On Solitary Confinement by Tommie Carter

An unoccupied cell in the segregation unit at Waupun Correctional Institution. The cells are small, with a narrow window and concrete and steel furnishings. Photo Credit

Dear amerika:

I would like the opportunity to expose the hazardous and unhealthful conditions of confinement in the prisons in the state of Wisconsin and all of its subdivisions; which has created a substantial risk of harm to all mentally ill prisoners, medically ill prisoners, and prisoners who are showing signs of illnesses.

Exculpatory evidence has shown that most prisoners in the state of Wisconsin and other state’s have a very difficult time handling these conditions of extreme social isolation and sensory deprivation. For seriously mentally ill prisoners the conditions can be devastating. Lacking physical and social points of reference to ground them in reality, they run a high risk of breaking down and attempting suicide.

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Resistance, solidarity, and repression in Wisconsin

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Solidarity with the the 2018 prison strike.

Leading up to Milwaukee’s Shut Em Down 2021 mobilization, it’s important to remember that there are rebels and fighters in Wisconsin prisons. We don’t often hear about the kinds of massive strikes, uprisings, and escapes that are tracked at Perilous Chronicle, but that doesn’t mean people are safe or passive within Wisconsin prisons. Part of the Shut’Em Down mobilization in Milwaukee will include holding up the sacrifices and struggles of Wisconsin prison rebels in greater depth, but here is a start.

A brief resistance history 

During the 2020 pandemic, documented resistance to prison increased dramatically, but Wisconsin’s prisons were very effectively locked down. The the DOC put security and control over health and safety. We heard of little direct action other than a brief, staff-assisted escape. Meanwhile, outside solidarity during the pandemic included home demos targeting DOC secretary Kevin Carr and Governor Evers, a COVID Compassion Campaign demanding Evers issue emergency pardons, and body bags dropped on secretary Carr’s lawn. None of these efforts proved effective. The George Floyd marches and the Kenosha uprising also overshadowed the prison crisis for many, while Evers and Carr allowed DOC staff to neglect prevention and punish prisoners for getting sick. More than half of the DOC population were infected, no pardons were granted, and an unknown number of deaths piled up.

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