Hunger strikes protesting solitary confinement proliferate within Wisconsin’s prisons

[Find a current list of hunger strikers and contact information here:

Please call DOC Secretary Jon Litscher at Phone: 608-240-5000 and demand that he meet the hunger striker’s demands.]

by Solitary Torture

Hunger strikes by some state prisoners protesting abuses of solitary confinement at the Waupun Correctional Institute are reportedly spreading to two other state prisons, according to prisoners’ rights advocates.

The Coalition of Prisoner Supporters has also received reports of dozens of hunger strikers at Columbia Correctional Institution, according to a letter from prisoner Robert Ward.  The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has refused to release the number of prisoners involved in the hunger strikes at any of the state prisons.

The so-called “Dying to Live” hunger strikes are an attempt by prisoners to abolish long term solitary confinement in Wisconsin, according to Coalition member Ben Turk of the Milwaukee Industrial Workers of the World. LaRon McKinley-Bey and Ras Uhuru Mutawakkil (state name Norman Green) have drafted a proposal of new rules for DOC’s use of solitary confinement. These rules were delivered to the DOC along with a rally and protest by 20 members of the Coalition of Prisoner Supporters on July 5  at WI DOC central office, according to Turk.

Turk stated that four prisoners at Green Bay Correctional Institute (GBCI) publicly began refusing food on July 13. According to letters from one of the participating prisoners at Columbia, Howard Brown, says staff there has retaliated violently to repress the protest.  Brown’s letter states that on July 14, correctional officer Captain Schultz threatened the hunger strikers, saying “if y’all don’t want me messing with y’all, all y’all got to do is eat, if not, I can make y’all hunger strike a lot harder” (link to letter below).

The next day extraction teams came to force the prisoners out of their cells for refusing medical treatment and not wanting to be split up, according to Brown. Two of the hunger strikers, Kyle Young and Leonte Porter were taken from their cells, beaten, put in restraint chairs and moved to a different section of the prison, their complaint forms are linked below. Two days later, Howard Brown sent another letter stating that both Young and Porter had ended the hunger strike “due to harassment from staff and fear of further harassment.”

The GBCI hunger strikers released a list of 10 grievances, ranging from mail and food tampering by staff, to poor and unsanitary housing conditions, and mental health neglect. In his letters Brown asserts that the guards ignore mental health crises and have stood idly by while prisoners in solitary confinement harm or kill themselves. He says the guards sometimes refuse to transfer people to suicide watch when they request it, and other times send them there against their will as punishment.

Meanwhile, the Dying to Live hunger strike that started on June 5th at Waupun Correctional Institution continues. Earlier this month the Dodge County Circuit Court held hearings to review the temporary force feeding orders granted in mid-June. For at least three of the hunger strikers, Cesar DeLeon, LaRon McKinley-Bey and Ronald Lane, the court authorized the force feeding to continue for six months.

At his July 7 hearing Cesar DeLeon, requested Judge Steven Bauer review video evidence of a June 20 force feeding in which Waupun officer Joseph Beahm, who has over a dozen harassment and abuse complaints filed against him, assisted in the procedure and assaulted him. On July 14 Bauer viewed the video and still approved extending the medical examination and treatment orders.

DeLeon claims that the video was edited by DOC staff to conceal the moment when Officer Beahm attempted to withdraw a water cup that prevents him from choking on the feeding tube as it is being inserted down his nose. The Coalition of Prisoner Supporters state that the video does appear to skip, indicating an edit at that moment.

Attachments and sources:

Letter from Howard Brown describing GBCI hunger strike:

Grievances of GBCI hunger strikers:

Letter from LaRon McKinley-Bey describing tampering with video evidence:

Letter from Robert Ward about hunger strikes at Columbia CI

Leonte Porter complaint: