Email Newsletter #7

Sent 11/29/19 to 3,315 contacts inside the Wisconsin prison system.

Hello to all Milwaukee IWOC contacts!

This is our 7th email newsletter. Sorry for the delay on this one.

We are seeking to grow the capacity of our network, so that we can have more people involved who can respond to Corrlinks emails, do research, do phone zaps, do mass mailings, and do other things that can help incarcerated people’s connections and magnify your voices. If you have any family or friends that might be able to help out our work in any way, send a new email that says “Outside People”, and include in the message the person’s name and phone number, email address, or other contact information, and we’ll reach out to them.

We will be going to the 12/5/19 DOC Committee on Inmate/Youth Deaths public session. This committee is supposed to review patterns that cause people in prison to die and make recommendations, they are complacent and inactive. If you have anything you would like us to present to this committee, send it in a new email to us with subject line “COIYD.”

If you will be released in the next three months, please reply to us with the subject line, “Release,” so that we can forward you information and resources we may have regarding reentry.

Here are some helpful reminders for responding to the newsletter:

1) Start a new message for your reply; this message is basically at the character limit for emails through the Corrlinks system.
2) Put clear detail in the subject line.
3) We do not have access to any lawyers; individual legal support is outside of our capacity.
4) For newsletter submissions, please put all comments or questions into one email with the subject line “Next Newsletter.” Also, be sure to let us know if you want to be named or remain anonymous.
5) Please let us know which prison you are writing from in every message, especially if you have been transferred.

Here is what we have been hearing lately. Please continue to keep us updated!

Anonymous at CCI writes: “We [have] had two situations where we went on lockdown. The first incident was when an inmate beat up an officer and we [were] placed on lockdown on October 22, 2019 at 10-something in [the] morning. Inmates [weren’t] allowed to shower nor use the phones. […] We [were] placed on lockdown again on October 29, 2019. The same incident [happened] again on the same unit with an officer getting beat up. […] While we are placed on lockdown we still should be able to take showers, use the phones because all these things are on our tiers where they will only open one door at a time.”

Another writes: “we went BACK on lockdown this morning because another inmate assaulted another Sgt here at C.C.I. […] It may look as if [it’s] dangerous to work for the DOC but if you look a little harder you will see its deeper than that. These inmates really need mental health treatment and [to be] given opportunities to get the help they need. […] I’m on the unit that both staff assaults occurred.”

These sentiments are shared by another person incarcerated at CCI: “Before all that happened this inmate was placed on observation, was on a hunger strike for almost 2 weeks and having mental health problems. In my opinion they didn’t provide adequate care for him and the Sgt that he assaulted [doesn’t] care about anything, just ignores inmates, and is known to write conduct reports for minor rule infractions.”

Regarding these occurrences, one incarcerated person writes that “staff are operating while intoxicated, prone to emotional volatility, especially aggressive, disrespectful behavior, because they must work double, split double, even triple shifts (due to a shortage of staff).” They detail other “conditions/restrictions that amplify rather than decrease stress/tension/anger, such as” limited phone call usage, only 3 showers per week, visits being denied with no being told in advance, insufficient job availability, no vocational classes, dayroom being denied, mental health issues, food portions, work rules not being enforced. They close by asking the question: “are staff going to be allowed to focus on punishing/degrading prisoners, expecting prisoners to just accept this, or are they willing to instead focus on habilitating prisoners, treating us with dignity, TRYING to restore us to society. Which philosophy do you think will be most effective, most likely to create a peaceful environment?”

We have heard several reports of inadequate heating in prisons across the WIDOC. One person at Racine CI writes: “Unfortunately, the new heater is no longer working. The heater will run for 5-10 minutes and after that the heat portion of the heater no longer functions. Staff has kept us in the dark as to what the problem is or how long it may take to fix. […] Temperatures tonight (10/31) are expected to be in the teens, and daytime temperatures not breaking 40 degrees for the upcoming week. Inmates are being forced to wear thermals, sweats, multiple layers, hats, and gloves to bed just to be warm enough to sleep. Not all inmates are able to afford extra clothing, thermals, or gloves, and nothing extra is being provided to them. Again, staff has us in the dark and even make jokes about it.”

Javier Salazar (326709) at Waupun CI has an important update regarding base penalties being exceeded throughout the DOC: “WCI still has not passed out an updated 303 handbook with the 2015 amendments to the disciplinary dispositions. So inmates are STILL going to segregation & accepting disposition ‘offers’ that are greater than the mandated Base Penalty. This practice is being done so as to prevent inmates from going to hearings, & to cause inmates to stay in segregation longer. It is an attempt to hold onto the old practice of giving out long periods of time in segregation. If inmates knew that these Base Penalties existed, they would not only be able to prevent themselves from violating their own due process rights, it would also allow them to know how to properly defend themselves with the other sections listed in the new DOC 303.00.04 Disciplinary Guidelines of 2015. No memo was ever put out, no handbook addendum or amendment has been made in roughly the 4 yrs of the new policy being signed off on by the warden. Here is NO other plausible excuse for such an inaction except that of deceptive manipulation tactics. They can’t very well revoke an inmate’s due process rights, BUT, now if the inmate themselves does so, the administration cannot be held accountable. They simply can claim inmate ignorance to the 2015 policy changes is the cause for the inmates’ action’s. They escape blame, & keep an influx of outlandish punishment’s & inmate’s doing said punishment’s. Plausible deniability at its finest.”

Below are some quotes from those incarcerated in the DOC regarding healthcare quality and availability in WI prisons.

At Stanley CI: “We have a population of about 1600 with the following: 1 Doctor, 1 Dentist, 1 Hygienist, 3 Physical Therapists, and an Optometrist that comes in once a month (this was told to me directly from the Doctor herself). I’m having issues with my eyes (blurred vision). I requested an eye exam in January, 2019. I seen the Doctor on 6/20/19 and she told me it may be 6 more months before I see the Optometrist so you’ll just have to see blurry for awhile. Really! Talk about top notch health care.”

“NLCI also is badly backed up in medical. Been waiting almost 8 months to be seen currently.”

Also at Stanley CI: “Optical we had a doctor coming in once a week then quit so the doctor who comes in now only once a month so it is backed way up seeing him. I had to be sent out to a specialist for a problem I kept complaining about to find out I had a retina tear and sent to U W Hospital for emergency surgery to repair the tear. Doctor tells me I need a subscription change and have no idea when I’ll get to see the doctor. I’m not sure about the delay with the dentist except they don’t have a full time dentist. I have 3 broken teeth and I’m on my 11th month waiting . Not sure what can be done to change these long waits.”

“In 2002 our cost for HSU visits went from 2.50$ to 7.50$ still can’t figure out why we have to pay to be seen when we are wards of the state but OK.”

“So I have really bad PTSD, depression, and anxiety and I was having a bad PTSD flashback and I told the correctional officer that I feel like killing myself and if I go to my cell I was thinking about cutting or trying to hang myself and I told him I was really scared to go in my cell and he said if you don’t go lock in you will be getting a conduct report and I told him I am going to go harm my self and he said I don’t care go do it then but I also want you to know that you are going to be getting a ticket. […] I sometimes feel so bad for myself and all the other inmates because we are someone’s family and we are human and here […] they don’t care what happens to any inmate they just fill the bed and move on to the next one, it is [an] endless cycle. We need people on are side that care about us and we can call out for help. […] It is not only here at (Columbia Correctional Institution), it is at all.”

Roni Schultz and Ron Schroeder at OSCI give the following advice for submitting medical complaints to the state licensing board: “Dissatisfied with DOC’s Inmate Complaint Review System (ICRS)? Persons may complain about medical and mental health treatment with the Wis. Dept. of Safety and Professional Services, Div. of Legal Services and Compliance, PO Box 7190, Madison 53707. Request forms #102DLSC and #2004. Keep complaints accurate, brief and respectful. State WHO did WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY (if known), and HOW. Do not opine what the doctor/LPN should have done. And don’t give your opinion. Just state the treatment was ineffective and you continue to experience the pain or discomfort. In addition, prisoners may request a form DOC-1163A (authorization) to release medical/mental health records to a citizen. It’s said that attention/inquiries from citizens are taken much more seriously.”

Christian Aguirre-Hodge #558038 at NLCI raised a good point about how most of our discourse has been about men’s prisons: “The majority of the messages have been about issues dealing with the [men’s] institutions. […] Today, I received a letter from a young lady who is an inmate at Ellsworth in Union Grove […] this young lady mentioned another woman who was mistreated by staff while pregnant. ‘We’ as an organization MUST do more for the [women] at various institutions in Wisconsin.”

The rest of the newsletter will be quotes from those incarcerated across the WIDOC.

“Recently an inmate wrote into the IWOC saying that WE have the power to control the quality of food, and the prices on canteen and catalog vendors: all we have to do is stop eating and stop buying things. […] I may be a prisoner, but I’m STILL a human being. I shouldn’t have to starve myself, not wash my *** with soap, use shampoo, properly take care of my teeth, or have to go without the most BASIC human needs to be treated fairly.”

“[They] act as if being ripped from our lives, families, jobs etc. is not enough of a sentence…they want us to basically slowly die from an extended punitive segregation status we did not earn!”

“Crazy part is none of you have to break any rules to fix any of this shit but y’all won’t do it because that would mean coming together taking some losses, hardships & not going on visits or making phone calls or buying canteen or going to work or doing hunger & fluid strikes on a massive scale if it came down to it. Mind you I am not telling anyone what to do nor am I advocating any of these actions I am only pointing out the things that have either worked in the past or in other states.”

“Stanley Correctional–Regarding the ICE process. First, exhaust the chain of command, making copies of all kites sent. If someone in the chain suggests a remedy, follow through on their suggestion–your time limit to file is paused while follow up on the suggested remedy, Second, do your research. Find a rule in your inmate handbook that covers your issue; or find an institution or DOC policy that covers the situation; or find a statute or administrative rule that applies, Third, make copies of everything and attach them to your complaint. If you decide to file in court, the DOC supplies the record that is to be considered. It is next to impossible to supplement the record, but whatever you submit during the process, even as attachments, is part of the record. Finally, cite rules, policies, statutes, or the administrative code in your complaint, don’t cite case law at this point–save that for a court filing, if you decide to go that far. The complaint examiners know less about the law than you do.”

“It’s up to us to come together, stop the fighting between ourselves and find this as common ground. Enough is enough!”