From the SF Bay View:
Last Menard hunger striker calls for a new generation of warriors
By Joseph Tillman, June 25, 2014
I participated in the Menard hunger strike and I actually was the last to come off. The hardest part was not not eating but having to notify my loved ones that I may die while trying to make them understand this is worth my life.
Leon Benson: sentenced to life in prison in 1999, for a crime he did not commit. We need some more attention to his case, and you can help by reaching out, spreading the word, listening to Leon’s story. Thank you for caring about the truth.
Reblogged from: SF Bay View, April 12, 2014
Written By Jesus Vega
I am currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois and housed in the high security unit in administrative detention. I was one of the inmates who was on hunger strike over harsh living conditions and denial of our due process, which is still going on.
No! Things haven’t changed after the hunger strike was over. I spent 29 days on hunger strike and three days on a water strike. I couldn’t go any longer.
I tried my best with the other brothers to get these harsh conditions fixed or changed. But nothing has been done.
There was a lot of reasons why we went on hunger strike, but some of the main reasons were the denial of our due process where they place us in administrative detention in the high security unit and refuse to tell us why, don’t let us know how long we will be in here and how to get out without becoming a snitch, plus having to endure the harsh conditions, meaning living without hot water in the cell and no heat during the cold weather months plus some other things.
But we’ve only gotten hot water, and we still are in a fight to be treated like a human being. Just know we haven’t quit our fight.
Send our brother some love and light: Jesus Vega, R21806, Menard CC, P.O. Box 1000, Menard, IL 62259.
April 09, 2014
By Haleigh Amant
It may come as no surprise to many that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Even more unsurprising to some might be the racial disparities in our prison system (black men are more likely to be sent to prison than white men in this country).
But what did seem to shock many, including myself, was a study done by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee finding that Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate of black males in the country, with 13 percent incarcerated. That is nearly double the country’s rate and can be summed up with just one major Wisconsin city: Milwaukee.
This is from the In These Times series The Prison Complex, by George Lavender
Jan. 30, 2014
When prisoners in the segregation unit at Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana received their lunch trays last Tuesday, it was, for some of them, a small taste of victory. While “savory stroganoff with noodles, mixed vegetables, and enriched bread” might not seem like much, the prisoners say it was their first hot weekday lunch in months, except on holidays. For the previous week, dozens in the unit had been protesting what they saw as inadequate food by refusing the cold sack lunches provided by the prison, according to two inmates who spoke to In These Times on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal from the prison.
“A lot of people didn’t believe that we could win,” says “Jela,” (not his real name), one of the prisoners involved in the protest. “We proved them wrong.”
Barring holidays, prisoners in the maximum security unit had been receiving sack lunches instead of the usual hot meal, five days a week for approximately seven months. Indiana Department of Corrections (DOC) Public Information Officer John Schrader says the switch to the sack lunch program was a response to requests from some prisoners, and was an effort to speed meal times and free up more time for recreation and showers.
But “people were losing weight, people were not getting the proper nutrients and calories,” charges “Malik,” another prisoner in the unit, who also asked to be identified by a pseudonym. Each bag contained slices of bread, peanut butter and jelly, and a cookie—“not enough,” according to Malik and Jela.
In response, say Jela and Malik, prisoners began making dozens of complaints about the program, which they say went unheeded. So more than 40 inmates took part in the protest, which was inspired by prisoner actions in California and Georgia, and organized by shouting between rec rooms.
Reblogged from: SF Bay View
by Staughton Lynd
Jan. 14, 2014
The following information is based on numerous letters from prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois written in December 2013. These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.
After the Tamms Correctional Center was closed in January 2013, several High Security Units have been opened in other prisons throughout Illinois.
The High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center is one of several such units housing prisoners in administrative detention who were in Tamms or who have filed grievances or complaints and others who would not have met the criteria for transfer to Tamms.
The men were transferred to Menard and continue to be kept in the High Security Unit without any notice, reasons or hearing. Prisoners who were transferred without so much as a ticket are being forced to complete a nine month three phase program – originally Tamms’ stepdown program – to earn back privileges they did nothing to lose.The Illinois Department of Corrections has been unable to locate any records responsive to a Freedom of Information Act request for any administrative directives that deal with the “phase program.” The Menard rule book says that administrative detention is a non-disciplinary form of segregation from the general population that is reviewed every 90 days by the warden. However, the phase program is nine months. Therefore, no one is being considered for release until at least nine months after entering the system.The 90-day review is supposed to be a review where release is considered. Instead, it is only a hearing where the prisoner is not present, and its only purpose is to determine if he should move from one phase to the next. To date, nobody has been released after the nine months. No notices are being given after any of these alleged hearings, and no basis for decision of continued placement is given either.
These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.Prisoners have been filing grievances asking for uniform written policies that provide for constitutionally adequate notice of why an inmate is being placed in administrative detention and periodic review in the form of informal hearings that allow the prisoner to refute the alleged reasons for placement and retention in administrative detention.Prisoners say that their conditions of confinement are deplorable. According to prisoners, conditions in the High Security Unit include
- severe isolation without any mental health evaluation or treatment;
- uncleanliness, rodent infestation and lack of any cleaning supplies to clean cells – no disinfectants, no toilet brushes;
- no written policies requiring the daily sweeping and mopping of the wings;
- lack of heat in the cells and only one small, thin blanket;
- showers are moldy and often cold;
- no hot water in the cells to wash up or clean eating utensils;
- unauthorized deviation from the statewide menu, low calorie intake has prisoners losing weight;
- not issued individual coats, have to share smelly coats with numerous men;
- access to their legal materials limited to approximately once a month, delays in receiving legal mail;
- no educational opportunities even though non-disciplinary prisoners should have the same access to education as the general population.Many prisoners in the Menard High Security Unit are planning to turn in emergency grievances as well as begin a hunger strike on the morning of Jan. 15, 2014. They expect retaliation, possibly including beatings of inmates who are regarded as troublemakers.
Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.
How you can helpPrisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center ask you to make phone calls to the warden, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the governor on Jan. 15, 16 and 17, 2014, to check on their conditions, demands, and welfare. Please call:
- Warden Rick Harrington, (618) 826-5071
- Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez, (217) 558-2200, ext. 2008
- Gov. Pat Quinn, (217) 782-0244, http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/Pages/ContacttheGovernor.aspxStaughton Lynd, attorney, professor, historian, author, playwright, and civil rights and peace activist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.