Locked-Up in "High Security Unit" and Not Told Why, Prisoners Hunger Strike for Answer

Categories: Crime

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Katherine Baskin/Wikimedia
Menard Correctional Center
Inmates at an Illinois prison say they don't know why they are being held in a new high-security unit that is infested with mice, filth, and freezing cold temperatures, so they've decided to go on a hunger strike to protest the conditions. But the prison denies the poor conditions and says the inmates are lying to seek attention.

At the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois, about 60 miles southeast from St. Louis, fourteen inmates began a hunger strike on January 15. According to Tom Schaer, the Illinois Department of Corrections spokesperson, thirteen inmates have remained on the hunger strike as of Monday, January 19.

Letters from inmates sent to the Chicago-based Uptown People's Law Center and given to Daily RFT, describe the high security administrative detention unit as a cesspool of filth with no hot water or heat where inmates are isolated and prevented from access to mental health treatment programs. They have been there for about three months now.

"There are mice just running wild," writes inmate Michael Williams. "They have 20 guys using one pair of fingernail clippers with no cleaning in between uses, there is absolutely no mental health screening or evaluation, nor do any mental health staff even make rounds."

Most importantly for the inmates is that they say they have not been told the reason for their placement in the special unit.

"They won't tell anybody why they are in Administrative Detention, let alone give them an informal hearing to contest the undisclosed allegations," Williams writes.

Inmate Joseph Hauschild suspects he was placed in the special unit as punishment for filing several grievances and lawsuits against the Illinois Department of Corrections.

"I'm a jailhouse lawyer," he writes. "And [I] file/help other prisoners with their grievances and lawsuits. Because of that I was retaliated against and transferred to Menard and placed in the High Security Unit under Administrative Detention."

Williams is also a sort of "jailhouse lawyer," and in his letter he writes that while being transferred to Menard from another prison, his personal property was "allegedly lost," including three boxes of trial transcripts and legal research material.

See also: Former Prison Guard Pleads Guilty To Contracting Hit On Wife's Ex-Husband

Brian Nelson, prison rights coordinator for the Uptown People's Law Project, says the inmates have filed grievances asking for clarification about why they are placed there, but have not received any response. He also says that inmates filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get more information, but that request was denied.

"They want something in writing of how long they're there, why they're there," Nelson says. "They're not asking to be pampered or anything. They just want basic rights like the rest of the prisoners have."

But Schaer, the IDOC's spokesperson, says that the inmates' allegations are "utter lies."

Click on the next page to read why Schaer thinks the prisoners are lying...

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9 comments
Greg McDaniels
Greg McDaniels

After working in the Missouri prison system for a year, I can say this is something many inmates in higher security do. They claim the conditions are horrible, everything else they had claimed in here. It's not true. It shouldn't be a surprise. The problem with Bradley Hardins argument is a lot of prisoners are not treated great but I don't believe it is a direct result of recidivism rates or how they act when they get out. In all reality, they act far worse inside than most would if they were on the streets. Scary really.

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

yeah? well they have health insurance, the poor in Mo. don't...

Mark Nolan
Mark Nolan

if they want Holiday Inn they should have chosen that path, its not intended to be comfortable

Matt Burkey
Matt Burkey

Prisoners or not, someone should still look into this. We don't know who these people are or why they are locked up so dont judge, everyones got a story. & this isnt nazi germany. those certain things they arent getting are just about the only comforts they will get in prison

Deb Woods
Deb Woods

The problem is if you listen to prisoners EVERYONE in prison is innocent. I just wish the ones who ARE GUILTY would man up & take it so the limited resources available could go towards the TRULY INNOCENT. It sucks!

Suzie Shepherd
Suzie Shepherd

Meanwhile in nursing homes, the elderly and handicapped are laying in their own urine and not getting any attention at all. Something has to change. We watch prisoners like a hawk and give them basic needs, yet the people that need attention the most aren't getting it. So sad.

Laura Beard King
Laura Beard King

putting this on high priority! right after world hunger. ::)

Christopher Arnel
Christopher Arnel

If u don't wanna live in these conditions... DONT GO TO PRISON!!!

RG Hillyard
RG Hillyard

Awww, they are criminals, give them an extra blanket and tell them to STFU

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