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.
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.
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.
|Khalfani Malik Khaldun 042711|
From Facebook Notes, written by Mark Clements, Dec 5th 2012:
This morning Tuesday, December 4, 20112 at approximately eight o’clock Grayland Johnson, a Chicago Police Torture Victim was found dead inside his prison cell. The Campaign to End Torture (“CET”) was immediately notified and made attempts to confirm the death through the Illinois Department Corrections, however Prison officials would not either confirm nor deny the death. Johnson family was notified through the (“CET”) and at this hour the family is yet to be notified by IDOC officials. Johnson served over sixteen years in prison for a murder which evidence seem to suggest that he was innocent of the crime. What was more clear is that Johnson was taken to area three violent crime unit, beat and tortured by detectives working under the command of Jon Burge.
Johnson has claimed that while in police custody his head was stuck inside a toilet bowl, he was hung outside the window by police and physically beaten throughout his body. Because Johnson was a big ranking gang leader in south Chicago he has been viewed as guilty. Johnson often called me at the offices of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to complain of never being notified about court status and court proceedings by his attorney. With the death of Johnson it takes with him a great mobilization that he and other inmates started, the “DEATH ROW TEN” inmates that had been tortured under the command of Burge. Cards to the Family can be sent to: Mark Clements, Att: Grayland Johnson, Suite #105, 1325 S. Wabash Ave., in Chicago, Illinois 60605.
At this 9:40PM hour the family of Johnson still are yet to be notified of the death by Stateville Correctional Center prison officials. When inmates die for whatever reason, it appears to be unethical how prison officials can delay notification of a death to immediate family. Please think of Mr. Johnson and his family in your prayers.
A Free Reading Presented by the Center on Wrongful Convictions
Music/Arts – Performance
Date: Monday, March 8, 2010
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location: Northwestern School of Law, Thorne Auditorium , Chicago, IL
375 East Chicago Ave
The Center on Wrongful Convictions invites you to attend a free reading of My Kind of Town, a new play about the Chicago police torture scandal by John Conroy. The play tells the story of the victims, the police officers, the prosecutors, and the families whose lives were poisoned by the scandal.
Any questions please contact Dolores Kennedy: d-kennedy at law.northwestern.edu
by Corey Weinstein, M.D., C.C.H.P
Photo: Andy Manis, AP
During the past 25 years I’ve spent a lot of time with survivors of torture, men and women enduring long term solitary confinement in California’s prisons. They are the most urgent victims of U.S. mass incarceration with its overcrowded facilities and policy of incapacitation, not rehabilitation.
Those thousands held in solitary for years on end report the expected classic symptoms of psychic disturbance, mental deterioration and social disruption. As described by various penal psychiatric experts, the symptoms of this syndrome include massive free-floating anxiety, hyperresponsiveness to external stimuli, perceptual distortions and hallucinations, a feeling of unreality, difficulty with concentration and memory, acute confusional states, the emergence of primitive aggressive fantasies, persecutory ideation, motor excitement and violent destructive or self-mutilatory outbursts.
The degrading conditions produce behaviors ranging from fights among prisoners to assaults on staff, assaults by staff, excrement throwing, self mutilation and contract killings. Isolation tears apart family and friendship ties, creating social dislocation.
In California there are about 4,000 men and women held in the state’s supermax facilities, called Security Housing Units, including 600 serving SHU terms in Administrative Segregation. That is 2.5 percent of the total population of 160,000.
The regime in SHU is a 23.5 hour per day lockdown in the 8’ x 10’ cell with no communal activities aside from small group exercise yards for some. There is no work, no school, no communal worship and meals are eaten in cell.
TVs and radios must be purchased, so the poor have none. Visits are noncontact, behind glass and limited to one or two hours on each weekend visit day. Each prisoner must submit to being handcuffed behind the back in order to exit the cell. Leg iron hobble chains are commonly used.
More than 50 percent of the men in SHU are assigned indeterminate terms there because of alleged gang membership or activity. The only program that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) offers to them is to debrief.
The single way offered to earn their way out of SHU is to tell departmental gang investigators everything they know about gang membership and activities, including describing crimes they have committed. The department calls it debriefing. The prisoners call it “snitch, parole or die.” The only ways out are to snitch, finish the prison term or die. The protection against self incrimination is collapsed in the service of anti-gang investigation.
CDCr asserts that the lockdown and snitch policy are required for the safety and security of the institution. Having legitimate penalogical purpose, the SHU program is deemed worth any harm done to the prisoners.
California prisons continue to have a high rate of assaultive incidents among prisoners and from prisoners to staff. There is no proof or even any study that demonstrates that these measures are effective anti-gang measures. They appear to be no more useful than previous brutalities like that unleashed at Corcoran prison more than a decade ago.
Between 1988 and 1995, CDCr ran a program at the Corcoran SHU called the Integrated Yard Policy. Rival gang members were deliberately mixed together in small group exercise yards. The prisoners had to fight, and fight well or be punished by their own gangs.
When the fights occurred, guards were required to fire first anti-riot guns and then assault rifles at the combatants. Seven prisoners were killed and hundreds wounded. The program of beating prisoners down into the concrete with gunfire resulted in bigger, stronger gangs with new martyrs and heroes.
Mayhem and violence was added to the prison social system by departmental policy. No CDCr official has ever been held accountable or even assigned responsibility for what was know at Corcoran as the gladiator days. Line staff brought to trial by the U.S. Department of Justice avoided criminal convictions by proving that they were just following orders.
There are four prisons in California with SHUs: Corcoran, Pelican Bay and Tehachapi for men and Valley State Prison for Women. Only a few women have ever been given a SHU term for gang activity.
All those identified as gang members by the administrative kangaroo court serve SHU terms without end. The only way out is to debrief, to testify against oneself to prison rules violations and crimes.
Prisoners have found it very hard to attack the abuses in the SHU, even though the U.S. is under the jurisdiction of the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT). The U.S. states reservations to the treaty asserting that the U.S. Constitution and body of law are all that is required to satisfy the obligations of CAT.
But the 1995 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) that prohibits a prisoner bringing action for mental or emotional injury without prior showing of physical injury is one law that violates CAT. The U.N. Committee on Torture expressed concern that by disallowing compensation for psychic abuse the PLRA is out of compliance with CAT.
Under CAT, torture includes “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted.” But the U.S. 1990 reservations to CAT were designed specifically to allow solitary confinement, as the reservations state that mental pain and suffering must be prolonged, be tied to infliction or threats of infliction of physical pain, the result of drugging or the result of death threats.
Despite SHU confinement without end to attempt to control gangs, prison gangs thrive in California’s prisons. The gang leadership predictably uses the snitch sessions to falsely target their rivals, or just recruit new members. Just as we have seen in U.S. anti-terror investigations, information derived from coercion is often unreliable.
Using indeterminate total lockdown to extract confessions is torture by international standards, as is the use of prolonged solitary confinement. U.S. prison officials order by rule the torture of prisoners. One in 31 adults in the U.S. is under the supervision of the criminal detention system – jail, prison, probation or parole – with 2.5 million behind bars.
Prisons dominate the lives of poor communities and communities of color and are ignored by affluent white America. One in 11 African-Americans and one in 27 Latino-Americans are under penal jurisdiction. Prisoners damaged by incarceration are returning to communities increasingly less able to absorb them.
The 2005 census found that severe poverty increased 26 percent more than the overall growth in poverty. In 2002, 43 percent of the nation’s poor were living in severe poverty, the highest rate since 1975.
Torture has always served more to beat down a population than to extract reliable information. The unstated goal is to incapacitate and marginalize the dangerous poor who are locked out of America’s opportunity and riches. The routine even banal nature of torture in U.S. prisons enables torture to be acceptable, and informs our failing strategies of dealing with any opposition by using brute force.
A more useful way to undermine and blunt prison gangs would be to provide programs and procedures that enliven the community of prisoners with rehabilitative activity making them too busy and too hopeful to become involved. Drug and mental health treatment and education and vocational training rather than enforced idleness and despair will help change the culture of the prison yard from a battleground to a place for personal and social renewal. To be successful at a renewal behind bars, a revitalization of our poor communities is desperately needed.
I’ll never forget my visit to several prisons in the United Kingdom a number of years ago. I toured one of their high security units housing eight of the 40 men out of 75,000 considered too dangerous or disruptive to be in any other facility. The men were out of their cells at exercise or at a computer or with a counselor or teacher.
The goal was to get them back on mainline through rehabilitation, not terror. With embarrassment, the host took us to the one cell holding the single individual who had to be continuously locked down and cuffed and hobbled before exit from his cell. I was equally embarrassed to tell our guide that this is how 2.5 percent of U.S. prisoners are routinely treated.
Corey Weinstein, MD, CCHP, is a physician, a Certified Correctional Health Professional and a renowned advocate for justice behind enemy lines. He can be reached at coreman @ igc.org.