Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Columbia County Courts and Sheriff complicit in prison torture and death

For the last two months Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI) has been on a lockdown. The lockdown was officially lifted on December 22, but the facility continues to operate on "modified movement" status, and many lockdown restrictions remain in place, seemingly indefinitely.
FFUP has been monitoring the lockdown as closely as possible. Our correspondence has repeatedly been delayed because staff are improperly intercepting corrlinks emails and labeling them a "threat to the institution" when they contain nothing but descriptions of conditions, events, and violations of DOC administrative codes. We've also filed records requests, which the DOC is taking unusually long to respond to. We are an all-volunteer organization navigating these delays, but we will continue to investigate and release information as fast as we can.

County Sheriff complicit in covering up Death of Muhhamad (Larry) Bracey

We heard that Portage county sheriffs were investigating Mr Bracey's death and contacted them about letters we received about guards refusing Bracey treatment or access to his inhaler and the Warden's policy that medical staff only be alerted for emergencies. This policy and guards neglect clearly led to Bracey's death.

Monday, January 6, 2020

NYE Noise Demo and January 9 Solidarity March

On New Year's Eve around 30 people gathered outside Columbia Correctional Institution for a noise demo in solidarity with the people who've been locked down since November 8 because Black prisoners beat up racist guards.

Demonstrators made a huge racket with pots and pans, drums, whistles, a conch shell, vuvuzelas, a megaphone and hand-held air-raid sirens. We held a large banner with glow-in-the-dark letters that read "Fire Warden Novak" and chanted the same. Also: "you are not forgotten / you are not alone / we are gonna fight / to bring you home!" 

See video here.

We were heard throughout the residences. People inside responded by shouting and banging on their windows. With the concrete walls and distance between the buildings and the fence it was hard to distinguish much of what was said, but at one point when local Portage police showed up to monitor the demonstration, someone inside the prison saw them and shouted "fuck the police!"

A few days later supporters received word from inside:

Oh new years day [people] was protesting in front of the CCI. I'm surprised it didn't make the news with all the racket they made, I could hear them from my cell and I'm on one of the furthest units from the parking lot.
Later on New Years Eve some people also set off hundreds of fireworks outside the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) in solidarity with the campaign to close that facility. Video of that here, and here

On Thursday January 9, protestors will follow up with a march on the WI DOC Headquarters in Madison. From the Facebook event:

"Warden Susan Novak has implemented fatal policies and enabled abusive behavior by racist guards... Larry Bracey’s death is on Novak’s hands. Allowing her to continue operating any WI prison is irresponsible and a great moral failing. Join us in demanding change!"

Conditions at Columbia Correctional have been horrific for months and Forum For Understanding Prisons (FFUP) has been working with multiple people within the facility to expose the racism, violence and retaliation since the lockdown started. Between October 22 and November 8 three racist, petty, loudly Trump-supporting guards got beat down in separate incidents by black men imprisoned at CCI.

But, here it is 3-fervent Donald Trump supporting cops get a lil touched up by some black inmates and we’ve been on lockdown for 2-months.
- from a letter by Damani Nantambu at CCI

In response, Warden Susan Novak and staff have engaged in a wide variety of retaliation, collective punishment and repression. On December 3rd, staff CCI killed Muhhamad (Larry) Bracey through medical neglect. Warden Novak is refusing to administer flu vaccinations, endangering many with compromised immune systems at this over-crowded prison. A man named ODell Miller went on hunger strike demanding that Warden Susan Novak be fired, and Columbia County Judge Todd Hepler authorized staff force feeding him for a year, sealing the record to cover his complicity in that torture. 

Read more about the lockdown and these incidents here (chronological order):

Damani Nantambu on CCI staff racism, assaults and lockdown

We received a long letter from Damani M.Nantambu with new and more detailed information about the CCI lockdown. Damani provides insights into the assaults that occurred leading up to the lockdown, the death by medical neglect of Muhhamad (Larry) Bracey on December 3, and the hunger strike and force-feeding of Odell Miller, as well as many other conditions and incidents. We removed some information from his letter to protect the privacy of incarcerated people.

Date: 12/10/2019

Dear Peggy,

I want to thank you for the hard hitting piece of journalism you did on the piece titled “Warfare at Columbia Correctional Institute”. In this letter I hope to add and correct a few things that officials lied to you about and inmates got wrong.

But before I get to that, note I can’t tell you how much I regret not staying in touch with you when I first came to the state in 2012 from the feds (the super max in Colorado called ADX or “Alcatraz of the Rockies”.)  To serve the remainder of my federal sentence. Life W/O!!! It’s a long story about an class action.


Also I’m sure you will want t know that inmate Muhhamad Bracey died on 12/3/19 in DSII in cell #8 after complaining for weeks of ill health! The LAST dirt bag he tried to get to help him was Sgt. L.P. She lied to the nurses and claim he was fine when she checked in on him, to determine if it was a medical emergency, the only type of medical aid, the Iron Lady (Sue Novak) would allow them to render aid to. She killed this man (Sue). Plain and simple. And he had been on ACC for “years”!!!

I filed a complaint for him already.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Waupun Lockdown

Less than a week after the brutal lockdown at CCI was officially lifted (though modified movement and a number of other restrictions remain), another Wisconsin prison has gone on lockdown after a violent incident.

All we've heard so far is that a guard was stabbed on Christmas Eve. We will be investigating.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Update on retaliation against Ron Schroeder for his legal work

An incarcerated friend of Ron Schroeder sent us this update about the obstruction and retaliation staff at Oshkosh Correctional Institution (OSCI) are putting him through because he's filed lawsuits against the DOC.

This and other letters we've received suggests a larger pattern of DOC staff routinely covering for themselves by preventing incarcerated people from accessing their legal work in a timely manner.

To support Ron's fight against retaliation and obstruction, please contact DAI Administrator Makda Fessahaye: Makda.Fessehaye@Wisconsin.gov Details and suggested email below.

We are seeking legal help with this and many other issues. FFUP has no funds to pay a lawyer, but we are in contact with skilled incarcerated litigators who are diligent about preparing cases and complaints in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

Lawyers who are willing and able to take on civil cases for incarcerated people in Wisconsin should please contact Peg Swan at pgswan3@aol.com.

Ron's story:

It's said awareness is the first step in creating change. Here's a timeline of recent events regarding Ron Schroeder and his lawsuit regarding his wrongful termination from the library.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Group Sexual Assault by Staff at WSPF

Sean Young is on hunger strike after being sexually assaulted by a group of staff members at WSPF. 
You can write to Sean Young here:

Sean Young
PO BOX 1000
Boscobel WI 53805-0900
You can also call the Warden to check on his hunger strike and state of mind at 608-375-5656. Please comment if you hear any news.

Sean has requested that FFUP share his story with the media and the public. Below is an email we sent to the head of DAI and the DOC Communications Director. Below that is a list of staff involved and an excerpt from his letter to FFUP.

Hello Makda and Molly,

Staff at WSPF sexually assaulted a man named Sean Young (ID 505480) on December 4.

Mr Young is on hunger strike.

After requests to speak with Dr Hoem about his emotional response to news of death in the family were ignored for 12 hours  Mr Young self harmed by hitting his head on the cell door. He voluntarily moved to a strip cage. Before he could enter the strip cage, staff cut his clothes off, fondled his genitalia and spread his butt cheeks. They made lewd comments. Other staff, including women, watched.

On Dec 5 he reported the incident to PREA, but he hasn't heard from them as of Dec 8. We have seen a number of these types of incidents be ignored by PREA investigators.

Please look into this incident, make sure the PREA investigation is meaningfully administered and check on Mr Young's hunger strike and well being.

Thank you

Ben Turk

Staff involved:
- Captain Brinkman was the first to ignore Sean's request for Dr Hoem on evening of Dec 3.
- CO Fishnick, CO Finnell, and Sgt Tierney ignored his requests the next morning.
- Lt Scullion, and social worker Dickman spoke with Sean that morning, but failed to bring mental health staff.
- COs Wiegel, Gallinger and Fedie cut his clothes off without giving him an opportunity to voluntarily remove them. They held him down while Wiegel fondled his genitals and spread his butt cheeks, making lewd comments while they did it.
- Lt Scullion gave the order for Sean to be assaulted.
- COs Funk, Finnell, Fishnick and Tierney and unit manager Brown stood around watching the assault without intervening.
- Finnell and Fishnick are women and Sean felt especially humiliated to have them witness this assault. 
FROM LETTER BY Sean Young 505480 WSPF/12 8 19
I’m a convict currently housed at WSPF and while her ( since Jan 2016) I’ve endured so much pain and suffering (physically and
mentally that is) this letter is a cry out to you for immediate help before I die or before I’m killed. Since Dec 2, 2019 I’ve been on
a hunger strike and liquid strike .Also I was recently sexually assaulted by staff at WSPF please allow me to explain what
On Dec 3, 2019 I received some bad news about a death in the family) while on the phone with my youngest daughter.
Immediately after I got off the phone with her I asked the 2 nd shift sergeant to speak with a wh shirt –and i spoke to Capt
Brinkman about the matter. ON Dec 4 , 2019 At approximately 6 15 a.m. I called up to the sergeant’s station and spoke To C/o
Fishnick who informed me Sgr terney ( who was the first shift Sergeant at the time) wasn’t in the cage at the time. I asked her to
please tell sgt Tierney I’d like to speak to him about something important before he goes back to the cage-I let her know it was
about a death in my family. At approx 6:40 am I heard Sgt Tierney announce breakfast over the cell speaker , I called up to the
sergeant station and asked sgt Tierney did c/o Fishnick tell him I’d like to speak with him? He said yes but he had other
important things to take care of and he would get to me whenever he could. I told him about the death in my family and that I’d
like to speak with PSU-Dr Hoem because I’m in a pretty bad state of mind at the present time. He told me he would see what he
could do>When C/o Finnel l brought me my breakfast I help the trap.. Shortly thereafter sgt Tierney came to my cell A320 But I
refused to speak with him , Thereafter Lt Scullion and social worker Dickman came to my cell an talked to me- I told them both
about the phone call I had with my youngest daughter the previous night and I’d like to speak with Dr Hoem ASAP.
Shortly thereafter I committed self harm by banging my forehead on the cell door. Voluntarily I was removed from my cell and
escorted to a strip cage in the main corridor by range 4. Once there I was tethered to the strip cage door and told to kneel to get
the leg irons removed- and when I did so, c/o Wiegel began to pull/cut my clothes off me ( before even allowing me the
opportunity to go into the strip cage), while c/os S Gallinger and Fedie held me down c/o Wiegel then preceded to fondle my
genitalia area and spread my butt cheeks and peered in between them. Also while he was cutting my t-shirt off me he made a
lewd comment about how sharp the new scissor are as they grazed the top right part of my buttlocks. During the time of the
sexual assault LT Scullion ( he gave the order for me to be sexually assaulted)c/o K Finnel Unit manager Brown C/o FIshnick and
Sgt Tierney ( he was in the sergeant’s cage) all stood by and watched it occur instead of intervening to stop it. I felt so humiliated
because i was sexually assaulted in front of two females, C’os Finnell And M Fishnick. M Swan none of the nine staff members at
WSPF who played a part of me being sexually assaulted followed policy, procedure and protocol that awful day. n Dec 5 3029 at
Approx 7 pm I called PREA and reported the sexual assault to me by staff at WSPF to sate I’ve yet to hear form them concerning
the incident. I hope to hear from them soon.
Long list of people to contact in WSPF, Madison and media, lawyers etc- of note- asks me to callHSU manager Jaimie Adams (
only ask her about my health since I’ve been on hunger strike and liquid strike and since I sustained the severs forehead and
facial injuries on Dec 4 th .

Friday, December 13, 2019

CCI Lockdown update: retaliation, negligence, FIRE Warden Novak .

Since our last update on the CCI lockdown, we have: 
We continue to get more information and are moving to action. Please join us in calling for the termination of Warden Susan Novak, who is ultimately responsible for running the prison and has put everyone there at risk with bad policies, malice and deliberate indifference. 

Expanding retaliation 

A guard told one of our contacts that more than 50 people have been given tickets for insulting Warden Susan Novak. This contact was sent to the hole for discipline during the lockdown. He said: "Until yesterday I assumed I was the only one sent to the hole but I learned there were 6. All Black of course !!!!!"
In addition to the intercepted email and Conduct Report issued to Nate Lindell mentioned on a previous post, another organizer William Ledford has had an email about the lockdown intercepted because it "posed a threat to the security, orderly operation, discipline or safety of the institution." He filed an appeal and sent us a copy snailmail, including a transcription of the email. There's absolutely nothing in his message that constitutes a threat, just information about the lockdown and a request that the information get to the media and to Makda Fessahaye, the head of the Division of Adult Institutions (DAI). 

Hunger strike and possible second lockdown-related death

One of the letters we received mentioned a hunger strike by Odell Miller (ID#537774). The writer didn't say what Odell's demands were, but said he's 30 years old and has been hunger striking for nearly two months. 
Earlier this week an FFUP newsletter was returned unopened from CCI with "convict dead" written across the top of it. The person it had been sent to is no longer in the DOC database (which is what they do when someone dies, making it harder for the public to know what happened). It seems likely this person died at CCI during the lockdown, likely do to medical neglect. He was around 60 years old and had been locked up a while. 

We are trying to find out when and how he died, and to contact his next of kin, but the DOC is very reticent to release information about the people they kill.

Response from DAI 

On December 12, Makda Fessahaye replied to a December 4 email from FFUP about Mr Bracey's death (though at that time, we didn't know it was him or have details). She said his death is being investigated and emphasized a list of positive things or lefted restrictions that "did occur during this time." Some of the things she listed contradict reports from our friends in CCI, so we will check on them before sharing them.

Fessahaye's message ended with the following assurances:
The DOC is committed to working with law enforcement on their investigations and returning CCI to normal movement as soon as possible while maintaining the safety of those in our care and our staff.

Our staff share your passion for the safety and security of those in our custody. We encourage all of the people in our care to report any acts of misconduct through our inmate complaint process. Every inmate complete is investigated.

The Department of Corrections is committed to maintaining an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Any individuals who are found to have violated work rules will be held accountable.
We have concerns about these statements. First, it sounds like up to 50 people are being retaliated against for complaining. If Ms Fessahaye really wants to encourage people to file complaints, she needs to stop Warden Novak from retaliating against people for filing them.

Second, if the complaints investigations are being done by investigation supervisor Captain Pigeon, then there's no reason to have faith in them. Captain Pigeon has already obstructed sheriff's investigation by as reported by William Ledford here.

Third, there's a long history absent accountability for staff at CCI. If Fessahaye's assurance that people who violated work rules or engaged in discrimination, harassment and retaliation was acted on, many staff at CCI would face discipline or firing. The DOC considers CCI understaffed despite having a 1:3 staff to captive ratio, and staff are already threatening a mass walk-out over the people who took action to defend themselves against staff abuse, discrimination and harassment. It would be unreasonably optimistic to think that the DOC will hold their staff accountable on their own. We must demand it.

Demand Warden Susan Novak's termination

There are a number of staff problems at Columbia Correctional Institution, but the person ultimately responsible for conditions is Warden Susan Novak. A number of people who've written us say that she either originates the issues, or tolerates, allows and covers for staff abuse and neglect.

FFUP is joining in the calls from people held at CCI for Warden Novak's termination. We've organized a call-in event for Monday targeting Ms Fessahaye's office and demanding Novak be replaced. Please join this event, share it with friends, call in yourself and demonstrate that abuse, racism, retaliation, and killing people through medical neglect will not be tolerated in Wisconsin.

Columbia County Courts and Sheriff complicit in prison torture and death

For the last two months Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI) has been on a lockdown. The lockdown was officially lifted on ...