Sunday, June 29, 2014

Last Menard hunger striker calls for a new generation of warriors

From the SF Bay View:
Last Menard hunger striker calls for a new generation of warriors

By Joseph Tillman, June 25, 2014
...
I participated in the Menard hunger strike and I actually was the last to come off. The hardest part was not not eating but having to notify my loved ones that I may die while trying to make them understand this is worth my life.

...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Menard hunger strikers still fighting to be treated like human beings

Reblogged from: SF Bay View, April 12, 2014

Written By Jesus Vega

I am currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois and housed in the high security unit in administrative detention. I was one of the inmates who was on hunger strike over harsh living conditions and denial of our due process, which is still going on.

No! Things haven’t changed after the hunger strike was over. I spent 29 days on hunger strike and three days on a water strike. I couldn’t go any longer.
I tried my best with the other brothers to get these harsh conditions fixed or changed. But nothing has been done.

There was a lot of reasons why we went on hunger strike, but some of the main reasons were the denial of our due process where they place us in administrative detention in the high security unit and refuse to tell us why, don’t let us know how long we will be in here and how to get out without becoming a snitch, plus having to endure the harsh conditions, meaning living without hot water in the cell and no heat during the cold weather months plus some other things.

But we’ve only gotten hot water, and we still are in a fight to be treated like a human being. Just know we haven’t quit our fight.

Send our brother some love and light: Jesus Vega, R21806, Menard CC, P.O. Box 1000, Menard, IL 62259.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Update from Menard hunger strikers: We need outside support, force feeding threatened

Reblogged from: SF Bay View
Jan. 21, 2014

The following information is drawn from letters received from prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois, and compiled by attorney Alice Lynd.

Jan. 21, 2014 – On Jan. 15, 2014, approximately 25 prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center went on hunger strike. Officers shook down their cells and took any food they found. The hunger strikers were sent to see medical staff and charged $5 for medical treatment.

On the way back from seeing medical staff, one prisoner (said to be Armando Valazquez) was pushed onto the stairs while in handcuffs by two officers. Those officers then kicked and stomped on his back, picked him up and then slammed his face into the plexiglass window on a door. One officer was sent home early that day. Prisoner Velazquez was moved to the Health Care Unit and the prisoners have not seen him since.

The hunger strikers have been told the prison administration is working on obtaining a preliminary injunction to force feed them. They expect to continue the hunger strike even if they are force fed.

“We need as much outside support as possible,” the prisoners say.

Please call or email:
Attorney Alice Lynd can be reached at salynd@aol.com.


Menard prisoners’ demands

In a letter to Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador A. Godinez, Alan Mills of Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago writes that prisoners formerly housed at Tamms and now in Administrative Detention at Menard in the High Security Unit, or HSU, “have contacted our office regarding both the process by which they were placed in this unit and the conditions of their confinement in the unit.

“They have advised us that due to the lack of response from anyone within the Department regarding their informal complaints and formal grievances they will begin an indefinite hunger strike today, Jan. 15.

“The men have forwarded the following demands to us in the hopes that we can facilitate resolution of the issues:
  1. A hearing upon arrival and rationale for placement, as well as the written rules and regulations regarding their classification;
  2. Quarterly meaningful reviews of continued placement;
  3. Timely written responses to grievances in compliance with the departmental directives;
  4. The ability to have reasonable access to cleaning supplies for their personal cells;
  5. The common areas to be cleaned and sanitized (i.e., showers) and the vermin and rodent infestation eliminated;
  6. Adequate heat and hot water in cells and common areas;
  7. The ability to purchase basic commissary items (i.e., thermal clothing, shoes etc.), pursuant to departmental regulations;
  8. Access to individual razors and nail clippers held by departmental staff;
  9. Timely addressed medical treatment (i.e., physical, mental and dental ailments); and
  10. Adequate access to legal property boxes and the law library.”

Alan Mills can be reached at Uptown People’s Law Center, 4415 North Sheridan, Chicago IL 60640, (775) 769-1411, www.uplcchicago.org.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Illinois prisoners in Menard High Security Unit plan to begin hunger strike Jan. 15

Reblogged from: SF Bay View
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.

The IDOC website says, “Menard Correctional Center was established on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1878. ... Menard is the state’s largest maximum security adult male facility.”





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 help

Prisoners 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:
Staughton Lynd, attorney, professor, historian, author, playwright, and civil rights and peace activist, can be reached at salynd@aol.com.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tamms Prison Project Makes Prisoners' Dreams Come True (PHOTOS)

From: The Daily Beast, May 6, 2013:
“Photo Requests From Solitary” was one of many projects launched by Tamms Year Ten to build publicity for the campaign to close Tamms supermax. The men in Tamms were invited to request a photograph of anything in the world, real or imagined. 

See the slide show of photos, impressions, here

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Former Tamms inmates on hunger strike

From the Southern Illinoisan:

THE SOUTHERN SPRINGFIELD BUREAU

SPRINGFIELD — A small group of inmates at Pontiac Correctional Center launched a hunger strike Monday, saying conditions are worse than when they resided at the now-closed super-maximum-security facility in Tamms.

The Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center said an estimated 10 prisoners are participating in the strike, which comes about a month after the inmates were transferred out of Tamms and into the older facility in Livingston County.

Key among their grievances is a lack of heat because of some of the retrofitting that was done in order to prepare Pontiac for the prisoners from Tamms. The prisoners are complaining that plexiglass panels installed on their cell doors block heat from entering their living areas, said Brian Nelson prison rights coordinator for the law center.

Gov. Pat Quinn closed Tamms in early January as part of a budget-cutting move. The prison had been built to house the state’s most dangerous prisoners in near-solitary confinement.

Nelson said the prisoners are upset that they don’t have televisions, radios, cleaning supplies, legal-sized envelopes and razors. In addition, he said they also are being forced to share nail clippers even though some men have illnesses.

read further here: http://thesouthern.com/news/local/former-tamms-inmates-on-hunger-strike/article_2e1ed102-6f5a-11e2-af16-001a4bcf887a.html

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last inmates leave Tamms 'supermax' prison



One of the more contentious episodes in the history of Illinois penitentiaries ended Friday as the last inmates held at the “supermax” prison in Tamms moved out and Gov. Pat Quinn's administration prepares to shut it down.

The final five inmates at the high-security home for the “worst of the worst” were shipped to the Pontiac Correctional Center, a prison spokeswoman said. Among the last to leave was a convict who helped lead a prison riot in 1979 and stabbed serial killer John Wayne Gacy while on death row.

Also bused out of the southern Illinois city were four dozen residents of the adjoining minimum-security work camp, packed off to Sheridan Correctional Center in north-central Illinois.

The departures mark the end of a nearly 15-year experiment with the super maximum-security prison, which supporters say the state still needs for troublemaking convicts — particularly during a time of record inmate population. But opponents contend the prison's practice of near-total isolation was inhumane and contributed to some inmates' deteriorating mental health.

More than 130 inmates were moved out of the prison in just nine days, after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that legal action by a state workers' union could no longer hold up the governor's closure plans. The state has offered to sell the $70 million facility the federal government, but there are no solid plans for the future of the prison, often simply called Tamms.

“It's sad for our area, but we're never going to give up,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg whose district includes Tamms. “We still have an overcrowding problem. That's the deal with this. The governor has made it worse. Eventually, some of these facilities are going to have to reopen.”

But activists opposed to the prison's isolation practices cheered Friday's landmark moment. One organizer, Laurie Jo Reynolds, called the course to closure “a democratic process” that involved not high-priced lobbyists or powerful strategists but, “the people — truly, the people.”

Shuttering Tamms is part of Quinn's plan to save money. The Democrat said housing an inmate at the prison cost three times what it does at general-population prisons. He has also closed three halfway houses for inmates nearing sentence completion, relocating their 159 inmates, and plans to shutter the women's prison in Dwight. 

Read the rest here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-last-inmates-leave-tamms-supermax-prison-20121228,0,1550702.story


Prison Policy Initiative

Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Illinois, Prison Policy Initiative.

"Illinois’ reliance on flawed Census data is responsible for a large shift in political clout from the Chicago area to downstate regions and a significant distortion of power within counties that contain prisons."




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