Inmates hunger strike protest planned against illegal prolonged solitary confinement used in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections prison system as punishment for minor violations resulting from 180 to 360 days and even up to 13 years in solitary confinement of inmates resulting in psychological defects.
By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.
May 30, 2016
Waupun, WI – Inmates at the Waupun prison (Waupun Correctional Institution-WCI) plan a hunger strike on June 10 to bring attention to what they say is the illegal prolonged solitary confinement for minor violations, which can result with 180 to 360 days and decades of isolation in a small cell 24-7 with one hour to stretch outside of the cell per day. The solitary confinement is known as Administrative Confinement (AC) and inmates can be placed on AC for long periods of isolation for falsely accusing prison staff of violations, disrespect, poor personal hygiene, loitering and the misuse of federal or state property, which inmates once accused have no recourse to appeal or challenge alleged discipline charges by prison staff. Prison staff (guards) can file inmate violations without any merits and compile alleged violations to add solitary confinement time as punishment to cover-up guard mistreatment, harassment and human rights violations of inmates, according to inmates in isolation. Prison guards are not mandated to wear body cameras in Wisconsin.
Hispanic News Network U.S.A. (HNNUSA) has learned that even state inmates who become witnesses and testify in criminal cases and are placed under the witness protection program also endure prolonged solitary confinement simply because the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) has no facility to keep witness protection inmates in a safe environment. In one case, an inmate who testified in a gang murder was placed under the state witness protection program and spend more than six years in isolation until parole.
The inmates involved in a planned hunger strike are requesting for the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate the illegal practice of AC in the state prison system and for the immediate release of inmates from AC that have been in isolation for more than one year. The United Nations has determined that prolonged solitary confinement is torture and studies have shown that it causes psychological defects, which inmates once released on parole have no access to mental health treatment and most can’t adjust within society and return to prison for committing other crimes.
According to WCI inmate in Waupun, Cesar Deleón, 33, in a press release indicated that, prisoners in solitary at WCI are never allowed to go outside or see the sun. The one hour per day of recreation they’re allowed out of their bathroom-sized cells is spent in an indoor recreation cage, which is often filthy with urine and feces because once a prisoner is moved to the cage, requests to be allowed access to a bathroom are ignored by staff. Prisoners in administrative confinement (AC) are not only extraordinarily isolated from general population, but also from loved ones and spiritual leaders. AC prisoners are allowed one 15 minute phone call and one 15 minute video visit per week, the calls and conferences are closely monitored and can be cut off with very little pretext. Spiritual leaders who regularly visit other prisoners are not allowed to visit the AC unit, which is a clear violation of the constitutional right to religious practice.
The WDOC holds over 100 people in administrative confinement, some have been in one form of isolation or another for decades. Last August, WDOC announced an 90 day limit on their use of segregation as punishment for all but the most severe cases. Those changes did not apply to AC prisoners though, because according to WDOC, Administrative Confinement is “non-punitive.”
The prisoners are calling for an end to the practice, entirely. Their six demands include a legislative cap on the use of AC, compliance with the UN Mandela Rules on solitary confinement, increased oversight, one year limits, mental health treatment and a federal investigation of harassment by staff, which the prisoners describe as a mind control program, designed to “break and recondition” anyone staff perceives as a threat.
In one case, Albert Woodfox, 69, a member of the Black Panthers was kept in solitary confinement for 43 years, between April 1972 to February 19, 2016 when he was released from a Louisiana prison after resolving his appeal for alleged murder of a prison guard, but pled guilty to manslaughter even though there was no evidence to convict him, so he could be released from prison. His case was over turned twice on appeal and Louisiana prosecutors were trying to prosecute him for a third time.
Several public rallies are scheduled in Madison and Milwaukee to bring attention to the WDOC illegal prolonged solitary confinement under Administrative Confinement practices in the state prison system.
The Madison rally is scheduled for Friday, June 10 at 1 p.m. at the Capital building and the Milwaukee rally on Saturday, June 11 at noon at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
A replica of a small isolation cell in which inmates spent years incarcerated will be in exhibition at both rallies including families of inmates in isolation will also speak.