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Dear Gov. Rauner: We, the Stateville Debate Team, write this letter to implore you to reverse Assistant Director Gladyse Taylor’s (and thus the IDOC’s) unjustified decision to terminate the Stateville Debate Team and class and reverse the unjustified ban of our teacher, Katrina Burlet, from Stateville Correctional Center and other IDOC (Illinois Department of Corrections) facilities.
On March 21, the Stateville Correctional Center Debate Team, hosted a public debate about bringing a parole system back to Illinois – one of two states which currently does not have parole. As Illinois boasts the No. 1 most overcrowded prison system in the US – operating at 151 percent capacity – and the system is spending $2 billion and counting each year, the time to reinstate parole was undoubtedly yesterday.
During the month of April, at least 100 of those incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center, about an hour outside of Chicago, Illinois, participated in a boycott of the overpriced phone calls, commissary goods and vending machines. “Mass incarceration is a luxury business,” stated Patrick Pursley, one of the men who joined in the boycott. The boycott comes at a time of growing demonstrations led by those inside U.S. prisons.
On Sept. 23, 2015, at least 19 and possibly as many as 22 men in Administrative Detention at the Menard Correctional Center began a hunger strike that ended on Sept. 28. It was nearly a week after the hunger strike ended before we received any mail from them. The following is a composite account based on what they sent us, written on the first and last days of the hunger strike.
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.
On the battlefield of psychological warfare, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) made moves that “appeared” to redress the unconstitutionally inhumane conditions in Menard isolation unit that gave rise to last year’s hunger strike. But the move is no more than tricknology aimed at curbing grassroots activism and damage control due to the negative publicity that the hunger strike generated.
On this upcoming Monday, April 28, we are asking and encouraging people to participate in a Call-In Day in support of the prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois who are facing retaliation for engaging in a hunger strike in January. Prisoners there have been beaten by guards and metal boxes have been placed over their windows.
The Menard hunger strikers have apparently decided to go without liquid as well as food, and their physical condition could deteriorate rapidly. Before the end of January, the Menard hunger strikers presented a proposal to the warden. “Once the informal face-to-face hearings begin, we will take your word that the other issues are going to be addressed and we will ALL come off our hunger strike.”
On Jan. 15, 2014, approximately 25 prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center went on hunger strike. The hunger strikers have been told the prison administration is working on obtaining a preliminary injunction to force feed them. They expect to continue the hunger strike even if they are force fed. “We need as much outside support as possible,” the prisoners say. Please call or email: Gov. Pat Quinn, Warden Rick Harrington, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez.
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.