Horrible Treatment at Columbia CI

Columbia CI staff after assaulting Kuan Barnett in October 2018

by Christopher Dawson at Columbia CI.

The way staff at Columbia CI (CCI) treat us with such disrespect is out of control. One will never actually know how we get treated without being here in real life to see for yourself. I’ve been in CCI for over 2 years now out of the 9 years I’ve been incarcerated. This is the worst I’ve ever seen. The staff will lie to you or to the higher-ups when brought to their attention. They will yell at you as if you are some animal and not a person, even if you’re not in the wrong and they are. It’s their way or nothing, like it or not, right or wrong. They do not care. They have the worst communication skills I’ve ever experienced in my entire life, not only in prison but EVER.

Guards go out of their way to make it hard for us. They abuse their power in so many ways. The things they do are so confusing to us, but who are we to try to ask a question?? All we get is total disrespect and told in an aggressive tone “GO LOCK IN NOW”. 

A few months ago, my brother was sent to health service unit (HSU) by a sergeant who claimed he was under the influence of something. They searched his cell, found nothing. They took vitals, strip searched him and gave him a urine analysis, and he passed. Still, they sent him to segregation pending investigation. After 9 days of not hearing anything and being punished for no reason, he began having suicidal thoughts. He told staff all day he was going to self harm. Time after time, staff ignored his request to speak to psychological services unit (PSU). He then did cut himself and needed to be taken to HSU and be treated. Only then did he get to speak to PSU and only then did they listen to him that he was not even supposed to be in segregation. They let him out. It took him breaking down mentally and harming himself after being ignored several times to be heard. It just isn’t right. The officer working that day should have been questioned as to why he ignored my friend, but he didn’t. Nothing happens to officers when they violate work rules. 

Staff here also fabricate documents and violate our due process. This unit manager named Donna McMartin, she has falsified a lot of documents. It was proven, complaints were filed and affirmed and two inmates were given back their jobs after they proved she lied on government documents. Do you think anything happened to her?? No. If you look at the bigger picture she committed a federal offense by knowingly falsifying those government documents. Day after day these people break work rules and laws and nothing happens. I’ve been denied medical treatment due to a doctor here that had his personal religion interfere with my issues. He is now gone and I’m waiting to see another provider this week. 

Unit Manager McMartin

It’s just stressful and frustrating when you have people against us that control us. There is a sergeant here that said in front of a few people and another officer that he does not care if he knows McMartin is lying, he is going to side with her. That is horrible work ethics, but does anything happen to him?? Absolutely not. Let me lie to one of them about even the smallest thing and I get wrote up. I lose phone time or rec or even sometimes get sent to segregation.

We just need someone to speak for us because our voices get ignored. We literally get rushed to shower, rushed to eat. It’s to the point we have to scarf our food down because we can’t bring our food back to our cell and we don’t get our 20 minutes to eat. I’ll come out and specifically point to the clock and tell the guard it’s 11:55. At 12:02 they will be telling us: “your 20 minutes is over, go to our cell or you will be crossed off the phone list or rec list or receive a conduct report.” The guard will not even speak up to what he knows is right. 

I’ve asked to be moved to another institution, any institution, but was denied. 

I was sent to segregation back in August of 2020 for “soliciting an employee” because I asked her to put in a good word to the for a job. I was in segregation with no property, no fresh air and it was nearly 95 degrees. I was laying there just sweating, no hygiene or anything. They don’t give you anything except papers and your glasses. I’ve sat in seg for weeks waiting to get deodorant or chap-stick. You often wait up to a week for your meds to get transferred down there. 

Come to find out, this officer was having a relationship with another incarcerated person, and security was aware of it because on 8-23-2020 they conducted a cell search after someone told them she was bringing drugs to that guy. During the search they found drugs and weapons and two letters from the officer to the captive, signed by her. Even after finding it, they allowed the officer to come back into the institution. 


That put me in harm’s way immediately and I suffered from it because, in an attempt to cover up her relationship with the guy who got caught with her letters, she wrote me the conduct report and sent me to segregation. I filed a unilateral review, and the conduct report was eventually  dismissed by the warden. All of this could have been prevented had they not allowed that officer to return back to work after they found those letters. The DOC internal affairs spoke with me about this issue and tried to get me to provide information on this officer because, in one of the discovered letters, she wrote that “I might have to write you a conduct report to hide what we have going on because I think people are catching on.” That may not be word for word but it was very close to that. They knew she would do whatever she had to in order to cover up what she had to do. I fell victim to their negligence and failure to protect me. 

Being here these past two-plus years has beat me down mentally. I haven’t been offered a single program to help with my anger or other programs I need. Yet I’m held accountable for every single thing I do wrong and things the next guy does wrong. How am I being rehabilitated?? When being locked up for almost a decade I haven’t been offered a single program the judge said I needed. Is that acceptable to anyone?? The judge sentenced me and said the only place I can get the help I need and the programs are in prison. Yet here I sit 9 years later with none. 

It’s so stressful being here in CCI, it’s a hassle to get what you have coming. It’s an everyday fight with yourself worrying if you’re going to get popped out for a shower or a phone call when your turn comes or out to eat or for rec or for any other reason. I’m mentally beat. It’s a complete mess here and it’s stressful for every one held here. If you sent out a survey an asked about the way this prison is ran or the way we get treated you wouldn’t receive a single survey that is acceptable or in agreement. None of us deserve to be treated like this, the judge did not sentence us to be treated like this no matter what we did to come to prison. I think a big problem is the staff where trained wrong, they dont understand how to operate an institution. They don’t have the training to handle situations that occur on the daily. They are not taught any communication skills. 

I wake up in fear every single day that staff are going to retaliate against me, fabricate conduct reports against me or even worse, harm me. I’ve went as far as writing the governor. I’ve had my family call up here numerous times about an ongoing issue I’m having here about a staff member threatening me an attempting to intimidate me because a medical issue I’m having. A court ordered a slight change to the way he wants to run things to accommodate this issue. 

How do we learn to better ourselves or our actions if these are the type of people that are in charge of us?? It doesn’t have to be us against them, they make it clear they are in fact against us and anything that we enjoy. The staff are biased and have certain people they target or just don’t like, so they give us a hard time. Where is our equal protection?? 

How do we get change?? How do we get treated as a human being?? The DOC calls prisoners “pioc” or “persons in our care.” I don’t feel like a person in their care, I feel like a piece of shyt that they don’t care about. From staff misconduct, horrible mental help, way below acceptable medical treatment and just cruel treatment all together. How do we get help?? Tell me what I need to do. If you have any ideas please let me know. Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have a direction to point me in for any help that can be offered please do. 

Always true, 
Mistreated and mentally abused 

Christopher Dawson
Columbia CI
PO BOX 900
Portage, WI 53901

This article was sent to us by Chris from inside CCI, WI prison system.

To read other ABOLISHmke articles by currently incarcerated people, follow the “from inside” tag.

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