Saturday, March 28, 2020

Crisis in our prisons-Emails and letter needed. Can you Help?

Crisis in our prisons-Emails and letter needed. Can you Help?

Our Prisons are becoming  Corona Virus Death Traps
Dangerous for us, deadly for prisoners

The whole world is hunkered down because of the corona virus. In a way we are all in solitary confinement. I write to you today because, although we can keep ourselves safe from the virus with hand washing and sanitizing and following the CDC protocol, the prisoners in our state cannot. We have become close to many prisoners in our 20 plus years of doing this work and they have kept us updated on what is actually occurring in our prisons √† la the coronavirus. The WI Department of Corrections claims its COVID-19 response is adequate, but they are not telling the truth about conditions in the prisons, or their response. The news is partially documented below, and more fully documented on our blogs whose links are imbedded. We ask for your help in writing the Governor.  There are two major points to make:
1)      Remove from harm’s way those most vulnerable because of old age or pre-existing health conditions including COPD. Studies have shown that due to the harshness of the environment, prisoners age 10 years faster than we on the outside. So a 58-year-old in prison is equivalent to our 68-year-old. Governor Evers needs to act now to release those prisoners who are most vulnerable to the ravages of the virus because of age and or preexisting health problems. Many have families waiting for them or have all their ducks in a row, and would be safely and easily released. Volunteers from the prison activist community are willing to help releasees transition.

2) All prisoners need sanitizer (70% alcohol in a spritzer- very cheap, or its equivalent) and good soap (wrapped).  One inmate tells us he has use of a watered-down cleaning solution but most prisoners say they get no sanitizers.  Currently indigent prisoners are given used, dirty bars of soap if they are in general population and tiny amount of liquid soap if they are in solitary . 

3) More secure quarantine practices need to be implemented at Waupun Correction Inst. and Columbia Correctional Inst. where coronavirus has been confirmed in staff t This needs to take  place without unnecessary intimidation and punishment. Also, preventative cleaning and hygiene protocols need to be followed. 

4) Other institutions need to implement social distancing measures so there will not be heavy exposure when someone contracts the virus, as was the case in WCI where many guards, nurses, and inmates came in contact with the infected doctor. Currently some institutions such as Stanley Correctional have not stopped practices such as lining prisoners up for meals.

5) The WIDOC  must be honest with the public and prisoners about  the spread of the virus throughout the system . There is currently little testing  of prisoners and we understand the shortage of tests. We are told, however, many prisoners in both WCI and CCI show symptoms of the Virus and some are sick. There is tremendous concern that lax protocol by guards and the prisoners’ lack of sanitizers and good soap  is spreading the virus throughout the system, infecting prisoners and then  the community.
Our Governor’s mailing information:
Governor Tony Evers
PO Box 7863
Madison, WI 53707                                                                                 

Email:     Governor Evers number: (608) 266-1212  (but message box is usually full).

It is also effective to call or write YOUR LEGISLATORS. Go to and click on your district to find their contact information. In would be great if you contacted your local media.

All our news so far comes from prisoner reports, some of which are below.  We are getting reports that indicate the DOC is listening to the public as this epidemic evolves.
  Bill Ledford, March 26, 2020

“I am a Type I insulin dependent diabetic within multiple health conditions, including COPD, a challenged immune system, heart disease, a double amputee (i.e. my feet) in a wheelchair, and am 57 years old.  In short, I am at the top of the food chain for COVID-19.  I am currently confined in the Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI), probably the most troubled facility in the DOC…
(T)he DOC has been allocated $8 Million for a geriatric facility since 2017 Wis. Act 59 (see sec. 301.16(1ww), Stats.), but which has been amended to the renovation of an existing facility (I.e., Oak Hill Corr. Inst.).  It has been three years with no actual building or renovation being done to speak of.  Instead, I (we) [sic] are stuck in a lower wing of a mental health unit though we are general population (GP) prisoners.
        In addition, CCI is badly in need of nursing staff.  They are very short staffed and the turnover of nurses is great.  Part of the reason is the constant interference by the security and administration staff… But now, with COVID-19 in the institution we have one doctor (whom nobody really likes) for over 800 prisoners.  We are not allowed any type of sanitizers whatsoever because they have alcohol in them.  When more cases of CV-19 appear -and they will - medical staff will be immediately overwhelmed.  The only "plan" the institution has is to completely lock us down with no real medical care.  As Mr. Turk suggested, it is unlikely that we will be allowed any hospitalization because we are prisoners.  We will be locked in cells with no real medical care or treatment, and it will be nothing more than "hope for the best, expect the worst."
       Ben says the DOC stopped transferring prisoners.  However, on 3-19-20 there were eleven (11) prisoners transferred to CCI.  According to a nurse and two guards they were held briefly in R & O, and then after be(ing) checked to see if they had any symptoms were sent immediately to the housing units!  Not a very brilliant move, to say the least.  And staff are still doing pat searches!”

“The spray we get is cut with water. I don't think the CDC would clear it as disaffection [sic] of any kind after their DOC adds water to it.
I was told it's 50/50 half disaffected and half water. It has no smell to it and it looks just like water. You would think a disaffected spray would smell different but this stuff has no special smell or look to it maybe because its mostly water!
Now will it kill COVID 19? I don't know.” ~Justin Welch, 3-26-2020

 Leon Elijah Prioleau, who has immune-compromising health conditions, reports the following from Waupun Correctional:

·         The man housed in the cell next to Elijah came in contact with the doctor who tested positive for COVID-19 over a week ago. He was showing symptoms, coughing, with a fever and runny nose. On Monday, March 14, he went to HSU and they sent him back to his cell with just a bottle of cough syrup. They still let him go to work, in the kitchen, preparing meals for others. 
·         On Wednesday, after the news came out, this sick person was pulled back out to HSU and quarantined. Neither his cellmate nor anyone on his tier have been tested. 
·         The quarantines are not effective. Elijah said about 30 people were quarantined, almost twice as many as were reported to the news. Many of them were put in the north hall alongside people who were not already sick or exposed to the infected doctor. 
Many of the quarantined people have been moved to WCI’s segregation unit or “the hole”. A Sergeant named Dremel has a habit of telling people who come to him with any issue, “I don’t care, go lock in”. If the person persists in raising their concern, Sgt Dremel says they’re being disruptive, writes them a conduct report and sends them to the hole.

            Guards stealing or destroying property belonging to people who are sent to segregation is a common practice and frequent complaint across the DOC. People moved to quarantine in WCI are reasonably worried that their property will also be destroyed or stolen when they’re forced to move. Losing property includes at least temporarily, stamps, tablets, and televisions. These are the means to communicate with loved ones and learn about the outside world, including how the pandemic is spreading and impacting society. Being quarantined in prison without this property means trying to recover from a potentially deadly interest in the darkness of total isolation.

            Elijah has seen people who do not want to go to segregation threatened by guards. The guards hold their tasers up to the prisoner’s head and demand that they comply or they will be tased in the head and then brought to segregation anyway. People who have symptoms are scared to report them because doing so might make them targets of this theft and violent threats.
“It won't be long before we are all infected in here. And it hurts because I've been incarcerated for what will be 8 years this year. I have only 18 months to go come April and I don't want to die in here when I'm this close to coming home and being with my family. I hope the changes you all are working on comes before it's too late” ~ Elijah Prioleau, March 18, 2020

Harlan Richards, Stanley Correctional Institution

When Stanley was built, it was designed as single cells. The rated capacity was 750. When the DOC bought the prison from Dominion Group, the first thing they did was to add another bunk to every cell and redefined the prison's capacity as 1500. In other words, we are housing at over 200% capacity (there are over 1500 prisoners housed in a prison built for 750 prisoners). We are packed in like sardines. Free world guidelines recommend keeping 6 feet between people which is impossible in the housing units. All tables in the dayroom are 4 seats, welded in place and only about 2 feet apart. When they feed us, we line up with only inches between us. There's no way we can create a personal safe zone.

Stanley is a ticking time bomb of disease, infection and death. There are hundreds of elderly and immune-compromised prisoners in Stanley, those most likely to die from COVID-19. How many will be left in cells to live or die by the strength of their immune system? There are not enough hospital beds in this rural area to meet the needs of free people. You can be sure hundreds of infected prisoners will not be transferred to hospitals for treatment. It is simply not feasible even if there was adequate bed space.
The only answer is to implement restrictions before COVID-19 comes to Stanley because once it does, it will be impossible to manage.”
~Harlan Richards, March 23rd, 2020.
For background and to put our concern in perspective, here is our solitary report 2020:

Wisconsin Death Trap: How Prison Jeopardizes Public Safety in Times of Pandemic.

Torture in Wisconsin Prisons,  This report is kind of a summation of all our learning over the 20 years FFUP has been working with prisoners, and tries to show the roots of the justice mess we are in and the way out.

All FFUP Reports  and reports by prisoners and links to ongoing efforts can be found on FFUP’s main web:

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