Filed under: Action, Incarceration, Labor, Midwest, Political Prisoners
Submitted to It’s Going Down
Since the first week of June, prisoners who have been refusing food to protest the use and abuse of solitary confinement, continue to protest despite force feeding by the DOC. Outside supporters have called for a day of action on July 5th. Starting at 7:45 AM, supporters will set up a picket at the DOC central office. They plan to remain until Secretary Jon Litscher sets a date for a meeting with them and the protesting prisoners to negotiate policy changes.
The hunger strike began on June 5th at Waupun Correctional Institution, Wisconsin’s oldest prison with a well documented history of prisoner harassment and abuse by staff. According to prisoners, dozens participated initially. The DOC responded by transferring people to other facilities, deepening their isolation, dividing the group, delaying and/or restricting mail, and refusing any efforts to communicate. Then, on June 17th, the DOC began force feeding the prisoners a nutritional drink through a tube inserted down their nose. This is an incredibly painful and dangerous process, which has been condemned by the American Medical Association and the Red Cross.
“Both of my nostrils are injured from the tube. I been spitting blood. My nostrils are so swelling from tube-feeding that I can’t even breathe through them.” hunger striker Cesar DeLeon said in a letter dated June 22.
Outside supporters have been demanding that the DOC negotiate with the prisoners to step down from using long term solitary confinement. These practices are considered torturous by the United Nations. Other states in the US, like New York and Colorado have discontinued them. The supporters are now calling for a mobilization and picket at WI DOC central office for July 5th. Employees will return from their holiday weekend to a day of protest and pressure outside their office. Supporters are planning a variety of demonstrations and activities and welcoming people to join and participate at any time over the course of the day. They will send updates via social media using #endsolitarytortureWI.
Prisoners believe the DOC chose to force feed as a way to break the strike, not out of medical necessity. Seven days without food does not pose as much health risk as force feeding by unfriendly medical staff. At first, the force feedings were occurring two or three times a day, but medical examiners discontinued that regimen after seeing the damage it was causing and recognizing that the force feedings were providing sustenance and didn’t need to be done three times a day. Some of the prisoners have also accepted electrolyte rich sport drinks to combat dehydration, or have accepted taking the nutritional supplement orally. It is unclear at this time how many prisoners are refusing what kind of food. All the information that supporters receive is from prisoner correspondence, which is often delayed. The DOC has not substantively answered inquiries from supporters, journalists, or lawmakers.
However many or few prisoners are refusing food, whether they tolerate being force fed repeatedly or have accepted food under duress, they still continue to protest the use of solitary confinement. Dozens of prisoners in Wisconsin live every day in resistance to this practice, and their supporters on the outside will continue to fight with them against Wisconsin DOC’s reliance on torture until the DOC relents.