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

The Jumpsuit Riot

This happened in 2007, it was published earlier this year in:

Prison Action News (Boston Anarchist Black Cross)

Ely State Prison Dec 8, 2008

I am in a maximum security lock up in Ely, Nevada. The event I want to
write you about was a group event, but I would like to mostly write about
my personal action and not others’ involvement.

On March 15th, 2007, in the maximum lock up unit we (inmates) were
notified that we would have to now go by a new rule which was
implemented due to just a couple of inmates actions. The new rule was
that we would have to put on our orange jumpsuits before correctional
officers would open our food slots to serve us our meals, but that we
would have to take our jumpsuits off again before being placed in
handcuffs. This rule was implemented due to a few inmates
masturbating in front of female guards when they would look into cells.
Which most of us do not do or agree with being done, and I personally
would not ever do. The point of what I’m saying is they were trying to
punish us and have us acting like their puppets just for a few inmates’

On March 15th, 2007, I began to refuse my food trays. But, what I would
do is refuse to put on m jumpsuit so they would refuse to open my slot to
give me food. I would tell them I wasn’t refusing my meal but just
refusing to put on my jumpsuit. Then I would file an emergency
grievance for being denied food. I did this for the 3 meals on the 15th.
On March 16th, 2007 I continued this form of food strike. Also, on the
morning of the 16th I pushed a lot of paper out under the door and lit it
on fire, in turn lighting my door on fire. On March 16th at 6:30 pm
count I was sure to cover my window for count (and had my cell set up
so I could fight correctional officers if they came to do a cell extraction.)
A correctional officer opened my slot to look in for count, but could not
see me due to a sheet hanging across the cell. I happened to have a 4
inch piece of sharpened metal in my hand, at which time I rushed around
the sheet and tried to stab the correctional officer in the face, but he had
heard me a second earlier and jumped back as my hand came out of
the slot. The c/o ran to tell the senior, at which time I threw baby oil all
over the tier outside my door – so when the cell extradition team arrived
it would get on the bottom of their boots and I’d have a better chance at a
fight. And yes, I had a weapon, but they also came with eight officers,
chemical agents, tasers, taser shields – so you have to be cunning to
outwit them for a good fight. Well, the cell extraction team came and
with chemical agents (strong pressurized pepper spray) so I got to the
back of the cell up on the bunk, hunched low, with a wet towel over my
nose and mouth, and my shank in the other hand. So, they gave me
commands to cuff and I didn’t say anything so they sprayed an issue of
chemical agents. After ten minutes they opened my slot again and
commanded me to cuff up. I didn’t say anything, so they sprayed more
chemical agents into my cell. But they refused to come into my cell
because I had a weapon, and they didn’t want anything close to a fair
fight. So they posted a CO outside my door on a bucket so my weapon
can’t get out of the cell, and alert the other COs not to open my slot. All
night COs were coming on my intercom speaker talking shit to keep me
awake, and after 6:00 am on March 17th, they started hitting my door to
try to keep me awake. (March 17th 6:00 am I must say changed their
minds and took away and vanquished the new rule). So everybody got
breakfast except me and at this point I had not eaten for 2 1/2 days. But I
still refused to give up my weapon because I wanted a fight. At about
10:00 am the corrections response team was conducting cell searches on
every cell.

Well at this point I’d had it and took down the window covering and told
the c/o’s to come in, and they said they would not as long as I had a
weapon, so I gave them the weapon and told them to come in. They
requested me to take down the sheet covering half of my cell and
uncover and turn on the light. So I did all of this, and they still refused to
perform a cell extraction. The cowards didn’t have the heart to come in
on one unarmed man with any number of them and their gadgets. They
needed to search my cell, but all they would do is keep spraying me with
chemical agents and not come in. Well I figured our fight was won- due
to them taking the rule away and I personally made them show and show
all their cowardly ways in front of everyone. I stripped out, cuffed and
went to shower to wash chemical agents from my body. I wanted to
write about this because it involved many people to stand up on a
combined effort to let them know we wouldn’t stand for something.

And it was a rarity because they actually changed something we wanted
changed. I was just one of many in this fight.

Robert McGuire #83383
Ely State Prison
Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301