Wisconsin prison system revamps disciplinary rules

This comes from WisconsinWatch.org:

Wisconsin prison system revamps disciplinary rules: Changes come as concerns grow over use of solitary confinement

By: BILL LUEDERS, Dec. 10, 2014

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is quietly preparing to make significant changes to its rules governing inmate discipline, amid heightened discomfort over the state’s use of solitary confinement.

“The disciplinary process should be used as a means to motivate the inmate to alter their negative behavior, with long-term correction of the behavior as the end goal,” wrote Cathy Jess, administrator of the DOC’s division of adult institutions, in a Sept. 25 memo to staff.

Jess’ memo, obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, sheds light on the DOC’s revamping of its disciplinary code, last revised in 2001. The new code calls for speeding up the process of imposing discipline for minor offenses, while upholding the ideals of rehabilitation and fairness.

Prison officials have declined to discuss specifics and it remains unclear what changes will occur. But Jess calls the new rules, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, “an excellent opportunity to focus on making positive changes” to the state’s use of solitary confinement, which in Wisconsin is called segregation. This has been a topic of growing state and national concern.

“Long-term segregation placements have been shown to be ineffective in terms of discipline and do not serve our corrective or rehabilitative goals,” the memo states.

About 1,500 of the state’s 22,000 inmates are in segregation, locked in their cells for upwards of 23 hours a day.

Read the rest of this interesting new development here.

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Illinois prisoners in Menard High Security Unit plan to begin hunger strike Jan. 15

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.

The IDOC website says, “Menard Correctional Center was established on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1878. … Menard is the state’s largest maximum security adult male facility.”

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 help

Prisoners 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:
Staughton Lynd, attorney, professor, historian, author, playwright, and civil rights and peace activist, can be reached at salynd@aol.com.

Tamms Prison Project Makes Prisoners’ Dreams Come True (PHOTOS)

From: The Daily Beast, May 6, 2013:

“Photo Requests From Solitary” was one of many projects launched by Tamms Year Ten to build publicity for the campaign to close Tamms supermax. The men in Tamms were invited to request a photograph of anything in the world, real or imagined. 

See the slide show of photos, impressions, here

Gabe Newland: Reduce the use of solitary confinement in Michigan prisons

From guest writer Gabe Newland in the Detroit Free Press, Feb. 1st 2013:

Gov. Rick Snyder can save lives and money by adopting Mississippi’s recent prison reforms.

Remember solitary confinement — that expensive thing the Michigan Department of Corrections does with your tax dollars? They lock almost 1,000 prisoners — hundreds of them mentally ill — inside isolated segregation cells. For days and months and years, prisoners spend 23 hours per day in these cramped cubes. Alone. Where silence screams and thoughts become voices.

Sometimes people die. Timothy Souders, a mentally ill prisoner serving one to four years, spent the last four days of his life strapped to a steel bed until he died of thirst. He was naked, soaked in his own urine.

Gov. Snyder can fix this.

Only six years ago, Mississippi held almost 1,300 prisoners in long-term segregation. Cells were like ovens, and psychotic prisoners screamed through the night. Violence spread. In response, Mississippi tried something different: It reduced its solitary population by 85%. Violence plummeted, behavior improved, and Mississippi saved more than $5 million per year.

How did Mississippi do it? Two key components:

• First, the state overhauled its classification system, which determines where prisoners go — minimum, medium or maximum security. Instead of isolating the worst of the worst, they’d been isolating prisoners they were mad at. And that’s expensive.

A good classification system rewards good behavior; you might move from maximum to medium security. In Mississippi, they knew how to punish but forgot to reward. And they’ve now learned an important lesson: One-way ratchets only ratchet up costs. More solitary, more money.

• Second, Mississippi began diverting mentally ill prisoners out of solitary and into mental health units. Prisoners who needed treatment got it, not punishment. And that’s smart. Isolated prisoners are more likely to hurt themselves, and they’re more likely to hurt others when released. Anti-social isolation produces anti-social behavior.

In the end, Mississippi successfully reduced the number of prisoners in isolation to about 300. That saved money, jobs and lives.

Read the rest here: http://www.freep.com/article/20130201/OPINION05/302010046/Gabe-Newland-Reduce-the-use-of-solitary-confinement-in-Michigan-prisons

Ind. scrambles to address ruling on mentally ill inmates

This article comes from USAToday, Jan. 2nd 2013, written by: Tim Evans:

INDIANAPOLIS — Weeks after a doctor at an Indiana prison determined a suicidal prisoner was experiencing “severe difficulty coping with segregation,” the Indiana Department of Corrections placed the inmate back in a segregation unit.
Isolated for 23 hours a day in a cell not much larger than a closet at New Castle Correctional Facility, the inmate’s mental state continued to deteriorate.
Two weeks later, he was dead — one of at least 11 mentally ill inmates who committed suicide while in IDOC segregation units from 2007 through July 2011.
Now state officials and advocates are scrambling for solutions in the wake of a federal court ruling that found Indiana’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners in segregation units violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
The decision was issued Monday by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission and a group of inmates.
Pratt found “mentally ill prisoners within the IDOC segregation units are not receiving adequate mental health care in terms of scope, intensity, and duration.”
The judge also noted IDOC was aware of concerns about its treatment of mentally ill prisoners and “has been deliberately indifferent.”
Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director, hailed the ruling as a win not only for mentally ill inmates, but for all Indiana residents.

Political prisoner Khalfani Malik Khaldun puts the Indiana prison system on trial

December 29, 2012

Since Dec. 13, 1994, Indiana political prisoner Khalfani Malik Khaldun (aka Leonard McQuay) has been held in control units, i.e. administrative segregation or isolation. It began when police and prison investigators manufactured a murder charge against him after a guard was stabbed and killed. Brother Khalfani is a Muslim and New Afrikan revolutionary educator who professes a strong sense of radical politics and culture.

Interview by the Campaign to Free Khalfani Malik Khaldun
Khalfani Malik Khaldun 042711
Campaign: How long have you been in Indiana’s prison plantation?
Khalfani Malik Khaldun: I entered the Indiana Department of Corrections in 1987, when I was a senior in high school.

Campaign: How old are you?
KMK: I was born Nov. 30, 1969. That makes me 43 years old.

Campaign: Explain to us what your life is like on the inside?
KMK: The best way to describe it is I am in prison sanctioned to indefinite solitary confinement engaged in multiple fights. One fight to regain my freedom, one fight to maintain my physical health, one fight to be released into the general population, and the last fight is to maintain my sanity – an all-day job.

Campaign: How has your activism made you a target for harassment or repression?
KMK: Being identified as a prison leader, political agitator, activist or revolutionary, we get automatically singled out as threats to others and threats to the safety and security of the prison plantations. Having been restricted from general population for so long, my influence has been reduced to small units. The idea behind all this is to destroy our ties and relationships with comrades and new youth coming in.

Campaign: Share your position on the political nature of your murder charge involving that prison guard, Phillip Curry.
KMK: On Dec. 13, 1994, the night this guard was killed at the Indiana State Prison, he was killed on the tier above where I lived. D-cell-house was where the prisoncrats housed the worst of the worst – their term, not mine. I was at that time agitating, educating and organizing the radical elements who would listen.
So when this happened, having been a thorn in the prisoncrats’ side already, they made me the responsible party that night; they were mad and wanted someone to pay. In 2001, they made me pay by finding me guilty and giving me a fresh 60-year hit.

One of the jurors who found me guilty, Juror No. 12, came forward after my trial; she regretted her actions and went to the judge. Instead of calling for a new trial and reversal of the charge, the judge told her to go home; the judge has since retired. They manufactured evidence to obtain their conviction against me.
I am in prison sanctioned to indefinite solitary confinement engaged in multiple fights. One fight to regain my freedom, one fight to maintain my physical health, one fight to be released into the general population, and the last fight is to maintain my sanity – an all-day job.

Campaign: Explain the corruption that exists inside Indiana’s criminal justice system.
KMK: Like any system of corrupt politicians and abuses of power, whoever can afford to pay a greedy lawyer to represent them here may stay out of prison. These lawyers have judges and prosecutors who will give one a pass as long as they receive a nice payoff.

Poor people get sent to prison to fulfill the schemes of the prisoncrats and political regime here; more bodies mean more money. As they say, power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Indiana legislators have slashed prison funding for educating prisoners and providing meaningful rehabilitative programs, so that money would be solely for building new prisons. So they are perpetuating a system that leads to more recidivism. Not having a viable re-entry program for prisoners prior to their release ensures a return to prison: capitalism at its best and the human exploitation of prisoners.

Campaign: Why are they continuing to house you in solitary confinement after nearly two decades?
KMK: The executive body of the Indiana Department of Corrections launched its political war against me in 1994, the night they lost one of their own. Being the only person accused, then later charged and convicted for this murder, to them Khalfani Malik Khaldun is Indiana’s public enemy number one; so they have condemned me to a prison existence in solitary confinement.

This goes beyond my sentence of 60 years. The courts did not say serve out this term in administrative segregation. The Indiana Department of Corrections wants payback, so in retaliation they want me suffering to the point of psychological incapacitation. They want me an old grey-hair grey-beard and no longer imposing a potential threat.

I am currently “conduct clear” for eight years, and I have completed the following programs: Substance Abuse; Stress Management; Anger Management; Commitment to Change; Prison-Life Skills; Parenting; Cage Your Rage; Rage, Recidivism and Recovery; Prison-Life Skills No. 2; Houses of Healing; Bridging the Gap; and Inside-Outside Dads.

I have been eligible for release to general population for years now. Their justification for not releasing me is they say I killed their officer, and nobody is comfortable with signing off on my release from solitary confinement.

Campaign: Why is it so important to build a networking support base on the outside of prison?
KMK: For the revolutionary, political prisoner, jailhouse lawyer, prison activist, outside resources and support is crucial. The prisoncrats isolate us to control our movements and neutralize our influence on other convicts.

Having a network of loyal people who have your best interests in mind helps to keep the public informed. These supporters can be family members, friends or anyone doing prisoner support work. They can help us expose whatever ill treatment we go through. When the prisoncrats know you have people who genuinely love and care about you, they’re less likely to openly mess you around.

Campaign: Explain how the Indiana Department of Corrections utilizes control units and why?
KMK: In the early 1980s, Indiana experienced several prison riots as a result of racism and brutality by guards on militant aspiring revolutionaries and lumpen proletariat prisoners, forcing prisoners to take a stand to defend themselves. Indiana prisoncrats learned some lessons from these insurrections – and one lesson was that there was a threat to the Indiana Department of Corrections posed by politically-unified convicts.

Indiana prisoncrats lobbied for funds to build two solitary confinement units here in response to the rebellion of militancy from convicts willing to sacrifice for change. 

In 1991, the Indiana Supermax was built, a control unit meant to be a tool of social control of the state’s most violent prisoners.

In 1993, the prisoncrats built the Secured Housing Unit (SHU), a unit styled after the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Both units were meant to cut the prisoners off from normal prison relations, while helping to keep the prisoners in the general population sort of in check. No one wants to spend unlimited years in Administrative Segregation, or solitary confinement.

The fear of being held in these units creates snitches who will tell prisoncrats whatever to stay in population. You may read about these units by going to the Human Rights Watch report, “Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Security Confinement inIndiana.” Amnesty International just released a 68-page report called “The Edgeof Endurance,” exposing solitary confinement in California.

Campaign: How important is it to stay in touch with your loved ones?
KMK: Doing time is like having cannibals eat away at your flesh day by day. Family love and their help to assist us in maintaining are paramount. I am a conscious, self-educated New Afrikan (Black) man who loves myself and those who love me. That connection helps to keep me determined, motivated and hopeful in times of sadness and loss of loved ones.

Since 1997, I have lost my mother, two brothers, an uncle and two cousins. I am fighting for my life, unable to cry, mourn or be a comfort to my family. Since 1994, my loved ones have been harassed, intimidated, threatened and discouraged by prisoncrats to not visit or write me at times. I have not had a contact visit since 2000. We continue to persevere through it all – because it is necessary.

Campaign: How do you work to maintain your health both mentally and physically?
KMK: For years I have maintained a consistent physical exercise routine and a healthy study habit of reading quality books and magazines. I don’t eat pork, and that’s been since 1987. I stopped eating red meat for 15 years; I recently started back eating it. Exercise and study has kept me active and healthy for many years.
One realistic fact that I want to share is no one leaves these experiences the same as they were when they came in. I am scarred by anxiety, depression, paranoia and hypertension as a result of being in long term isolation so many years.

I have made a conscious effort to humble myself and be less reactionary in emotional situations. This way these prisoncrats won’t have any ammunition to use to justify keeping me in solitary confinement. As long as I am living, I’m going to keep on fighting.

Campaign: How long did they keep you on the SCU – Special Confinement Unit?
KMK: Prisoncrats sent me to the SCU unit way in January 2003, and I spent 10 years in that windowless torture chamber. For the most part, that is one of Indiana’s most racist prisons, and the staff are 98 percent all-white with this philosophy of Southern racism.

That was the worst 10 years of my 26 years in prison. Altogether now I have 18 years straight in units of solitary confinement. They have tried to break my will to be defiant and destroy my mental faculties. Allah has guided me out of each storm. Allah-u-Akbar.

Campaign: What do you think prompted the prisoncrats to finally transfer you out on April 18, 2012?
KMK: A variety of reasons, but one in particular is my constant pursuits in civil court. On April 4, 2012, I filed with the court a motion for an immediate permanent injunctive relief judgment and a memorandum of law requesting the court to order the Indiana Department of Corrections to release me to general population. These prisoncrats moved me 14 days later to Pendleton Correctional Facility.

This in my opinion was done to get me out of their custody so I wouldn’t be a problem any longer. I had been challenging my department-wide solitary confinement status for years. The classification supervisor and superintendent also refused to release me in 2010, when I had completed a program serving as re-entry back to population. That ACT Program is an incentive for release. They released my entire class but not me.
Photo: Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility was built in 1923.

Campaign: What are the conditions like at Pendleton Correctional Facility?
KMK: The transfer on April 18, 2012, out of the SCU to Pendleton did not land me in general population. Right now the general population is run like a concentration camp with fences and cameras everywhere; the whole prison is “controlled movement.”

The prisoncrats placed me on DWAS, Department-Wide Administrative Segregation. Inside G-cell-house, where all the potential threats and alleged troublemakers are housed, D-block is where all disciplinary segregation prisoners are housed. Also, C-block, where I am held, houses prisoners on Facility Administrative Segregation and prisoners on DWAS, Department-Wide Administrative Segregation, the status I am on.

DWAS are all single-man cells, with recreation one hour a day and 23 hours locked in a cell. We get recreation on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays, showering only on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. The only interaction we get is during recreation outside when we’re in the dog-run individual cages.

Campaign: Since your arrival at Pendleton, have any officials discussed with you your possible release from that status?
KMK: The prisoncrats are seriously playing games. Superintendent Keith Butts, who recently retired, sent me a letter claiming he would set up a plan to consider my release from DWAS status, but it was all a smokescreen to get me to ease up on my demands to be treated like the rest of these prisoners who are being released. They are picking and choosing and playing prison politics with our lives.

The current regime in the commissioner’s office at the Indiana Department of Corrections are not willing to give me a chance to prove them wrong. That is, if they released me and I transitioned without incident, they will not be able to say “That’s the bad guy” no more. There is no legitimate justification for my still being held captive in these units.

Campaign: How can people outside that are interested in helping you join the campaign to help free you? How can you benefit from their support?
KMK: Having been in prison since 1987, I have had the misfortune to lose family, friends; and my ties to relationships I’ve had with my female companions I have had to rebuild, which hasn’t been easy, then establish an extended family.

Right now, I need someone who is computer-savvy who can network with organizations to encourage them to take on my case. I need a website on Facebook that solely covers my entire case, and we need a law firm that assists political prisoners that is activist-conscious. We also need someone qualified and good with fundraising.

My success with Indiana lawyers haven’t been great. They seem to be afraid to go up against the Indiana Department of Corrections and the lawyers from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. We must find a lawyer out of state who can practice in the state of Indiana.

Those wanting to join this campaign to assist me in my freedom, please write me directly and we’ll go from there; honestly, we need all the willing working bodies we can get on this campaign.

Right now, I need someone who is computer-savvy who can network with organizations to encourage them to take on my case. I need a website on Facebook that solely covers my entire case, and we need a law firm that assists political prisoners that is activist-conscious. We also need someone qualified and good with fundraising.

Campaign: How is your civil and criminal fight coming along in the politics of the Indiana Court System?
KMK: On Jan. 11, 2013, I have a hearing on my civil law suit challenging my continued confinement by the Indiana Department of Corrections. I filed several motions pro se that will be covering primarily my request for the court to order my release to general population.

My criminal murder case is currently at a standstill, and my initial post-conviction appeal was denied, because the Public Defender’s Office gave me an attorney who felt I was guilty and I should do my time. He messed my case up.

I am preparing a successive post-conviction relief petition. My rights are being violated civilly and criminally, and I will never relent nor lose my self-determination to fight.

Campaign: Any final words you want to share with the public and the revolutionary community?
KMK: I can honestly say that Indiana as far as prisoners abandoning their criminal mentalities and transforming to political consciousness goes, our “think tanks,” we’re very aggressive in producing politically-active prisoners, but we seem to have lost our momentum somewhere.

Prisoners are still studying and having individual dialogues, and I think prisoners, in an attempt to avoid being captured and held for 10-20 years in solitary confinement, are becoming less vocal and active. My having been held for the past 18 years is their prime example of where they don’t want to be.

To me, life is not easy, never has been, and to struggle means to reject being the victim. One who struggles is a rejuvenated fighter life-long. We are organized, prepared and multi-talented. To struggle is to understand complexity and to pick one’s own battles. There cannot be fruitful progress without a real struggle. I am not broken by my adversity, but I am experiencing psychological fatigue. A luta continua.

Send our brother some love and light: Khalfani Malik Khaldun (Leonard McQuay), 874304, Pendleton Correctional Facility, GCH 17/2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064.

Illinois planning to close Tamms Prison

From: PA Prison Report, from the Human Rights Coalition:
June 25, 2012

Illinois planning to close Tamms Prison:
Governor Pat Quinn is moving ahead with the closing of the controversial supermax Tamms Correctional Facility, slated for the end of August. As Part of Quinn’s budget plan, Tamms will close in late August to save $26 million for the state of Illinois.

According to NPR, the facility “typically holds fewer than 200 prisoners at a time, costing about $62,000 per inmate per year – about three times the statewide average.” Prisoners are isolated in their cells for 23 hours a day, allowed out only to shower or exercise alone. The prisoner population of Tamms will most likely be moved to prisons in Pontiac and Menard, and placed in single-cell segregation units.

Advocates for prison reform have long argued that the solitary confinement practices of Tamms and other supermax prisons lead to serious lasting psychological damage. Many of the prisoners housed at Tamms already suffer from existing mental illnesses, according to the Tamms Year Ten coalition group. For these individuals, the long term effects of solitary confinement are even more devastating. “By closing Tamms, Illinois will join a growing consensus, and take a critical step toward reforming the state’s prison system to the benefit of public safety, security, and the state’s fiscal health,” a 42-page report from the John Howard Association stated.

There is a slew of criticism about Governor Quinn’s monumental decision, notably from labor union officials and State Senator Dave Luechtefeld. Tamms is the largest employer in an already poverty-stricken area of Illinois. Closing this and other prisons and juvenile detention centers in the state (per Quinn’s budget plan) will cost jobs and livelihoods. There are also concerns that relocating prisoners from Tamms, Dwight, and Murphysboro (the other facilities slated to be shut down) will result in overcrowding and unsafe conditions in the existing prisons.

The closing of the Tamms Supermax provides a rich opportunity to evaluate the practices of solitary confinement. In a statement issued from the ACLU, it was noted that “recent years have seen evaluations in other states, with a reduction in the use of solitary confinement in states like Mississippi, Maine, and Colorado. These states have seen no increase in crime and they have enjoyed considerable cost savings. Illinois can follow this path.”