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Waupun inmates begin hunger strike

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Felmers O. Chaney Advocacy Board’s Statement in Support of Waupun Hunger Strikers

WHEREAS the use of cruel and unusual punishment and the torture of any citizen of the State of Wisconsin are barred by the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin and Constitution of these United States;
WHEREAS there exists within the Wisconsin prison system, as administered by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (hereinafter “WDOC”), a pattern and practice of forced solitary confinement of Citizens of Wisconsin and these United States for extended and indefinite periods of time known as “Administrative Confinement” or “AC”;
WHEREAS WDOC has unilaterally defined AC as “non-punitive” thereby abrogating the limited rules that restrict the use of solitary confinement in Wisconsin;
WHEREAS the Executive Branch of the State of Wisconsin has by and through the administrative powers of WDOC, created and implemented a system of torture known as AC;
WHEREAS all periods of solitary confinement are cruel and unusual punishment, and constitute an intentional act of torture by the State of Wisconsin upon its Citizens;
WHEREAS the use of solitary confinement constitutes a form of mental and physical cruelty that is counter productive to meaningful rehabilitative and reintegration goals;
WHEREAS the State of Wisconsin Executive Branch, Judicial Branch, and Legislative Branch have all failed to act to effectively end the use of torture in Wisconsin Prisons; and
WHEREAS Citizens of the State of Wisconsin and these United States in the custody of WDOC and being held at the Waupun Correctional Institution (hereinafter “WCI”) have begun to refuse nourishment in protest of the WDOC’s pattern and practice of torture and cruel and unusual punishment through the policy of AC,

NOW, THEREFORE, IN RECOGNITION OF THE FOREGOING, THE:
1. Felmers O. Chaney Advocacy Board (FCAB) declares its support for, and stands in solidarity with, the incarcerated Citizens of Wisconsin who are refusing food as an act of protest against the unconstitutional, illegal, and torturous actions of the WDOC; and
2. Felmers O. Chaney Advocacy Board encourages individuals and groups alike to not only stand in support and unity for our fellow Citizens incarcerated by WDOC, but to make their voices known to legislators, the media, and through community building activities.
Dated this 16 day of June, 2016

MEMBERS OF THE BOARD  
KNOW ALL PERSONS BY THESE PRESENTS of our agreement and support of the foregoing statement and in evidence of which we do here unto set our hands:

Atty. Barbara J. Becker Barry Givens
Hon. Sandy Pasch Hon. Jonathan Brostoff
Mary Ann Hack Dr. Sharon F. Skinner
Atty. Larry R. Coté Jr. Edith Hudson
Dr. Stan Stojkovic Atty. Lindsey Draper
Dr. Thomas LeBel Cindy Williams
Rev. Joseph Ellwanger Dr. R.L. McNeely
Georgette Williams David T. McGinnis

Waupun inmates begin hunger strike

Some inmates at Waupun Correctional Institution are refusing to eat food in an attempt to limit the use of solitary confinement, and to improve medical care for inmates with mental illnesses.

The food strike began this past week for at least seven inmates, according to organizers of a Saturday rally in support of the action. Most of those inmates began refusing meals on Friday.

Additional inmates might be involved, said rally organizers Jason Geils and Bernie Gonzalez. But it’s difficult to confirm that because the Wisconsin Department of Corrections restricts communicating with prisoners, they said.

At least one Waupun inmate involved in the food strike was transferred to Columbia Correctional Institution, while others were released from solitary confinement into Waupun’s general prison population, Gonzalez said. He got his information Friday from inmate Cesar DeLeon, who began refusing to eat food on June 5.

DeLeon believes corrections officials took those steps to prevent the food strike from spreading, Gonzalez said.

“Several inmates have indicated to DOC staff that they are refusing meals,” Tristan Cook, department communications director, said in a statement.

“DOC will continue to evaluate and monitor the situation to ensure the health and safety of inmates,” Cook said.

In Wisconsin, the maximum term of what the department calls “disciplinary segregation” is generally one year, and can be imposed only for certain offenses, under new rules that took effect in January.

Inmates who use “disruptive, destructive, or out of control behavior” while confined to disciplinary segregation can be moved to “controlled segregation,” which is more restrictive. After an initial 72-hour placement, that time can be extended. But the inmate’s conduct must be reviewed every 24 hours, according to the rules.

As of March 31, 827 Wisconsin prisoners were being held in restrictive housing, compared with 1,128 on the same date in 2014.

The rally in support of the striking inmates drew around 70 people to Clas Park, near the northwest corner of W. Wells and N. 9th streets, just south of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

The speakers included former Wisconsin inmates who said they spent portions of their sentences in solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement is often used as punishment for what Alan Schultz and Carl Fields characterized as relatively minor prison rule violations.

A lengthy stay in solitary confinement can be disorienting and can lead to symptoms associated with mental illnesses, Fields said.

“They’re sending a lot of people home with these types of conditions who didn’t have them previously,” he said.

The rally was organized by groups that include WISDOM, a statewide coalition of faith leaders and activists.

WISDOM wants the Legislature to place a limit on the use of solitary confinement and to recognize the United Nations standard that considers more than 15 days in solitary confinement to be torture.

The group also wants an oversight board, independent of the Department of Corrections, to monitor the conditions and use of solitary confinement; an immediate transition to less restrictive housing for inmates who’ve been in solitary confinement for more than a year; and proper mental health facilities and treatment for all who have been in solitary confinement.

Department officials “cannot be allowed to believe they can get away with this forever,” said Chance Zombor, a former inmate.

Authored by Tom Daykin of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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