Call to action: Stop illegal, inhumane restrictions on Secure Housing Unit at WVCF

Videochat-kiosks-in-IDOC-prisons, Call to action: Stop illegal, inhumane restrictions on Secure Housing Unit at WVCF, Behind Enemy Lines
In Indiana, kiosks to video chat with family are available in general population but are refused to those housed in the SHU, another form of sensory deprivation used to break the minds and spirits of those held in solitary confinement. – Photo: Michelle Davies, the Journal Gazette

by Kwame ‘Beans’ Shakur

Due to the COVID-19 virus, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility closed its visitation room in March. Those of us held captive in the SHU have not been able to see our loved ones in nine months. However, population has still been allowed to maintain contact with the outside world during this pandemic through the use of video visits on kiosk machines located in every cell house. 

The refusal to place kiosks on the SHU even prior to the pandemic is another form of sensory deprivation used to break the minds and spirits of those held in solitary confinement. To my knowledge, this is the only lock up unit in the state that does not have video visitation as an option, an option that exists in order to make visits more convenient, due to the fact most of us have been shipped across the state, hours away from home, and many of our loved ones work during visitation hours. 

Under normal circumstances, nine months in captivity with no interaction with a loved one is enough to cause an individual to experience a number of issues – not to mention the uncertain times we find ourselves in now. With family members and loved ones dying and testing positive for COVID-19, the refusal to place a kiosk machine on the SHU is causing extreme mental and emotional distress for both captives and those on the outside. 

The SHU is also the only lockup unit in the state that does not allow individuals on disciplinary segregation to purchase “picture tickets or tokens” on commissary. I have been housed on the SHU since July 31, 2018, and in that time, I have not been allowed to have a picture taken to send to my family.

The refusal to place kiosks on the SHU even prior to the pandemic is another form of sensory deprivation used to break the minds and spirits of those held in solitary confinement.

Following the visitation room closure in March, GTL began giving out two free five-minute calls every week for people locked up using their services. They followed that by also giving out free video visits each week. So, even a super-exploiter-parasite company like GTL understands the hard times we are all experiencing as a people and the need for us to have contact and support from the outside world. 

With that being said: I am demanding that my captors place kiosk machines for video visits on the SHU as soon as possible and allow people in disciplinary segregation to have their pictures taken. 

Update: Dec. 25, 2020

As a result of our demand, at least 20 prisoners filed grievances. In an attempt to censor those standing up for our rights, the facility grievance specialist returned everybody’s grievance without officially attaching a grievance number or allowing it to pass through the proper chain of command. 

Therefore, no higher authorities know that this issue has been raised, and there is no documented paper trail showing that I exhausted all administrative remedies. These are the types of prison politics and corruption that we must expose and challenge. The grievance process is the first step a prisoner must take in order to take their case to court or even challenge on a facility level to seek relief. Without it you cannot move forward within the facility or pursue legal action.

Our oppressor-captors waste no time in showing us that we have no human or civil rights in their eyes, and that our lives don’t matter. This is exactly why NALC and IDOC Watch are working expediently to develop the regional and national infrastructure and network to unify the voices of those behind enemy lines. Without the organizational and legal support from the outside, we will continue to be silenced and dehumanized inside these modern day slave camps.

In addition to the illegal denial of video visits, people being held in the solitary confinement cages of the SHU are not receiving the diets or access to commissary they are entitled to per IDOC Policies and Procedures.

Call the warden on Monday, Jan. 4

On Jan. 4, we are asking everyone to call Wabash Valley CF Warden Frank Vanihel and the IDOC Central Office to demand:

1. That video visit kiosks be installed on the SHU and that the people caged there be allowed video visits in accordance with IDOC Policies and Procedures.

2. That people caged on the SHU be allowed the diets and commissary they are entitled to under IDOC Policies and Procedures.

Call Warden Frank Vanihel at 812-398-5050 and follow the extensions to reach him; call IDOC Central Office at 317-232-5711, ext. 2, ext. 2.

#PrisonLivesMatter

Send our brother some love and light: Michael Joyner, 149677, WVCF P.O. Box 1111, Carlisle, IN 46391.