Sunday, November 24, 2019

Warfare at Columbia Correctional Institution

Columbia Correctional Institution
Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI) has had off-and-on lockdowns in recent weeks due to conflicts we have come to believe were instigated by racist staff members in order to demonize captives who defend themselves against abusive conditions. CCI is operating at 150% of its design capacity. This unnecessary and avoidable overcrowding is the root of problems in this and other Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities. The tension and “psychological warfare” practices of CCI’s guards seems to be escalating, while incarcerated people demand new structures to interrupt cycles of violence.

What’s happened

The DOC has confirmed a series of three violent incidents leading to facility lockdowns. Our incarcerated contacts sent us detailed reports about these incidents, which conflict with what DOC officials were told by their staff.

On October 22- a sergeant named Fitz called a Black man “boy”. The man responded by attacking Fitz, leaving him “severely beaten”. The facility went on lockdown until Oct 25.

On October 29- four days after coming off lockdown, another sergeant, Sgt Gander provoked another Black man by calling him the N-word. Gander was also assaulted, but less severely. The facility went on lockdown again until November 5.

On November 8- a CO or sergeant named Sainsbury (spelling uncertain) was stabbed during program services. The facility has been on lockdown and people inside deprived of basic rights and the fundamentals of human dignity from November 8 to the date of this writing (November 21).

On Tuesday November 19, Makda Fessahaye, the head of the DOC’s Division of Adult Institutions (DAI) spoke on a panel at Marquette University in Milwaukee. After the panel she told Ben Turk of FFUP that she was investigating these incidents, but had been told all three staff members “were blindsided”. Our sources insist “nobody is just randomly assaulting staff.”

Monday, November 4, 2019

FFUP meets with Wisconsin DOC's Division of Adult Institutions

DOC Headquarters
Last week Ben from FFUP met with Makda Fessehaye, the administrator for Wisconsin’s Division of Adult Institutions and Molly Vidal, head of the DOC’s communication office. We will be having meetings like this quarterly. The next will be early January, which Peg Swan intends to also attend.

Here are the questions we asked, the answers we gained, and the next step actions we will be taking. This is a lot of work for a very small organization. If you'd like to get involved and meet with Ben sometime soon in Milwaukee, please email him at 

Makda Fessahaye, DAI Administrator

Molly Vidal, DOC Communications Director


QUESTION: What has the new administration done to reduce the use of solitary confinement in Wisconsin prisons 
  • Answer:
    • They created a Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) working group that’s reviewing policies to reduce solitary use, especially for people with mental health conditions.
      • There will be a time when public input is requested and Makda will include us in the process.
      • The biggest roadblock is gaining buy-in from staff. Makda and Molly said that staff see solitary confinement as a tool that keeps them safe, so it is hard to take that away without giving them a replacement tool or some assurance that they’ll be safe.
      • In the Division of Juvenile Corrections (DJC) they were required by federal department of justice to stop using solitary on kids, and it took years to implement.
        • Note: They’re still struggling with implementation, for example staff is tipping off reporters about incidents where kids fight with staff.
      • They called the changes they’re working on a “big overhaul” and said its coming just a few years after a previous “big overhaul” -the 90 days limit thing from 2015.
  • Follow up Action:


          2008 rally by families of prisoners in front of the WI DOC headquarters                    FAMILIES for a  SECOND CHANCE   WE invi...