Since early June, some of the prisoners in Wisconsin’s solitary confinement units have been refusing to accept food, as a protest against their prolonged isolation and inhumane treatment by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). It is extremely difficult to communicate with people in solitary confinement, but many letters have been received and we know that at least two of the inmates have continued their food refusal until now, more than five weeks since they began. We know there are others that have joined in at different times, but getting exact numbers has been impossible as the DOC has refused to provide those.
A central concern of the prisoners is the practice of “Administrative Confinement.” This is a category of solitary confinement that the DOC uses to exempt itself from its own rules. So, while the DOC talks about cutting down on the length of stay in solitary, some people are kept in Administrative Confinement for years and even decades.
On June 17th, the DOC began to get court orders to allow them to force-feed at least four of those who were not eating. The method they have chosen is to force a tube through the person’s nose - a practice, by the way, that was discontinued in Guantanamo Bay because it was deemed to be too brutal. There they use intravenous feeding to force nutrition. Several of the prisoners have said that the force used against them was even in excess of what is necessary for this method, and according to our sources, one of the prisoners was hospitalized due to injuries from the procedure. It is worth noting that force feeding of prisoners has been prohibited by the World Medical Association since 1975.
On Thursday, July 14, at 11 am there will be a hearing in a Dodge County courtroom. The judge learned that there is videotape of the way that guards were dealing with one of the prisoners, Cesar DeLeon. The judge has demanded that all parties, and the video, be brought to court.
Today, we are asking you to take one very specific action: Please call your State Senator and your State Assembly representative – you can find their information HERE - and say:
“I am very worried about the way Wisconsin prisoners are being treated. Please contact the DOC immediately to tell them you are very concerned about the abuse of the prisoners who have been refusing food. And, please ask the DOC why Administrative Confinement does not follow the rules set for others in Solitary Confinement. And, please insist that they make meaningful changes NOW.”
If a lot of us make that brief phone call, it can help bring to light what has been very, very hidden.
If you wish to learn a lot more about the specific issue of Administrative Confinement, and if you would like to be part of a long-term project to help force a change in the rules governing Solitary Confinement, please contact our good friend Peg Swan, at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has a long-term plan and would love to have some help.
Finally, for those in the Milwaukee area: Please mark your calendar for Thursday, August 11, from 6-8 pm. We will be holding an event called “Thirsting for Justice.” It will lift up the issues of Old Law Parole, Compassionate Release, Crimeless Revocations, Solitary Confinement, and Contaminated Water in some of our prisons. We will also be collecting bottled water that evening to deliver to prisoners whose drinking water is unsafe.