Freedom’s Cause # 21 – July 26, 2020

July 26, 2020

HEAT WAVE IN OSCI

Milwaukee IWOC organized a phone zap on Wednesday, July 22, after multiple reports of intolerable conditions in Oshkosh CI during a recent heat wave. The prison remains on lockdown, which means that prisoners are confined to their cells for 21 hours per day. They have no control over inside temperatures (which in some cases were estimated at above 100 degrees) and are are not allowed to open their cell doors. Moreover, ice runs out quickly, and the staff is said to have been slow and/or unwilling to keep prisoners properly supplied. Prison staffers took some of the calls and provided contradictory answers. As the heat rises again this weekend, we hope to hear of improved treatment for ‘people in their care’. 

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

On Monday (July 20), the Department of Corrections (DOC) announced it had ‘completed comprehensive testing of persons in our care and staff members at 37 institutions,’ according to spokesman John Beard. ‘Total tests administered is now above 24,500, and active cases are currently at nine, and the positive test rate for persons in our care was at 1.2% as of yesterday morning.’ Beard adds that DOC, the Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin National Guard are beginning a second round of testing for staff this week. 

As of Friday, July 24, the count of positive active cases remains at nine. However, 1,025 incarcerated persons are in quarantine, and 15 are in isolation. Among staff members, there are 17 active cases; the total number of cases stands at 106. (Sources: Wisconsin Examiner, DOC official site)

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON INSIDE THESE WALLS?

Our correspondent in CCI, Jesse Anderson, writes this: ‘First is all the oppression, and inequality, and the blatant disregard to our human and constitutional rights. There’s no such thing as full due process in here— even when you’re right, you’re wrong. The sentiment of administration is, “So, this is our house. What are you going to do about it?” Second: staff shortage. Which leaves the department to hire employees they would have never accepted years ago. Most officer’s work about 3 to 4 double shifts a week, at $20 an hour. That’s nice money, especially when their job is to oppress, and engage in vindictive, and narcissistic, behavior that leads to tyranny. Our complaint system is a joke. It only goes to the same people you’re complaining about. The only way is to open a claim in court. What’s needed is a far, and unbiased committee. I feel that Internal Affairs needs to come in. Honestly, the Feds need to review, and plant a seed in here for a few weeks to get a real idea of what’s really going on behind close doors. This shit is Savage.’

INSIDE TCI

A contact in Taycheedah CI gives a view of conditions there: ‘I have been able to poll about 30 women and they have the same concerns. In fact it got even deeper as some of these women spoke about their thoughts of ending things. Of course I just minister to them and let them know God love is for all and He can get them/us through this. We are now approaching our 40th hour since being locked in with out going out at all. We were not even offered and or allowed to shower. The rooms are so hot the toilet sweats and the walls at times sweat as if they need water. It get very hard to breathe in here. I thank God my mother sent me a fan but I am stressed about those who have nothing. Now there is an infestation of bugs which have occurred recently. We did alert a corrections officer about the bugs and our fears of the bugs possibly being bed bugs and his response was to “eat them as they are a good source of protein”…. It breaks my heart to see the women in here with mental health issues as well as emotional traumas go through additional trauma when the past traumas are still lying dormant needing healing. We need a voice because the voice we have in here is silenced in so many ways but I will continue to fight the good fight for equality and human respect and dignity among all people.’

ISOLATION IN WCI

As the Covid virus keeps prisons locked down, many persons remain isolated from their family and friends. One writes: ‘I am inmate at WCI. They still have not allowed us video visits or in-person visits, so we have not seen our families since March. They recently made the guards move our phones now and not the tier tenders, so we barely get one call a day. Phones are supposed to move every 30 min or 1hr, but we are lucky if they get moved at all.The guards can care less if we use the phone; several have told me to “write them up”, knowing nothing will be done… If anyone has any ideas or help they can offer, please reach out. No person should have to be taken away from their babies!’

BATTLE OF THE HEART

Our correspondent in CCI, Elixavier Pacheco, writes: ‘This system was built to make us fail. There are few, and far in between, people who actually want to see us succeed. But that doesn’t last long. The true objective is oppressive conformity. “You do what we say, when we, how we say, and you DON’T ask questions!” To ask ‘why’ is looked at as being argumentative, and disruptive….pray that you never hear the words, “You’re just so… Normal.” Smh. You have no idea what that does to a man. It tears through your soul. Like being stranded on an island, and seeing a faint light out in the far distance… Having something so close, and yet soooo far away. Someone on that boat may know that island is there, but have no idea that there is a man stuck on it, slowly dying. I want to help people who feel like they are stuck on that island. To let them know that they are seen, and not alone. And that there IS help. I came up with this saying today, and it truly rings through my heart:  “Some wars are fought with guns and bullets, and some wars are fought with the heart.” My fight is one of heart… People have to know that they are not in this alone.’

SECOND CALL FOR JAILHOUSE LAWYERS

As mentioned in a previous issue of Freedom’s Cause, we are compiling a directory of incarcerated litigators to share with contacts who have legal questions and concerns. If you would like to be included in the list and have not already responded, please send us an email with ‘Law Tutor (Stephen)’ in the subject line. Please include a line or two about your experience and special interests, as appropriate.  

TRANSFERS? 

We have had an inquiry about transfers, which were supposed to resume on June 1. Please drop us a line if your institution is receiving or moving people; put ‘Transfers (Stephen)’ in the subject line. Our contact is particularly interested in Oshkosh, Jackson, and Racine. 

DO YOU WANT TO BE HEARD? 

From our contact, Brandon Horak, in OSCI: ‘My father is looking at starting a Magazine (called The Wisconsin Prisoner) which describes life in the Wisconsin prison system. It will have articles about conduct reports inmates are receiving. Complaints being filed. Lawsuits being brought to courts. Internal situations going on in individual prisons and MUCH MORE. This will be a magazine for the Wisconsin prisoner and their families.  What we need to get this off the ground is MATERIAL.’ Please add TheWisconsinPrisonerTWP@gmail.com to your corrlinks account and you will receive all the information you need. 

FROM THE PRESS

(July 23) The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors endorsed federal legislation Thursday that would begin to repair, they said, ‘the harmful, ineffective, and wasteful aspects of mass incarceration – linked to the passage of the 1994 federal crime bill – by transforming the nation’s criminal justice system to promote shared power, freedom, equality, safety, and human dignity.’ Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson proposed the county resolution in support of a federal bill from Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley, known as the People’s Justice Guarantee (H. Res 702, 116th Congress, 1st Session). Pressley’s bill calls for wholesale reform of the criminal legal system, including mass decarceration at the local, state, and federal levels, and for repealing the failed policies of the so-called war on drugs and 1994 crime bill. (Source: patch.com)

(July 17) Donald Trump’s war on protesters is escalating, with reports emerging out of Portland, Ore., that federal law enforcement officers, wearing camouflage but without any other visible insignia, have been rounding up American citizens. On Thursday, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reported that ‘federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.’ On the face of it, what these federal officers are doing is illegal and unconstitutional. It’s possible that they are acting under the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Barack Obama, which legalized the detention of Americans suspected of being terrorists. If so, then the War on Terrorism has truly come home. (Source: The Atlantic)

(July 24) Alabama prisons have used ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ on inmates by allowing correctional officers to perform routine beatings, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said following an investigation. ‘Our investigation found reasonable cause to believe that there is a pattern or practice of using excessive force against prisoners in Alabama’s prisons for men,’ Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the department’s Civil Rights Division said. An investigation of 13 Alabama prisons found that 12 of them had correctional officers using excessive, and sometimes deadly, force on inmates, which violated their Constitutional rights. Excessive force by corrections officers included the use of batons, chemical spray, and physical beatings involving kicking prisoners, which often resulted in serious injuries. Two Alabama prisoners died from excessive force incidents in the last months of 2019 alone. (Source: The Independent)

(July 23) When Diana Trueblood visited the Wayne County Jail’s medical unit in Detroit in early March, she encountered a gentle and kind physician, Dr. Angelo Patsalis. Within four weeks of Trueblood’s first appointment with Patsalis, the doctor died of COVID-19. The coronavirus soon claimed another doctor, as well as the commander and a sheriff’s deputy at the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), a three-facility maximum-security jail system in the Detroit area for inmates charged with violent and nonviolent crimes. Amid overcrowding and a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), at least 208 employees and 83 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at WCSO to date. (Source: The Guardian)

Finally, some good news: (July 14) The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to permanently end the practice of charging those in county jail for phone calls, and to stop marking up items sold in jail stores. The measure, among the first of its kind in the nation, codifies a set of reforms that Mayor London Breed introduced last year in her annual budget proposal. Until last year’s changes, San Francisco inmates were charged 15 cents a minute for phone calls and had to pay a 43% markup on products sold in the commissary, including basic items like soap and food. (Source: KQED)