DOC misleading public about new commissary monopoly

A Union Supply warehouse.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In February of 2021, the Wisconsin prison system (DOC) decided to reduce companies providing commissary to incarcerated people from three to one. As we previously reported, the company they chose is Union Supply. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article about this upcoming change. Malik, who is incarcerated at Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), sent us the following response to what MJS has published. We have added a couple notes and hyperlinks to sources, to expand on what Malik discusses.

By Malik (Touissant Harley)

This is concerning the article: Prisons plan to switch to one vendor for personal items this fall. Advocates say it’s a bad deal for inmates and their families By: Laura Schulte and Hope Karnopp, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published 8:00 a.m. CT Aug. 2, 2021

As usual, rather than be forthright & truthful, the Wisconsin prison system (DOC), via their mouthpiece John Beard, is spewing lies, half truths & omitting significant information about this vendor situation. One key thing in the Journal Sentinel article is Beard’s statement about there being a “security” issue with having Marcus as a vendor because our people can go to the store & purchase items. In essence, he’s suggesting that our people & Marcus staff will conspire to put contraband in the products.

[NOTE: JL Marcus has objected vigorously to the policy change. They asked customers to sign an online petition, which has gathered nearly 4,500 signatures at time of publishing this article. We also recently learned that Union Supply does not accept oversees orders or credit cards.]

What he’s saying is the good (I’m assuming they’re predominately white) workers employed by Union Supply would never do such a thing. What makes them beyond reproach? The flat out truth of the matter is it’s about that paper . . . MONEY! Union provided the cheapest bid, period!

[NOTE: In addition, the Wisconsin DOC receives a 10% kickback on all sales from Union Supply, as reported by the Journal Sentinel in this article: “Under the state’s contract with Union Supply, the corrections department gets a 10% commission on every item purchased.”]

Union already takes over a month to ship items, so to be the sole vendor will definitely slow shipping, despite having hired a few more people. They sell us off brand, outdated, out of stock items, cheaply made inferior products that are over priced & the DOC continues to demonstrate they don’t give a damn because they’re getting some of that MONEY.

John Beard, DOC Communications Director

Their objective is to obviously financially enrich whites. Where is Union’s warehouse that’s located in Wisconsin? What’s the racial make-up of those employees compared to the location/make-up of Marcus & its employees? The DOC’s staff are predominantly white, of course, while the captives are predominantly non-white, of course! Who benefits the most financially from mass imprisonment? Whites of course, especially in Wisconsin. Naturally “they” will say race has nothing to do with this situation, even though Wisconsin is amongst the top racist states in the country, with one of the most racist judicial systems in the country, YET, race NEVER seems to be a factor!?

A map of where union supply’s fulfillment centers are located—Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Texas.

It never ceases to amaze me how these people in these air conditioned offices profess to know what’s best, ON EVERY level, for those of us living, surviving, being warehoused & dying in these boxes, cages, & rooms. Beard would never venture from prison to prison, introducing himself & having conversations with us about these, & other, major issues. Neither has nor will governor Evers, lt governor Mandela Barnes, DOC secretary Kevin Carr, DAI administrator Sarah Cooper, parole chair John Tate II… & I wonder why?

[NOTE: this commissary change came in after the promotion of Sarah Cooper to head of the division of adult institutions. You can contact her at sarah.cooper@wisconsin.gov, to voice your objection to the policy change. Be sure to cc her boss, DOC secretary Kevin Carr: kevin.carr@wisconsin.gov]

The vendor issue is just one more, of many, that we’re forced to contend with. The DOC uses language such as “PERSONS IN OUR CARE” to describe their sentiments towards us.  Ain’t that a bitch!!!! When it comes to decisions that impact us in every possible way, they don’t involve us, they don’t ask for our suggestions, they don’t include us in the decision making process, YET they CARE?!?! The health “care” system is deadly, yet they “care”. Many prisons have ventilation/water systems that have & continue to cause major health issues & deaths, YET they “care”!?! The DOC gangsters 100% of some prisoner’s money, forcing them to either live like hobos, under their  “care” or be involved in some type of rule violations for basic NEEDS, YET, they “care”?!? WSPF is probably the only prison that Carr/Cooper approves of NOT having courtesy curtains when we use the bathroom or are showering, YET, they care?!? It is outright disrespectful & disgraceful that they’ve invested in such a PR stunt to promote that phrase, & yet don’t live by it. 

[NOTE: Unfortunately, staff watching people shower is more widespread than Malik is aware of. There had long been issues with guards watching people shower and use the bathrooms at Oshkosh Correctional, though we have recently been told by prisoners we know there that this issue has been resolved. Forum for Understanding Prisons has documented countless examples of abuse and humanitarian violations in the Wisconsin prison system: solitary confinement, medical neglect, retaliation, racism, extortion, sexual assault are all ongoing common practices of Wisconsin DOC staff. Here’s one summary report on torture practices. ]

I can go on, at length, about the conspicuous oxymoron of them using the term “CARE” related to how they feel about us, & I’m sure Beard & the rest of them would provide a plethora of illogical rationals as a “reaction” to what I’ve said. However, they know what time it is. I’ve been held captive for thirty years straight, so I know how they function. I’ve lived through the breakdown of the system & have witnessed how much more dysfunctional, diabolical, corrupt, power hungry & racist they’ve become. I assure you, I’ve learned more about inhumanity, the criminal mindset, immorality, etc., from prison staff & administrators than I did when I was out.

M A L I K

8-3

You can write to Malik at:

Touissant Harley*
#241861
Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
Po Box 1000
Boscobel, Wi 53805

*address envelopes to Touissant Harley and letters to Malik.

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

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