after going through the trial, after which the state was forced to drop the charges toward the remaining co-defendants. Roman Shankaras and Obadiah Miller have been released. All others are residing in various facilities in Pennsylvania, sitting in solitary confinement (RRL) and still enduring abusive treatments by both the state of Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Robert Hernandez

Some events in life can change a person dramatically and these experiences we can carry for a lifetime. It has been about ten months since I found myself preparing for an upcoming trial I assumed would be March 2019 for an incident which occurred at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center at Smyrna, Delaware on February 1st, 2017. Seventeen individuals held accountable for a disturbance which left one officer dead. That day of February was a day I will remember forever and the aftermath was no pleasant memory.

Still to this day, the corruption by prosecutors and the Department of Corrections are being observed, but to deaf ears and blind individuals which believe themselves to be law abiding citizens and true Americans upholding a system which has only tormented and broken individuals outside of their circle and agenda. Some do not agree with my opinion or idealism, but that is left up to discussion.

Truth is, I believed the Delaware Department of Corrections is the most corrupt, but I’ve come to learn that all of America’s Department of Corrections are unstable and unjust.

When I look back and reflect on the events of the past, the hurt and pains, struggles and hardships, I would not be a better man today. That came from the comradery and genuine brotherhood we shared as Vaughn Seventeen. We were not perfect and may have our issues, but at the end, we stood for each other wholeheartedly. Maybe not for the same reasons, but whatever that may be, it was together. There were genuine sacrifices for each other, and respect was earned and not one day passes I don’t think on the casualties of our battles. Men I’ve come to love and respect as my family and my brothers.

We should never forget those individuals who were crucified by society for hope in a better tomorrow, a better system for all and for truth.

The prison culture teaches us to be tough, cruel and selfish to survive. However, may we inspire a new culture not of color, race, status, etc, but one of brotherhood.

The powers that be will not let the events of February, 2017 go forgotten; however, let those powers know that the true power lies with the people. In war, there will always be casualties, however, does one life surpass another? Are we not equal in the eyes of God? Without the rage in our hearts, would our system ever progress? America’s history speaks volumes; progression came from change and that came from the people. People like you and me that say, “Fuck that! This shit ain’t right.” That’s the revolution my friends: sudden, radical, complete change. It starts in our own hearts and minds. Whether in prison or not. Revolution starts when one system is conducting something improper. Throughout time, the people continue that same idea in different shapes and forms.

What we do is important. How we carry ourselves, treat others and behave. You cannot stand against a corrupt system if you corrupt others and yourself. These are only my opinions, my words that have been presented by trial and error. I, myself, am no Che Guevarra or George Jackson; however, I respect the stories of our past leaders from all sides. The moments I spent with my seventeen comrades I learned so much. I truly can say I was inspired to stand for something far greater by Zach and Fariha, the supporters and true soldiers on the front lines. Anonymous anarchists.

I was all about my own people, brown pride, my attitude was different, but through this experience, I am reborn, liberated. I truly can say I embrace my brothers not by color or set clique, no, no, no. I embrace my brothers, black, white, brown as one.

I thank those who taught me truth: Dwayne, Rome, OB, Pedro, Zack. And the others I stood with: Smoke, Ruk, Capo, Kevi Kev, Luski, Cream, Nil. And the one fallen soldier we lost but cannot be forgotten, Kelz, who passed away, way too soon, a brother who truly proven to me the power of love is real. No matter what, each one of us matters, we all do, never forget what true brotherhood and love can do and we can change the world.

To write to Robert Hernandez, send letters to:

Robert G. Hernandez #55368, 4B-F108, Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 639, Las Cruces, NM 88004,

Deric Forney

Greetings People,

1st, I’d like to say that it is a blessing and my pleasure that I got to speak with you, the people. Because we the people make the difference. I pray that all is well with you and yours. And despite the current challenges and disadvantages that Vaughn17 prisoners and other prisoners who are on the RRL and/or trapped in the RHU face, your support, time, solidarity and love mean a ton to us all. Also, know that we’re fighting from the inside just as vigorous as you are from the outside. And as a now fool said when he was once wise, “The revolution shall be televised.” (They always said I should be a poet. LOL!) But let me get back to the real.

My name is Derick L. Forney #NS2698. I am a Delaware prisoner currently being held captive in Pennsylvania’s SCI-Coal Township (SCI-COA). At the present time, the central office has approved me and most of the Vaughn17 prisoners to be placed on the RRL. This indefinite status is located in the RHU—the hole! So, basically, we’re to be locked down indefinitely in the hole. I’ve been housed in the RHU going on 190 days, today is 11-14-19. I’m still being punished for a crime I did not commit. All of Vaughn17 is. Delaware has acted maliciously by sending us to facilities in the PA/D.O.C so that we’d be further oppressed. This is an act of double jeopardy. Vaughn17 prisoners charged in the uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware who were exonerated on all charges are not being treated as such—innocent. And the b/s is that not all of Vaughn17 who were transferred to PA is on the RRL.

Yeah! Some b/s!

In the RHU, prisoners are treated like animals. There is no system of order back here. The staff goes rogue, the meals are skimped and served cold, and there’s no curriculum. Instead, we’re warehoused in cells with very little to do. There’s no rehabilitation involved with the RHU/RRL unless one develops his own. And for those on the RRL, they have it the worst. We are absolutely stuck with no time as to when we will be let go. There is no systemic design for RRL prisoners to take advantage of. Nothing for us to look forward to. Nothing for us to do. Little to no hope…

Delaware has sent a message with us and PA/DOC is honoring the request. Treat these individuals poorly. Violate their rights, their bodies, humiliate them, make their lives a living hell! And PA has yet to disappoint. Most of the Vaughn17 prisoners are held in cells indefinitely for no valid reason. The conditions are beyond poor, below egregious, surpassing inhumane, unjust and unconstitutional. It is blatant disrespect. We are shown the utmost prejudice and biased treatment.

So it is up to you, the people, and us, the Vaughn17 prisoners and fellow comrades on RRL, to raise awareness. To raise a fist and fight the powers that be. Because we’re the true power—the people. And we will not be overpowered by any opposing power. We will stand up. We will expose these pussies, expose their illegal activities. I thank you all for your ears. I pray that you all continue to be safe and suckafree. God bless you and yours. Peace.

In the name of Solidarity, Strength, Resistance and Resilience.

Blessings and Love

To send messages to Deric, contact him at:

Smart Communications / PA DOC, Deric Forney – NS2698, SCI Coal Township, PO Box 33028, St. Petersburg, FL, 33733

Abednego Baynes

We have set out on a very specific mission to enhance the level of social awareness and unity in not only America but abroad. The Philosophy behind our course of action is the best way to help yourself is to first help others and don’t ask of anyone what we don’t ask of ourselves. At this time we are looking at ways to better serve the communities that we have a presence in. We are also looking to build and unite resources to accomplish these goals. We cannot refer to ourselves as a non-profit because we gain the same way that all those who participate do and that’s by the building of unity, culture, and the passing of knowledge and wisdom.

We have to reconstruct our approach to problem-solving and make a deep logical assessment of where we are today and what is our best course of action to change tomorrow. All we are asking is that you aid us in aiding you. It’s not about where you came from or where you are at now, it’s about taking what you have learned from point A (where you started) to point B (where you are at today), putting them forward and making a change not only for others but also yourself. You can and will get out your environment and self what you put in it. One person’s problems ignored is sure to one day become our own. There is no mission that is impossible because a people united is unstoppable.

You may see plenty of things on this website telling you who we are. Our actions show how much we desire meaningful change not only for ourselves but for all those who are willing to accept it and the price we are willing to pay for it, but like I said to help others will always help you in return and that’s the reason we stand here today seeking to further unite and make a real positive different. We believe in our methods and practice only strengthen them, so we ask that you support us in supporting you, the people.

Abednego Baynes can be contacted at:

Smart Communications /PADOC, Abednego Baynes NT0594, SCI Frackville, P.O.Box 33028, St.Petersburgh, FL 33733

Pedro Chairez

My name is Pedro Chairez and I am one of the V-17 comrades who was publicly persecuted, vindictively indicted and quietly exonerated. All at the hands of a corrupt and incompetent justice system.

But the injustice, abuse and oppression that preceded that monumental event and saturated every facet of our arrest, still lingers on…as our new captors enforce their own brand of internal retribution. Passed around like cheap liquor we were shipped off to different states with a wink and a nod. The meaning clear: teach these boys a lesson! We may have been exonerated in a court of law, but as far as prison officials go, we are guilty as hell. Like the stigmata, we will forever be stained with labels such as: instigators, trouble-makers, agitators, ring-leaders, gang-members, etc.

I was banished from my home state of Arizona and exiled to a foreign land, thousands of miles away from my family and friends. Not for my safety or better living conditions or rehabilitation. Nothing so magnanimous. It was purely punitive. It is a tool and instrument to inflict psychological harm. They want to break down one’s mental fortitude, severe him from his foundational support, weaken his resolve, silence his voice, and crush his spirits. “Why?” you ask. Simple. To make one more pliable and obedient.

Now I reside in Pontiac, Illinois. At their most restrictive and isolated prison facility. I am currently in Administrative Detention. A nice way of saying solitary confinement or segregation. Here, I am warehoused like you would food products in a pantry. There are no programs, jobs, schools, or any other meaningful treatment available. No contact visits, chow halls, or religious groups. I live in a windowless cell, five feet wide and ten feet deep. With a tv to pacify me and a fan for the summer.

Furthermore, there’s no legal justification for placing me here. Because my institutional behavior and 10yr sentence qualify for me minimum custody status. However, when one challenges their procedures and reasoning, we get the intentionally vague and overused catch-phrase “institutional security.” Which means everything and absolutely nothing. They know the courts are disinclined to intrude upon prison security matters. It is an unassailable position.

Equally important is that once we are entombed within these gulags, under the false pretense of being a security threat, they offer no viable means to work our way out of segregation. There are no rehab programs, step-down programs or “corrective” measures in place to help us transition back into the general population. We are in penitentiary purgatory. Stuck. There are people who have been in here for decades. Without any tickets or gang-activity. Yet we are continually denied release without rhyme or reason. For some it becomes hopeless. Suicide and serious mental illness are at an all-time high.

The purpose of explaining all this is because these are the same oppressive and draconian conditions that plague the prison systems across the nation, and which gave to the V-17 movement. When you dehumanize people long enough they have a tendency to become inhumane…

But I ask myself…why does violence have to erupt before it garners national attention? Why does tragedy have to precede accountability? Why is change so intimately linked to pain? Why is transparency so heavily shrouded in darkness? Why do we have to lose (fallen friends or buried alive) to win? I wish I had the answers, but I know why it’s called a struggle.

Dwayne Staats

Throughout ancient and modern times, there’s been acts of rebellions, uprisings and insurrections orchestrated by valiant souls for the sake of a greater good. Unfortunately, a lot of these events were either erased or distorted by the writers of history. This reality is why it’s of the utmost importance for us to preserve the Vaughn17 saga and any other narratives that capture the same spirit of sacrifice, liberty, resistance and greater good as the martyrs that came before us. One of the most renowned representations of such is Harriet Tubman. She not only liberated herself from the jurisdiction of slavery but on numerous occasions jeopardized her life and freedom to rescue thousands of others. When the mind morphs into a by any means mode, the level of threat to the overall objective is what dictates the necessary. At times Harriet had to execute the fainthearted who denied themselves salvation to remain on the plantation. They were eliminated because in that instant they’d become a liability. It was too much at stake to take a chance on them not compromising or sabotaging the mission. In her eyes, she’d make sure they were freed one way or another….Nat Turner is another notable who marshaled one of the more militant rebellions that slaves themselves organized against oppression. Their fight was to ensure everyone’s freedom and dismantle the whole plantation and political system. Nat made practicable the element of surprise. He patiently waited while contemporaneously coordinating a clandestine ambush. For them, an insurrection was the gateway to emancipation. Though less publicized than the others, Denmark Vesey spearheaded one of the most “boldly conceptualized” uprisings that ever materialized. Sadly his demise came by the hands of house niggers and informants. Denmark was sentenced to death because of the audaciousness of his ambitions. The judge was so desensitized to the disenfranchisement haunting the slaves’ existence, that the immensity of Denmark’s sacrifice was unfathomable. This was conveyed when he dumbfoundedly stated, “What infatuation could have prompted you to attempt an enterprise so wild and visionary? You were a free man, comely, wealthy and enjoyed every comfort compatible with your situation. You had, therefore, much to lose and little to gain. Is slavery, then, a thing so detestable, that a man favored will engage in a plan that desperate merely to rescue his children from it?!” POWER IS THE PEOPLE!

Dwayne’s contact is:

Smart Communications/PDOC, Dwayne Staats NT0000, S.C.I Albion, P.O. Box 33028, St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Michael Lawrence

Limiting your ability to stand up and speak out against the oppressors is a stance that most prisoners are not willing to take. Why is that? Commissary, phone calls, recreation, visitation, and isolation are the answers to that question. Inside these prisons are warzones that some individuals don’t come out alive afterward. I’m not talking about physical death, which is the case sometimes. I’m speaking of mental unawareness. After being mentally, and physically beaten for so long it can destroy the strongest of individuals. We have to be mindful of that. We wonder how we can overcome. In SOLIDARITY! Take action! Educate the people, and participate! I’ve been subjected to this oppression since birth. Way before prison came about. If we educate the unaware and come as one, in solidarity & stand and fight together, and not leave our righteous brothers and sisters alone, then progress will come about. Individuals sacrificed their lives for this ongoing struggle for the people and to not want to take a stance is wrong!

Vaughn 17.

Lawrence Michaels #NW2894, SCI Smithfield, PO Box 33028, St Petersburg, FL 33733

Jarreau Ayers

My hope with this recent expression of thought is that those individuals, organizations and media outlets who claim to support transparency and humane treatment with impartiality view this letter as a call to accountability on those political leaders who publicly advocate for progressive changes to Delaware Prison System. Changes that consist of a clear acknowledgment through the Class I Agreement of what long-term solitary confinement can do to the deterioration of an individual’s mental health! Changes acknowledge through the findings of the governor’s report for the need for transparency on how the inmates are being treated from not only a medical standpoint, but a personal growth standpoint. “Hope” grounded in the process of redemption, rehabilitation through educational opportunities and the strengthening of family and community ties.

Yet, somehow, contrary to these public avocations for progressive changes to the system based off of our nation’s collective belief of redemption and rehabilitation, myself along with other political prisoners from Delaware have been transferred with the taxpayers’ money to the state of Pennsylvania solitary confinement that functions on a racist and antiquated belief system of pain, punishment and hopelessness!!!

The racism masked through security is clear and condoned. Inmates are walked around with a dog/horse leash attached to their handcuffs; a leash that’s pulled by an officer to indicate how an inmate should start or stop walking! Currently, we’re being housed in a long-term solitary confinement system with a standing policy completely in contradiction of Delaware’s policies. Inmates are held indefinitely without any plan articulated to the inmate regarding rehabilitation steps towards guarantee of release! Contrary to the any mental health or the hopeless emotional impact it causes. This mental and emotional systematic torture is exacerbated by the fact that not only is our support/family members five hours or more away, we’re also being denied weekend visitation due to our solitary confinement status. This is a clear systematic design to force family and friends to choose between going to work, going to school or taking off to come to a visit! Connection to family is a key element to hope, growth and rehabilitation for inmates, especially of those lockdown 23 & 1….

So the question is, if not for the purpose of retaliation “a financial quid pro quo” to subject us to conditions Delaware is unable to, due to its position on progressive change, why else use taxpayers’ money to support a system it claims to be fundamentally and morally opposed to!!!!?

All I’m asking for is accountability and impartial questions to be asked on behalf of true change/positive, humane and progressive change! I ask this because we all understand that selfless conscious acknowledgement of another human being’s inhumane treatment is a key element to any social structure of change and growth. Especially when we’re asking for that change to come by way of amplifying suppressed/oppressed marginalized voices. Amplified to an extent that collectively we garner enough noise to pierce the insulation of denial and disregard those in a political position of power are often able to hide within. So, once again, I would like to express my appreciation to everyone who has chosen to help amplify our message, our concerns and our mental and emotional pain!

As for those who voice their misplaced concerns and beliefs that claim that if we truly want out of solitary confinement or that if we really wanted to see our families and friends, that if we want the mental, emotional and physical torture to stop, that we should keep out mouths shut, lay low and not make ourselves a target, my response may seem hubris to some, but it’s humbling through clarity to me! I’m beyond being a target! I’m currently being bludgeoned daily by these systematic tortures crouched in a racist, antiquated prison belief system of pain, punishment and hopelessness!

Therefore, I would rather acknowledge my plight, no matter how painful that truth may be that consciously engage in positive actions that affect systematic change to those conditions, rather than embrace an illusion that the fight isn’t already upon me and simply suffer on my knees in silence.

I would never! Ever! Implore that belief system on anyone!!!

Peace and Solidarity

Contact: Smart Communications/PADOC, Jarreau Ayers #NS9994, S.C.I Huntingdon, PO Box 33028, St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Roman Shankaras & Obadiah Miller

Greetings, this is Obadiah Miller and Roman Shankaras of the Vaughn 17. As you probably know there were 3 trials regarding the riot that took place Feb 1st 2017. These trials only resulted in 3 convictions, which came from individuals who confessed their involvement. Roman and I went to trial in 2019 and got justly acquitted of all charges. Subsequently Lawrence Michaels, Robert Hernandez, Janiis Mathis, Pedro Chairez, Luis Sierra, Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz, Corey Smith and Jonathan Rodriguez charges were dropped. Shortly thereafter everyone was transferred out of state to Pennsylvania with the exceptions of Luis Sierra in Smyrna, DE, Robert Hernandez in New Mexico, and Pedro Chairez in Illinois. Upon arrival to Pennsylvania all of the remaining Vaughn 17 were placed in the hole under the guise of Restricted Release (RRL), which is a step down program you have to do when found guilty of an offense in a correctional facility. Pennsylvania DOC has admitted that most of them were acquitted, but still the state refuses to move them to general population. The Vaughn 17 are being unjustly held in solitary confinement months after their charges were dropped at the behest of the state. In the midst of this injustice we’re planning a 17 day of action initiative leading up to February 1st.

Roman Shankaras and Obadiah Miller have since been released, but you can contact them at [email protected]