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.

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