Columbia: “We just came off lockdown…” [10-6-18]

Excerpt from 10-6-18 letter by prisoner at Columbia Correctional Institution

“We just came off lockdown. We were on it from September 17th until October 3rd. It was a very strange lockdown though. I worked the entire time, while most of the other inmates never left their cells except to shower. It was a modified movement lockdown. I’ve never heard of that before.
In their memo staff bluffed that they were going to do searches. While they may have done some searching it was limited to a few units. They had united staff come around and announce that they were on their way to search the unit and gave everyone an amnesty period to throw away their contraband “anonymously”. So many people threw out what extra things they had but the search never came. Many people were upset, not that they had to toss their contraband, but because they did things like take pictures down off the walls and put all their stuff neatly together but in an inconvenient way to use their property. Staff basically caused wide-spread panic and a huge inconvenience for no reason.
The entire purpose of the lockdown was two-fold. To set up the new HSU building (which is finally up and running), and to transfer all the inmates from RH-1 to Rh-2 and unit 7. They completely emptied an entire segregation unit. They shipped a crap ton of people out of the institution to make this move happen. They are renovating the old HSU building and RH_1 simultaneously.

RH-2 is now a big cluster *****. They have a “team” on standby who walk the halls in all their tactical gear. It’s a show of force without them showing force. So all day long they have staff dressed in their turtle suits roaming the halls. The staff is not too happy about this themselves. They also have to wear body cameras which they have to activate every time they go on the tier. Staff in the visiting room have to wear body cameras too. I’m not sure show this is appropriate when they have to conduct strip searches both when inmates come in and out of the visiting room.
The new warden Sue Novak is really flexing her muscles here. She, for some reason, canceled visits on Wednesdays and Thursday indefinitely. How?!?!? The memo says to accommodate changes within CCI’s operational procedures. To what changes she is referring is unspecified.
There is real unrest in segregation right now. I mean there has been several suicide attempts. There have been multiple attempts in a single night as well. They have done 3 cell entries in a shift. I don’t know what is in the air but it is rough around here now.
From what I understand the deputy warden Ruck has resigned. This was reportedly a week or two ago. I don’t know if she’s actually gone or is just scheduled to leave.
The DOC isn’t as big a giant as they may seem. If you attack individuals in the chain it only takes one link to break to destroy that chain. Do you not believe that if you find an ousted and jaded ex-DOC employee that they will not hesitate to tell on all the others that are problems within the DOC? What about those ℅’s that got put out for having relationships with inmates? They would have insider knowledge of problems within individual institutions. They may even hold the key to breaking down higher ups at that institution. I understand that the pool of people like that is small but it’s something. And that is only one source example. There’s more.

There are two things the DOC hates. Lawyers and media. If you are coming here with cameras and doing “independent documentaries” let’s say, they are going to fear you. Come here with a list of people to talk to on camera. The warden herself is going to want to stand in that room. Individual visits are good, phone zaps work too, but that doesn’t put the knowledge into the public’s hands. The more widespread you are the better. Inmates can put names on guards,
Guards aren’t going to want to be named. There is a cult following of prison shows and series. Even the threat of a series starting or a webcast or even a blog would put the DOC on edge. If you had let’s say 10 guys you followed from each institution, you would have a nice little show. What I’m getting at is that media attention of any nature is something the DOC hates. The guards talk a lot about things like that. Politics can’t beat the media.
It’s funny you speak about understaffing. As I write you are operating under “fog alert” due to understaffing. As I understand it this may last all weekend too.”

Conditions in the Wisconsin prison system need to change.