Columbia’s Internal Response to the 6/25 E-mail Zap

On June 25, Milwaukee IWOC called for an e-mail zap to Deputy Warden Kalen Ruck as part of our campaign to fight toxic regulations at Columbia Correctional. After more than two weeks we received a response from Ruck, which we have responded to in greater detail here. What we did not know until receiving these records is that Ruck very quickly forwarded on the message to DOC Communications Director Tristan Cook.

Oddly enough, Tristan Cook composed the response on 6/28 and distributed to Ruck and others for approval but it was not actually sent to those who participated in the e-mail zap until 7/10. No explanation or discussion of a delayed response was found among the records.

Other noteworthy pieces of information: Kalen Ruck is resigning her post as treasurer of the Wisconsin Correctional Association (WCA) and hopes to be elected president. Also current Columbia warden Michael Dittman is retiring soon. Taken together, these two pieces of information demonstrate that Ruck has both a significant role in prison operations throughout the state, not just at Columbia, and that she will be a more effective pressure point at Columbia than the outgoing warden. We plan to include members of the Wisconsin Correctional Association in future e-mail zaps in order to try and call attention to the toxic situation she and others at Columbia are fomenting while pursuing a leadership role in this state-wide group.

There was one email in particular that is relevant to the concerns of those incarcerated at Columbia. One of the issues we raised in our initial email zap was the issue of guards rather than medical staff dispensing medication. Ruck responded to an e-mail marked as being of High importance from the Health Services Manager Renee Schueler. You can see the exchange here:

Here the head of the Health Services Unit (HSU) is explaining that unspecified staff might have been confused when administering the medication because it must be mixed with saline solution before injection. While it is unclear what exactly “PRN medication” means, the acronym is commonly used in medicine to refer to drugs that are to be taken as needed based on the latin phrase “pro re nata.” It is impossible to tell what the medication in question is, but it certainly isn’t Tylenol since it must be injected.

Just one day after Tristan Cook composed a response saying that all medications at Columbia are dispensed in line with state law and department policy, staff at Columbia are seeking clarification on dosage. According to section 18.5(B) of the Columbia Inmate Handbook, unit supervisors dispense all medication except for that which must be distributed by HSU staff. At the very least, Cook’s flippant response demonstrates a lack of interest in following up on inmate concerns even when the staff at Columbia are themselves unable to dispense medication properly, which by definition can put inmates at serious risk.