Freedom’s Cause # 4 – Nov. 11, 2019


An incarcerated person in Columbia Correctional Institution sent us this report: ‘As you were aware, Unit Manager Fink instituted a policy allowing only off-unit workers to go to rec/lib 1 time a week during “worker rec/lib” regardless if a slot was available during non-working hours. I was able to get a couple of fellow workers to band with me for a good ol’ sit-down reminiscent of the 60s. We refused to go back to our cells until a white shirt came and spoke with us. So originally 5 of us sat down but 2 got away. So like 20 officers showed up. 2 inmates cuffed immediately. I couldn’t understand why there was a need to cuff up when all we wanted to do was talk civilly about Fink’s policy…. Next thing you know, I get thrown from the table, my head slams into the CO station…. The good news out of all this is that the Security Director reversed Fink’s policy! Now all I need to do is get out of RHU…. To be honest, I was surprised that I got inmates to actually sit down and demand change. Normally people get scared. Not gonna lie; if I have to do it again, I’m gonna be nervous.’ 


Milwaukee IWOC has been researching DOC regulations regarding heat in Wisconsin prisons. Along the way, they uncovered a 2015 study by Daniel DW Holt of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. Among its key findings: 1. Risk factors for succumbing to heat-related illness, including advanced age, poor mental and physical health, and the use of medications, are prevalent among the 2.2 million incarcerated persons in the US.  2. The US Constitution may require correctional departments to undertake adaptation efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change. 3. Inmates with disabilities that make them more susceptible to heat stress may have viable claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 4. Many jurisdictions have some policies or regulations governing temperatures in prison housing, but many do not. IWOC will continue to look into the regulations that apply to facilities in Wisconsin. 


Authorities arrested a Columbia Correctional Institution guard for alleged use of excessive force with an inmate. The guard is charged with one felony count of misconduct in a public office, acting with excessive authority, and he faces up to three years and six months in prison if convicted. The complaint states investigators reviewed written reports of the incident including a body camera video. The footage shows a prisoner restrained in a chair and wearing a “spit mask,” with his hands handcuffed behind his back and his legs secured. After the prisoner used his head to strike the guard’s face shield, the guard used his arm to strike the prisoner on the side of the face; at this point he was told to ‘switch out’.  (Source: Portage Daily Register)

On November 2, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended sentence commutations for 527 inmates. Supporters say it is the largest single-day commutation in state and national history, and will drop the state out of the No. 1 spot in the nation for incarcerations. The commutations followed the passing of House Bill 1269, which allowed the Pardon and Parole Board to review sentences for crimes that would no longer be felonies if charged today. (Sources: Tulsa World, KOKH TV)

The Alabama Department of Corrections is once again targeting incarcerated hunger-striker Robert Earl Council (aka Kinetik Justice), who is facing a disciplinary charge after drugs were allegedly found in his cell. The ADOC’s action appears to be related to his ongoing efforts to expose corruption and extortion by staff and administration at Limestone Correctional Facility. Council has no history of drug use or possession throughout his over twenty-three years in prison, and in fact has a reputation among prisoners and staff alike of being a positive influence on fellow prisoners. On October 29, Justice began a hunger strike in protest of his transfer to solitary, and he is currently housed in the infirmary at Limestone CF. A phone zap is planned for November 12 (Source: Unheard Voices OTCJ, Fight Toxic Prisons)

On November 8, five people were scheduled to appear in court after arrests stemming from an October 1 protest outside of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). On that occasion, dozens of activists gathered in solidarity with the demands of the incarcerated freedom fighters in Alabama prison facilities. The five were charged with ‘incomoding’ after they locked themselves on ladders in front of the entrances to the DOJ. Update: The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons reports that all charges have been dropped. (Source: Fight Toxic Prisons)