Update from Menard: Hunger strike resumes Sept. 23

by Alice Lynd

Some of you will remember the hunger strike in January-February 2014 by prisoners in Administrative Detention at the Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois. During and after the hunger strike, several of the strikers were sent to prisons as far away as California, Virginia, West Virginia and New Mexico. Others remain in Administrative Detention at Menard.

Supporters of the Menard prisoners’ hunger strike stage a “noise-in” outside the prison on Sept. 23, the first day of the strike. – Photo: Marissa Novel, Daily Egyptian
Supporters of the Menard prisoners’ hunger strike stage a “noise-in” outside the prison on Sept. 23, the first day of the strike. – Photo: Marissa Novel, Daily Egyptian

Many of the 2014 hunger strikers wanted to know why they were there, and they wanted to know what they had to do to get out of Administrative Detention. Although the Illinois Department of Corrections now issues some notices, the notices still don’t answer those questions.

A form called Notice of Administrative Detention Placement Review, DOC 0432 (effective May 2014), says, “This document shall serve as notice of your upcoming review for placement in Administrative Detention by the Administrative Detention Review Committee.” The notice shows the “Review Date for Initial Placement in Administrative Detention” or “Continued Placement” or “Transfer from Disciplinary Segregation.”

Next, it says: “Notice of Administration [sic] Detention Placement Rationale: In order to prepare you for your Administrative Detention placement review, you are advised that the Department’s rationale for your prospective or continued placement in Administrative Detention is based upon the following reason(s): …”

But the reason may be no more than “Information was received that …” without any finding of guilt for a rule violation.

The form then specifies: “Copies of the following identified documents relied upon by department administrators that may subject you to Administrative Detention placement, or continued placement, are attached to the notice; however, portions may have been redacted based upon a finding that disclosure would compromise security or safety: …”

But the entry in every case we have seen is “N/A” and no documents are mentioned or attached.

Many of the 2014 hunger strikers wanted to know why they were there, and they wanted to know what they had to do to get out of Administrative Detention. Although the Illinois Department of Corrections now issues some notices, the notices still don’t answer those questions.

After the review, the warden sends the prisoner a memo that says: “This memo is to inform [name and number] the Menard Administrative Detention Committee has reviewed your Administrative Detention placement and has voted to continue your placement in Administrative Detention on Phase 1. You will be reviewed again in 90 days.”

I’ve compiled the following information drawn from letters received in September 2015 from prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard:

“Here in A.D. [Administrative Detention], everything is still the same. No one is being released and we are still not getting meaningful hearings. We are still not getting any written reasons or any new info relied on for the basis of the committee’s decision for our continued placement in A.D. We are still getting the same vague memos.

“We now only get one day a week of out-of-cell exercise (yard). We are in our cells 24 hours a day, six days a week. We are being excessively confined in our cells. We are still not allowed to participate in any educational programs. Our mail is not being picked up or passed out five days a week, as they are supposed to.

“We don’t see any end to this indefinite isolation/solitary confinement. Due to these issues and more, we are going to go on hunger strike once again. We will be declaring a hunger strike on Sept. 23, 2015. We will feel very thankful for your help in spreading the word.

“Our core demands are:

  • We demand an end to long term solitary confinement.
  • We demand minimum due process at Administrative Detention Review hearings by providing inmates with written reasons, including new information relied upon for the committee’s decision for our continued placement in A.D., and be allowed to grieve all adverse decisions. As it stands, the basis of the committee’s votes are kept secret.
  • We demand more access to outside recreation for the sake of our physical and mental health. As it stands, we are confined indefinitely to these cages for six days out of the week, with the exception of one five-hour day. This is unbearable.
  • We demand that meaningful educational programs be implemented to encourage our mental stability, rehabilitation and social development for the sake of ourselves and our communities that we will one day return to.
  • We demand access to more visiting privileges. For most of our families, traveling to Menard is like traveling to another state. Considering the distance, two-hour visits behind plexiglas is insufficient. We should be allowed five or six hours. Moreover, our family members, including inmates, should be provided the human dignity and decency to purchase food items and refreshments from vending machines after traveling such great distances. This would benefit one’s social development, as well as benefit prison staff environment.

“We don’t see any end to this indefinite isolation/solitary confinement. Due to these issues and more, we are going to go on hunger strike once again. We will be declaring a hunger strike on Sept. 23, 2015. We will feel very thankful for your help in spreading the word.”

“We ask the public’s help by calling the warden, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections and the governor to check on our welfare.

  • Warden Kimberly Butler, Menard Correctional Center, 711 Kaskaskia St., Menard, IL 62259, 618-826-5071
  • Director John Baldwin, Illinois Department of Corrections, 1301 Concordia Court, P.O. Box 19277, Springfield, IL 52794-9277, 217-558-2200
  • Gov. Bruce Rauner, Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield, IL 62706, 217-782-0244

“We will stay on [hunger strike] as long as possible in order to hopefully bring some change to our conditions. We thank you for any kind of support you can give us.”

Attorney, writer and activist Alice Lynd can be reached at salynd@aol.com.