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Wisconsin prisoner hunger strike enters second week, spreads to multiple facilities – you can help!

June 22, 2016

by FFUP

‘Dying to Live’ Food Refusal Campaign Against Solitary Torture started June 10

On June 10, Wisconsin prisoners held in long term solitary confinement at Waupun Correctional Institution started a “food refusal campaign.” They wish to bring the horror of administrative confinement (AC) to the public’s attention and end this torturous practice.

“Dying to Live” hunger strikers’ supporters stop to pose for this picture before delivering their letter to Wisconsin DOC Secretary Jon Litscher in Madison on June 21. The prisoners are willingly starving themselves to end solitary confinement.

“Dying to Live” hunger strikers’ supporters stop to pose for this picture before delivering their letter to Wisconsin DOC Secretary Jon Litscher in Madison on June 21. The prisoners are willingly starving themselves to end solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement for more than 15 days has been deemed “torture” by the United Nations, but in Wisconsin, the Department of Corrections has held many prisoners in isolation for decades. As the debate and outrage grows nationwide, join us in supporting these prisoners who are making a courageous sacrifice to wake us up.

Prisoners who called for the food refusal campaign have not given up their protest despite retaliation from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) and increasing health concerns. Last week seven prisoners vowed to refuse to eat until the DOC moves toward eliminating their practice of long term solitary confinement.

Some prisoners began refusing food early so that their hunger strike would be officially recognized by the 10th. At least one prisoner, named Ras Atum-ra Uhuru Mutawakkil (s/n Norman Green), has been refusing food since June 5.

The DOC has responded by separating the prisoners to make a negotiated resolution of the protest impossible. Mutawakkil was transferred from Waupun to Columbia Correctional Institution before the strike officially began, he has not yet received his property and Columbia officials deny that anyone is refusing food at their institution.

Of the declared hunger strikers, two remain at Waupun CI, where the protest originated. Two others have been moved to Columbia CI and one to Green Bay CI. LaRon McKinley has been in administrative confinement for more than 27 years and remains determined to participate in this protest, despite health concerns.

Cesar DeLeon, one of the first hunger strikers, who has been on AC in Waupun for years, has complained of stomach problems, which the hunger strike has exacerbated. The water at Waupun is known to contain high levels of copper and lead, and DeLeon is demanding uncontaminated water.

As TV cameras roll, a supporter hands the letter to the DOC secretary’s staff.

As TV cameras roll, a supporter hands the letter to the DOC secretary’s staff.

Calls from both concerned citizens and state representatives to the DOC have been either ignored or sent to DOC public relations officer Tristan Cook, who says the DOC is monitoring the situation, but will not admit how many prisoners are refusing food or what the official DOC policy is for dealing with hunger strikes.

In April, another prisoner at Waupun CI named Robert Tatum went on a hunger strike lasting 14 days, after which he was force fed by staff, even though he had given up the strike and eaten a meal when threatened. The American Medical Association and United Nations have unequivocally condemned force feeding a conscious and resisting “patient” as very dangerous and medically unethical.

Outside supporters have been monitoring the situation, calling the DOC and demanding that they negotiate with the hunger strikers and organizing support rallies. On Tuesday, June 21, they held a vigil outside of the DOC offices in Madison. If the DOC remains intransigent, they will deliver a public letter to DOC central office in Madison and demand a response.

Please email and call Waupun Correctional Institute. As of Sunday, June 19, people have been on hunger strike in Waupun for 13 days. One of the hunger strikers, Cesar DeLeon, announced June 15 that he is now also refusing water because Waupun’s water supply is contaminated by lead. He vomits up their water and experiences stomach pain and heart-burn when he drinks it.

June 21 letter to Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Here is a letter and demands we, as the Coalition for Support of Prisoners, delivered to DOC on Tuesday, June 21, to Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher, 3099 East Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53704.

Secretary Litscher,

We are writing you today to present the demands of the prisoners refusing food in order to bring attention to the overuse and abuse of administrative confinement in Wisconsin’s prisons. As the public becomes aware of the torturous effect of any kind of solitary confinement longer than 15 days, you can imagine the outrage and bewilderment when they learned that we have inmates who have been in solitary for decades!

It is time to change. Abolishing of long term solitary confinement is a nationwide phenomenon now and soon will include all solitary longer than a few days.

Please look carefully at the enclosed demands made by the striking prisoners. We support them in this and are working on our own list of demands that supplement this list with greater detail. We also realize that making this system rehabilitative, allowing the DOC to fulfill finally its mission statement, is a long term process but it must start with the questions administrative confinement poses.

What do we do with the disruptive mentally ill and how do we separate the truly dangerous from the rest of the population?

Waupun Correctional Institution

Waupun Correctional Institution

Proper mental health facilities and treatment of “short and long term solitary confinement prisoners” is one of the demands. WI DOC knows what to do here: Install the mental health treatment facilities that were mandated by the Taychedah (TCI) lawsuit in 2009 (Flynn v. Doyle 06-c-537). The unit in TCI works well and a few years ago one was being planned for CCI when funding was directed elsewhere.

Now is the time to build one at each maximum prison. There is no treatment now and staff is hard to hold. You will have no problem retaining staff if they can do their work with proper tools.

Changing the administrative rules back to where they were before the prison boom and supermax, back in the 1990s, is one way to begin to fulfill the other strikers’ demands. For when these rules were in effect, there were about a dozen AC prisoners and the system worked well.

Here are the most dramatic changes made that allowed the AC population to increase by the hundreds:

  • 1990 rule: One was put in AC if he had been “recently violent.” Current rule: A “history of violence” is all that is required, so prisoners are on AC for crimes committed decades earlier.
  • 1990 rule: One was put in AC if there was clear evidence he was a gang leader. Current rule: One need only be a gang member, and confidential informants are often used to verify this.
  • Most significant rule: AC prisoners got the same privileges regarding property as general population prisoners. Rule Now: AC prisoners get the privileges that coincide with their area, which is generally very restrictive.

With these rules and others that were in place before the supermax was even an idea, the AC rolls would diminish to a very few who are mentally ill to the point of being dangerous. These people would get full privileges and intensive therapy and be released as soon as is possible to transition to general population.

This is not a dream. It is achievable. Please take the prisoners’ demands seriously. We will be working with them to fill in the details and will have a further report for you soon.

One final matter: At this writing, Cesar DeLeon is having trouble with the WCI water because of the corrosive effects of the lead and copper in it, he thinks. He has a history of sensitivity.

He is refusing the water and is asking for bottled water, which you are refusing. If expense is an issue, we will gladly pay for it.

Cesar DeLeon is not at all disruptive and is totally aware and in control of his actions. We ask you to refrain from any extreme measures and to do the humane thing. Please give Cesar DeLeon bottled water.

We thank you for your attention,

Coalition for Support of Prisoners

Demands of the ‘Dying to Live’ hunger strikers, supported by petition signers

The why: In the state of Wisconsin, hundreds of prisoners are in the long term solitary confinement units, also known as administrative confinement (AC). Some have been in this status for 18 to 29 consecutive years.

The problem: The U.N., several states and even President Obama have come out against this kind of confinement, citing the torturous effect it has on prisoners.

The objective: To stop the torturous use of long term solitary confinement (AC),

  1. Place a legislative cap on the use of long term solitary confinement (AC)
  2. DOC and Wisconsin legislators adopt and come into compliance with the U.N. Mandela Rules on the use of solitary confinement.
  3. Use an oversight board or committee independent of DOC to stop abuse and over-classification of prisoners to “short” and “long” term confinement.
  4. Immediately transition and release to less restrictive housing all those prisoners who been on the long term solitary confinement units for more than a year in the Wisconsin DOC.
  5. Provide proper mental health facilities and treatment of “short” and “long” term prisoners in solitary confinement.
  6. Initiate an immediate FBI investigation into the mind control program that the DOC is currently operating in the system designed to recondition and break the prisoners the DOC considers a threat to their regimen.

How you can help

Sign and share this petition: https://www.change.org/p/wi-doc-secretary-jon-litscher-waupun-prisoners-begin-food-refusal-to-protest-solitary-torture

Contact Waupun Warden Brian Foster at brian.foster@wisconsin.gov or 920-324-5571.

Sample script: “I am calling/writing in concern for the hunger strike happening now and to support their six humanitarian demands against solitary confinement. You need to meet with them. Also, one of the participants, Cesar DeLeon, #322800, is in medical distress because Waupun’s water supply is contaminated with lead and he’s refusing toxic water. Give him clean bottled water immediately.”

If you have time, the same message can also be carried to Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Jon E. Litscher at 608-240-5000 or jon.litscher@wi.gov.

Here is a “how-to” video for calling prisons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=251DPVDQ17A. The example used is a lot longer than what’s expected for this call, but it shows what the process can often look like.

“Solitary Confinement Is Torture” was drawn Sept. 17, 2013, at the close of the largely successful California hunger strikes to end solitary confinement; the artist survived many years of solitary confinement in the notorious Pelican Bay Prison and is now in general population. – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, HDSP D3-20, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127

“Solitary Confinement Is Torture” was drawn Sept. 17, 2013, at the close of the largely successful California hunger strikes to end solitary confinement; the artist survived many years of solitary confinement in the notorious Pelican Bay Prison and is now in general population. – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, HDSP D3-20, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127

If you’re participating internationally, you can make an international voice call to the U.S. very cheaply using Google Voice Hangouts.

If you wish to write a message of support to hunger strikers, please write to: Cesar Deleon #322800, Lamar Larry #293906, Rayshun Woods #390831, LaRon McKinley #42642 at Waupun Correctional Institution, P.O. Box 351, Waupun, WI 53963.

Norman Green #228971 has recently been transferred to Columbia and can be written at Columbia Correctional Institution, P.O. Box 900, Portage, WI 53901.

People who wish to write to a prisoner can use the Milwaukee IWW post office box as a return address: P.O. Box 342294, Milwaukee, WI, 53234.

More information on the incarcerated workers participating in this action and their writings can be found at solitarytorture.blogspot.com.

Use social media to let your friends and coworkers know about the “Dying to Live” hunger strike.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

FFUP is a prisoner support group, nonprofit, dedicated to the concept that we are all brothers and sisters and once we lock a person up, we are responsible for his or her treatment. In these blogs and webs we seek to counteract the hysteria about criminals and discuss the root causes of crime while presenting the human face of prisons. Our main blog, www.prisonforum.org/FFUP, advocates for prisoners and their families, has special concerns and projects on segregation issues and is committed to the release of ready to be paroled old law prisoners. To reach FFUP, write FFUP, 29631 Wild Rose Drive, Blue River, WI 53518, or email pgswan3@aol.com. And visit http://solitarytorture.blogspot.com/.

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One thought on “Wisconsin prisoner hunger strike enters second week, spreads to multiple facilities – you can help!

  1. Zoe Wyse

    It is wonderful to see people standing up for their basic human rights in a peaceful and positive way. The people who are engaging in a hunger strike are not harming anyone. They are voluntarily choosing not to eat for a period of their choosing in order to protest conditions which are grossly inhumane. Regardless of the motivations of Wisconsin DOC staff and administrators, the conditions which have been created are not humane conditions. I believe that most people who work in corrections want to do the right thing and want to be humane people. Unfortunately, the conditions of isolation which have been created are (probably completely unintentionally) grossly inhumane.

    The letter written by the Coalition for Support of Prisoners is polite, positive, and respectful. They are actively trying to find ways to solve problems. They recognize that some people may be dangerous for short periods of time and may need help and support to calm down and reintegrate. The tone of the letter is respectful and reasonable. They request that Mr. DeLeon receive water that does not cause him to feel ill. This too seems very reasonable.

    Wisconsin DOC should find ways to creatively create humane conditions. Humane changes should take into account the kinds of issues raised by people living in prison. Changes should also reflect Wisconsin DOC's own research on methods to create safe and humane condition. Wisconsin DOC can also learn from the work that other prison systems are doing to create more humane conditions. Wisconsin DOC has an opportunity to be a real leader and a compassionate and constructive force for good for many people.

    Wisconsin DOC should respond to the hunger strike in a positive, caring way, recognizing the courage and desperation of people who are really suffering, rather than feeling defensive. Wisconsin DOC is in a position of strength to constructively and positively help people who are suffering excruciating pain and are courageously standing up for their basic human rights.

    I believe that Wisconsin DOC can be a big help and a real leader in this area if they can understand the real human suffering of people who are exactly like them. We are all the same kind of people deep down. We are all just human beings and the things that make us different are far less important than the things that are the same. None of us want to hurt other people like this, and I truly don't believe that Wisconsin DOC does either.

    I can understand that Wisconsin DOC is likely frustrated by the extra attention that this hunger strike is drawing to their practices. No one likes to change practices in the midst of extra media attention or justified public frustration with some really inhumane ways of doing things. I believe that Wisconsin DOC is an organization that wants to do the right thing and this extra attention is not a reflection on the basic goodwill or intentions of Wisconsin DOC.

    None of us go out to try to find ways to hurt other people. But sometimes all of us do so unintentionally. We have all hurt others by accident. When we do this, we can either further dig in our heels and refuse to change or we can respectfully acknowledge the real grievances of other people. The reality is that none of us are perfect. People who are living in prison are not perfect. None of us in the community who are advocating for reforms are perfect. And no one should expect any DOC to be perfect either. But we all need to use our basic goodwill as human beings to try to treat other people well. When we do things that accidentally serious hurt others, we need to change.

    I don't think that the people on hunger strike in Wisconsin prisons are trying to create a media spectacle to make Wisconsin DOC look bad. This isn't anyone's goal. They would just like to talk with other people. In the short term, Mr. DeLeon would like water that he can tolerate. I would just hope that given that Wisconsin DOC is a reasonable organization with probably many very kind and compassionate people, that a plan could be found that enabled these gentleman to have people with whom they can speak, a chance to be in the general population if they show no imminent and serious risk of harming someone (based on actual behavior, not prediction), and maybe even some water that does not make Mr. DeLeon feel ill.

    We are all good people. We need to use common sense to treat other people well. We should not get hung up on who is right and who is wrong. This is a waste of perfectly good energy. Wisconsin DOC is a wonderful organization who has done its best. I am sure that there are many, many kind, compassionate and hardworking people at Wisconsin DOC. But it is time to change. The people protesting these practices are protesting for a very good reason.

    I stand in solidarity with everyone who is standing up for their basic human rights. I think you are all very brave and I care a lot about you. I want you to have a wonderful future. I want you to be happy. Your future and your happiness is one of the very highest priorities for me and for so many others. Whenever people are vulnerable and in pain, these people need to become our highest priority. We all need to continue to respectfully demand that all people be treated well.

    Reply

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