Medical Neglect: Guards at GBCI Kill Prisoner

Cell block at GBCI.

[update: confirmation from a staff person at GBCI and the Brown County Sheriff’s office that someone did die. The sheriff’s office is doing the routine investigation. Oftentimes, they just talk to staff, so we encouraged them to also talk to people held on the unit, about the medical neglect they witnessed.]

On Thursday May 13th, 2021, guards at Green Bay CI killed an incarcerated man, who’s name we’ve been told was Antonio. At this time, we don’t know much about this person, but have heard the story from friends held there. Our understanding is that he and others on his tier were calling out for him to receive medical attention, but the guards ignored their pleas for help. Antonio died in need of medication.

Despite a lack of information on this particular instance, there is much that we do know because this is far from the first time guards have killed someone by medical neglect. Prison guards are incapable of determining whether or not someone needs medical attention — this is not something they are trained to do, they are not medical professionals. In Wisconsin (as I’m sure is the case in most states), guards are the first contact for prisoners and are given the power to determine the validity of requests. This structure has resulted in too many deaths at the hands of sadistic and uncaring guards.

History of medical neglect

We know details in at least two cases: In March 2019, Bill Leary was killed by staff at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, and in December 2019, Muhammad (Larry) Bracey was killed by staff at Columbia CI. Bill and Muhammad both were in need of immediate medical attention, but neither received it because prison guards were the “first responders” and they did not act. 

Bill’s was the 18th death in 18 years at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. MSDF is a brutal prison in downtown Milwaukee, with a disturbing history of killing prisoners by way of medical neglect, despite its proximity to a hospital. The most recent case of this type was just last year in May 2020.

In Bill’s case, according to CBS58, he had been hospitalized recently for GI bleeding. While at the MSDF, he went to the nurse because he had not been feeling well and was hyperventilating. He then “fell to the cell floor and was flopping around.” They checked his vital signs, which they claim were normal, and left him in his cell. His cellmate said that Bill later fell off the toilet and became unresponsive. There was a note written by Bill, which was taken in as evidence, which read:

Tell Chad that I’m bleeding inside really badly and that HSU is doing nothing for me. They won’t even see, and I was already in the hospital for four days for this shit and when I stand up I get dissy [sic]. 

Bill’s family and long term partner demanded further information and an investigation into what had happened, but the typical lack of transparency that we see with the prison system prevailed. To date, I have yet to find any further information beyond what was released in mid-March 2019 in the days immediately following his death, aside from the fact that some “vandals” did target MSDF in the wake of this incident.

Muhammad Bracey was a devout muslim and an old friend of Forum for Understanding Prisons. Bracey experienced a medical emergency during a particularly harsh lockdown at Columbia CI, which claimed at least two other lives. After two days of calling for medical assistance and being denied, Muhammad Bracey was found dead in his cell.

The sergeant primarily responsible for Bracey’s death was a  “known white racist” identified as “LP,” who was also involved in one of the three assaults that provoked the extended lockdown. He claimed Warden Sue Novak had instructed staff to deny medical requests during the lockdown. This is not hard to believe, given that Warden Novak withheld flu vaccines from prisoners. As a result of Novak’s inhumane treatment of the captives at Columbia CI, FFUP organized protests outside CCI, the DOC headquarters in Madison and Secretary Carr’s house in Glendale calling for her to be fired. Months later, she was replaced during a “warden shuffle;” Secretary Carr said he would not fire Warden Novak, claiming she “did nothing to warrant firing.” We can very clearly see Secretary Carr’s abject disregard for prisoners’ well being, and how this tickles down to the wardens and furthermore to the guards.

FFUP filed records requests. They were unable to get access to Bracey’s medical files, but the shift log described that his body was found kneeling beside the bed in a praying position. Bracey’s family sued the DOC, though we are unaware of the results of this suit. Prisoners on the tier held a memorial for him. 

Staff may have been involved with the memorial; they at least approved it, no doubt trying to make it seem like they care. But they don’t. Their involvement in the memorial, “paying respects” to Bracey, is no different from police who kneeled with protesters last summer and then tear gassed them. Bracey, Leary, Antonio and too many others have died because of the COs hateful disregard for their lives. They are to blame, they do not deserve to mourn.

Biased treatment

It’s well documented that medical professionals treat people of color, women, and fat people worse than others, which is to say, they tend to disregard what the patient is saying, and instead insist that whatever issue they’re experiencing is either non-existent or something entirely unrelated to what it is

Considering these biases, it should come as no surprise that guards approach prisoners’ health concerns similarly, if not worse—especially given the inherently antagonistic relationship that prison guards have with their captives. There is no reason to trust that prison staff will do what they can to help the people they hold captive. Prisoner’s needs are often distrusted or shrugged off.

Though we don’t know much about what specifically happened to Antonio at GBCI, we know enough to see that this is a systemic, statewide and deeply culturally rooted problem, from the highest officials working for the DOC to the lowest of the low, prison guards. We will be following up with records requests and directly contacting the DOC administrative staff both at Green Bay and the administration above them. We don’t expect them to give us any information; they will likely hide behind HIPAA policies to refuse transparency. Nevertheless, we will show them their latest victim will not be swept under the rug or hidden from the public’s view.

Rest in Power, Antonio

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