Report from Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) on the lockdown at Stillwater Prison.
By Joanna Nuñez
The lockdown at Stillwater Prison is now in its 27th day. As families and prisoners demand an end to the lockdown the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is releasing audio from inside Stillwater prison to showcase the urgency of the lockdown’s immediate end and to expose the lies being spread by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC). The audio, shared by Stillwater inmate Tony, last name removed due to concerns for retaliation, was received on August 11th.
This audio interview – along with other independent reports from prisoners in Stillwater – document human rights violations, the power of the media’s impact in changing conditions inside, and, as Stillwater prisoner Carlos Smith says, that the “[DOC] spokesperson is not being truthful.”
Multiple independent reports from prisoners contradict the claims made by the DOC in an August 10th statement to KSTP. A DOC representative said prisoners are receiving “showers every 3 days and were given hygiene bags as well as fresh linens”. Yet, prisoners report not having received more than three showers in 24 days of being locked down. Nor have Smith or Tony received clean clothes. Smith shared, “Our clothes are mildewed because we have only had the chance to wash them once in the last 24 days.”
Conditions inside Stillwater sound nightmarish. A prisoner who wishes to remain anonymous reports “the stench in the units from the garbage is gagging. Fruit flies are abundant and everywhere. Toiletries are not passed out daily. Some days you find yourself having to ask your neighbors for toilet paper… [which] is prohibited”.
During lockdowns prisoners are supposed to be in cells a brutal twenty three hours a day. Yet Tony reports they were “locked in their cells…for 20 days straight” without proper medical supervision, and when displaced for searches prisoners were surrounded by staff “with automatic weapons and several canines”.
A prisoner who wishes to remain anonymous says he “can’t stand by and allow the DOC to lie to the public, bolstering their own image to request more money off my pain and suffering. I am paying my dues to society and now the DOC’s the one victimizing me for their own personal gain.” He asks that “[you] report the truth to the public. Open their eyes to our plight and the problem of warehousing over reintegration.”
Some prisoners see progress being forced by stories in the news, including their first hour out of their cells during the day. “A lot of change has occurred as people understand what is going on inside the prisons [from the TV]” Tony reports.
The DOC says they are “transitioning off of lockdown” but it is “a process without a definitive end date.” Prisoners and their families are not willing to wait. The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is circulating a petition demanding the DOC immediately end the lockdown at Stillwater. IWOC is calling for an emergency meeting this Sunday at 7pm for family and friends of prisoners in Stillwater to end the lockdown. “The DOC is preventing prisoners from speaking out so we will do whatever is necessary to make their conditions heard”, says Joanna Nuñez of the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.