by Staughton Lynd
Jan. 14, 2014
The following information is based on numerous letters from prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois written in December 2013. These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.After the Tamms Correctional Center was closed in January 2013, several High Security Units have been opened in other prisons throughout Illinois. The High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center is one of several such units housing prisoners in administrative detention who were in Tamms or who have filed grievances or complaints and others who would not have met the criteria for transfer to Tamms.
The men were transferred to Menard and continue to be kept in the High Security Unit without any notice, reasons or hearing. Prisoners who were transferred without so much as a ticket are being forced to complete a nine month three phase program – originally Tamms’ stepdown program – to earn back privileges they did nothing to lose.The Illinois Department of Corrections has been unable to locate any records responsive to a Freedom of Information Act request for any administrative directives that deal with the “phase program.” The Menard rule book says that administrative detention is a non-disciplinary form of segregation from the general population that is reviewed every 90 days by the warden. However, the phase program is nine months. Therefore, no one is being considered for release until at least nine months after entering the system.The 90-day review is supposed to be a review where release is considered. Instead, it is only a hearing where the prisoner is not present, and its only purpose is to determine if he should move from one phase to the next. To date, nobody has been released after the nine months. No notices are being given after any of these alleged hearings, and no basis for decision of continued placement is given either.
These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.Prisoners have been filing grievances asking for uniform written policies that provide for constitutionally adequate notice of why an inmate is being placed in administrative detention and periodic review in the form of informal hearings that allow the prisoner to refute the alleged reasons for placement and retention in administrative detention.Prisoners say that their conditions of confinement are deplorable. According to prisoners, conditions in the High Security Unit include
- severe isolation without any mental health evaluation or treatment;
- uncleanliness, rodent infestation and lack of any cleaning supplies to clean cells – no disinfectants, no toilet brushes;
- no written policies requiring the daily sweeping and mopping of the wings;
- lack of heat in the cells and only one small, thin blanket;
- showers are moldy and often cold;
- no hot water in the cells to wash up or clean eating utensils;
- unauthorized deviation from the statewide menu, low calorie intake has prisoners losing weight;
- not issued individual coats, have to share smelly coats with numerous men;
- access to their legal materials limited to approximately once a month, delays in receiving legal mail;
- no educational opportunities even though non-disciplinary prisoners should have the same access to education as the general population.Many prisoners in the Menard High Security Unit are planning to turn in emergency grievances as well as begin a hunger strike on the morning of Jan. 15, 2014. They expect retaliation, possibly including beatings of inmates who are regarded as troublemakers.
Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.
How you can helpPrisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center ask you to make phone calls to the warden, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the governor on Jan. 15, 16 and 17, 2014, to check on their conditions, demands, and welfare. Please call:
- Warden Rick Harrington, (618) 826-5071
- Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez, (217) 558-2200, ext. 2008
- Gov. Pat Quinn, (217) 782-0244, http://www2.
illinois.gov/gov/Pages/ ContacttheGovernor.aspxStaughton Lynd, attorney, professor, historian, author, playwright, and civil rights and peace activist, can be reached at email@example.com.