Menard Prison Hunger Strike Enters Third Week as Inmates Continue to Protest Conditions

Categories: Crime

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Katherine Baskin/Wikimedia
Menard Correctional Center
A hunger strike by several inmates at the Menard Correctional Center in Illinois is entering its third week today as they continue to protest against being held in the prison's severe "administrative detention" unit, which has conditions similar to solitary confinement, for what they claim are unjustifiable reasons.

The protest originally started with fourteen inmates. But that number has decreased to eleven, according to Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Schaer, who says the prison has medical staff monitoring the striking inmates daily.

The inmates claim they have not been told why they are being held in Menard's AD unit. They also claim to have not been told what they can do to get out of the unit and back into general population. According to writer and activist Staughton Lynd, who has been in contact with the inmates through letters and a third party, such detention is against the law.

"The Supreme Court says that in order to put anyone in indefinite solitary confinement, you must give them notice, you must give them reasons, and you must given them some sort of hearing or opportunity to respond to the allegations," Lynd tells Daily RFT.

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

Inmates being held in the segregation units are limited to five hours of exercise per week, one phone call per month, all meals must be eaten inside their cell, no-contact visits, and "limited movement in general," according to Schaer.

Being held in such conditions requires due process, Lynd says, and the inmates decision to go on hunger strike is their best course of action given the circumstances.

"What the prisoners are doing is justified; what the prison is doing is unconstitutional and is a violation of what was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court," Lynd says.

However, the IDOC insists the inmates have been given adequate information about their detention and what they need to do to get out.

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Tim Pearce on flickr
"The allegations are false," says Schaer. "The prisoners striking have been told why they're there and have been given the appropriate information."

During the two weeks of the hunger strike, the prison continues to deny all of the inmates' accusations, which have included inadequate heat and no access to mental-health professionals, in addition to the claims that they have not been told why they have been placed in the extra-confinement units.

One of the striking inmates says the prison is punishing him for his prison activism and that his prolonged detention in solitary-like conditions is "retaliation" for his work.

Joseph Hauschild, one of the inmates on hunger strike, says in a letter to the Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago that he has been placed in the AD unit for "retaliation" for his prison activism.

After being released into the general population of the prison in August 2012 after a prolonged stay in an extra-confinement unit, Hauschild writes: "I was immediately harassed and retaliated against by prison staff because of my grievances and litigation and ended up being set up and written four fraudulent tickets. Three of the tickets I beat and were expunged off my record, and one ticket I was found guilty and is currently on appeal."

In order to get placed in the administrative detention unit, an inmate needs to have "broken a rule," says Schaer, but that's not limited to acts of violence; inmates can be placed in AD for vandalism or insubordination. Schaer says he is unauthorized to comment on the reasons for the striking inmates' placement in the AD or segregation units.

See also: Dirty Illinois Sheriff Resentenced to Life in Prison

Lynd says that the prison has "vaguely hinted" at beginning proceedings to discuss why the inmates have been placed in the extra-confinement units, but nothing formal has begun. He also says that the inmates were allowed two of their smaller demands: more cleaning supplies and individual coats.

But Schear denies any talks have begun or demands were met. Rather, he says, the prison has begun documenting when cleaning supplies are handed out and the extra coats handed to a few of the inmates was an individual act by a prison employee, not a decision made by the prison. He adds that there were already enough coats for each inmate, but they are sometimes get shared because coats aren't allowed in cells.

"There has been no conversation and no actions because no conversation or actions are necessary," he says.

Although it appears to be the prison's word versus the inmates', one thing is clear: Two weeks without food is dangerous. According to this, the decomposition phase sets in after ten days. Muscle mass deteriorates, lethargy and confusion set in, and "if no food is consumed then a critical accumulation of toxic components of metabolism substances builds up, leading to death from liver and kidney damage and brain toxins."

California inmates who were detained in similar solitary-like conditions made headlines last year when they went on a mass hunger strike for two months. It initially began with 30,000 inmates refusing to eat and ended with 10 inmates. Scores were hospitalized for malnutrition during the course of the strike.

Follow Ray Downs on Twitter:

E-mail him at Ray.Downs@RiverfrontTimes.com.


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21 comments
Doug Bishop
Doug Bishop

Listen, they can eat if they want to. Food is provided 3 times a day.

Dana Catalano
Dana Catalano

Chuck Holmen so glad this place is no longer in your life!

Cat Blade
Cat Blade

Ah hello Internet. I see that stupidity breeds stupidity. There is no clear cut solution. Are these people in prison for rehabilitation purposes or are they there to be tortured for their crimes? One begs the question - are criminals born or are they groomed? Does going to prison at least once harden a person and push them further into the embrace of criminal behavior? Unsure. But what is the goal? That's all that matters. Is the goal to keep them locked up and make them suffer or to rehabilitate them? Some people need prison - if it's a good prison. The structure, the environment, the discipline, and even the educational opportunities. People are able to rehabilitate if given proper surroundings. But if rehab is not the goal, then I suppose there is no point in fixing the prison's surroundings. However, that said, perhaps the prison should advertise itself as a hellish place that is definitely a means of punishment and nothing more. It shouldn't advertise rehab if it simply hardens criminals only to eventually let them back out into the world with even bigger chips on their shoulders, having gained nothing from the tax dollars spent. There can't be a solution until they establish an overall goal for their prisoners. If you want to make them suffer, then make that the goal. If you want to rehab them, then make *that* the goal.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Two words; fuck them. Prison activist=pain in the ass, they should beat them on the kidneys with long sticks while they are not eating. The fucks.

De Lusion Al
De Lusion Al

menard is dirty and corrupt..I have many friends who have done time there...trust me this is not new behavior from these pigs..

Shawn Baldwin
Shawn Baldwin

That's making the grand assumption that every mistreated prisoner was a violent offender. But that aside, I disagree - I think there are plenty of average people who make poor, impulsive choices and still deserve dignity. Not everyone arrested for a violent crime is a sociopath; plenty are just like you or I, only they found themselves in circumstances we've yet to experience.

Diane Highley Kleb
Diane Highley Kleb

I say let them starve.....its their choice not to eat,just like it was their choice to commit a crime that put them there in the first place...to many frikin bleeding hearts these days...

Chris McDaniel
Chris McDaniel

Good, donate the surplus food to a foodbank. Thanks, lowlifes!

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas

when you violently tale away somebody elses human rights you forfeit yours

Gary Ely
Gary Ely

Eithor the east house or west houseww. Those are the larger cells there.

Lauren Rinker
Lauren Rinker

I'd make them sign a form acknowledging receipt of information. Other than, if they choose not to eat that's their problem. It's like a child threatening to hold their breath.

Shawn Baldwin
Shawn Baldwin

Prisons aren't exactly known for being incorruptible and besides that, never trust those in power. I stand with the inmates; I have very few doubts that prison officials would lock a prisoner up just because they were a pain in the ass. And while these people have been locked up due to various crimes, it doesn't mean they are without human rights.

RayDowns
RayDowns

@BinyominS If you can put me in touch with the chaplain, please do. ray.downs@riverfronttimes.com

ladypipeliner68
ladypipeliner68

yes menard was Death row until it was abolished.and then they started putting people there that dont deserve to be in maxium security...i have a friend there that doesnt belong there.He got a D.U.I. it was his 5th he never had a accident or killed any one and they threw him there for 45 yearts.because thats how they get there money they r paid for every inmate they have..but why is he put among murders and child molesters..thats a screwed up system if u ask me ....



BinyominS
BinyominS

@RayDowns Rabbi Mendel Scheiman 618-305-3280 I think he will as least one of the men on the hunger strike

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