How the DOC is turning GBCI into a Supermax

Cell extraction team in Green Bay CI’s Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU). Video still from Wisconsin Watch, 2017.

By Mattew McAfee

I’d like to discuss how GBCI is being turned into the new supermax of Wisconsin.

How is that you ask?

Well the new renovations of the cages they keep us locked in for this is not a house, room, place, cell, or any other odd terms they use to describe the living conditions they lock us up to die in. Though most of us will be getting out, people like me who have to live in here every day, till our last breath—it is a living hell.

These new cells are approximately 7′ high, 9′ long & 5′ wide, and that’s with nothing inside them. This is even less than the old cells with everything kept in the old cells.

GBCI has all this taxpayer money, and they are using it to renovate the cages to control use more and make every cage solitary confinement. This will be the hole all for everyone—24/7, 365–without ending.

In the south cell hall, every cage has the following:

A desk with 3 cubby holes to hold personal property which is a must for writing, drawing, cooking, and whatever else you may need it for.

A cabinet to hold hygiene, canteen, legal work, personal confidential things that you want to be kept safe from prying eyes, which would include everyone from COs to your own cell mates. It has a combination lock, for which you and the officers have access to the combination. The top can be used as a shelf as well.

An additional shelf to hold books, canteen, paperwork, clothes, or hobby and personal property.

A bed that one can move to more thoroughly clean the cell up.

A sink, which has many uses, including cooking our food (since hot pots were taken away, so we need to soak our food in hot water in the packages), washing our personal clothes, (soaking & washing since we have no wash machines and can’t send out our laundry), taking bird baths a must for basic hygiene (due to one shower a week or two once off lock down), cleaning our cells from the filth that is collected everyday (from working out & sweating, dust, crumbs from food since we have to eat all our meals in he cages, to spills of anything we have from hobby stuff to canteen).

A toilet which is a must to flush our bodily waste.

A light bulb naked from a lamp shade but better than what is to come since, at least as of right now, we can control whether it is on or off.

An outlet to plug two cords in which isn’t enough since extension cords were taken away. We need both extension cords and multi-adapters for all the things we use, such as electric razors, typewriters, TVs, radios, tablets, alarm clocks, fans. 6′ cords are insufficient. Even the coaxial TV cable isn’t long enough.

A black board to hang pictures to keep us sane. 

Many of us have pictures of our families, while others have photos of women. The DOC has a perverse interest in controlling so much of our lives that they even want to regulate our sexuality / sexual urges. They seem to believe that if they simply remove our ability to see or even think about women while we are in here, we will simply lose interest in sex entirely. In place, they have set extreme rules against the showing of any female body part within these walls. This level of control they are constantly exerting over us, particularly with regard to our sexual desires, is disturbing to say the least.

Single cell layouts look like that, while in double cells, there are bunk beds and an extra locker—a metal foot locker, similar to those found in military barracks.

So what’s the layout of the new cages?

Remove everything that I just explained and picture a single metal segregation unit toilet-sink combo, this as opposed to the two separate porcelain units—like many have in their homes today. Add a bed or bunk bed pushed to the wall, next to the toilet, and secured to the floor. On the end of the bed, there is a single shelf welded to the frame.

That is the space we are expected to live in, and there are many problems with this:

  1.  Breathing in the open water of the toilet.
  2.  No privacy, especially having a cellmate, since the bed is next to the toilet.
  3. Can’t cook, clean, wash up anything in these new units.
  4. Collects dangerous bacteria, because of this new layout.
  5. Timed flushes—can flush once every 5 minutes. If one tries to flush more than once, then the toilet is shut off and the ability to flush again won’t be restored until one manages to get a guard to come and reset the unit, which can take hours. Thus one has to breathe their bodily waste, or worse, someone else’s. 
  6. The sinks are useless—no good even for drinking, since they are very low pressure and build up deposits in the faucet much easier. Furthermore, we can’t wash up, cook, clean, or even perform basic hygienic daily needs.
  7. Can’t protect personal property in lockers, since they have been removed.
  8. Beyond being unable to protect personal property, there is no storage space for any personal or state property.
  9. The lights are now LED, and instead of us being in control of whether they are on or off, there is a built-in night light, which will reduce the capability of getting a restful sleep and severely impact the mental health of people kept in these spaces. This is particularly a cause of concern for anyone who is sensitive to light.
  10. There is no place to write or do hobbies.
  11. Bed space to sleep is even more reduced due to the shelf on the end where your feet would typically rest.
  12. Cleaning the cell is made more difficult, because we will be unable to move the bed.
  13. Unable to hang any in up on the board, because it’s against GBCI policy to hang anything on the walls, further eroding one’s ability to maintain a positive outlook on a negative situation.

And all of this has a serious impact on the relationship of the two people who are being housed together. Disputes could escalate quickly or even turn violent, because we are unable to leave the space and reflect separately.

Then there are the hundreds of other things that can be listed, which would turn into a manual for how to create a monster from a human—using the inhumane treatment on the brink of being conducted throughout this entire facility.

In the north hall, these changes to cell construction have already occurred, and nearly everyone held there is trying to get moved to the south cell hall—knowing still that it’s only a matter of time before there is no escape.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I, and everyone here at GBCI, need you to write your congressman, governor, mayor, president, senator, anyone else who could halt the construction of GBCI. We all are going to see an increase of violence, suicides, and recidivism, due to the treatment we are experiencing.

A few others and myself have written letters to governor Tony Evers, but nothing is being done to stop this—we need you on the outside to act in solidarity with us, to show them that we are not the only ones who care how they are treating us. 

Mattew McAfee

Write to Matt:

Matthew McAfee
GBCI — P.o. box 19033
Green Bay, WI 54307

If you’re not experienced with writing to prisoners, here are some tips.

Note from ABOLISHmke editor: Governor Evers says a lot of things, but means none of them, “The most important thing, yes we have to look at facilities, but we also have to look at the whole issue of criminal justice reform…..Are we putting people in prison when we would be much better to make sure that they get the help they need instead of going to prison.” His refusal to simply expand pardon criteria demonstrates his disregard for incarcerated people, as well as his insistence that we continue to fill these warehouses of human misery. By doing nothing to stop it, he is culpable.

Caption: demonstration outside the Governor’s mansion in December of 2020. 

Please contact Evers and his Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes and demand that they stop putting more money and people into prisons and instead decarcerate Wisconsin, which is what they campaigned on

5 thoughts on “How the DOC is turning GBCI into a Supermax”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: