A judge has rejected a request by a Wisconsin inmate hunger striker to discontinue force feeding as the protest against long-term solitary confinement continues.
The state Department of Corrections is force feeding at least three inmates as a hunger strike aimed at ending a form of solitary confinement that can go on for years — even decades — continues for a third week.
About half a dozen Wisconsin prison inmates have begun refusing food as part of a protest against long-term isolation known as administrative confinement, backers of the protest said Monday.
Colorado’s decision to curtail the use of solitary confinement — which the state of Wisconsin has begun to do — offers lessons for the Badger State that its former prisons chief, Rick Raemisch, is uniquely positioned to offer.
About a dozen Wisconsin prisoners plan to launch a hunger strike beginning next week aimed at ending a form of indefinite solitary confinement that officials use to keep order in the institutions, according to an inmate advocacy group.
Waupun Correctional inmates were not notified for months that Wisconsin had dramatically cut maximum stints in solitary confinement, leading some to agree to longer-than-maximum sentences.
Wisconsin has made a “culture shift” in its use of solitary confinement in prisons, eliminating it as punishment for minor rule infractions and cutting the time inmates spend in isolation for more serious offenses, Department of Corrections officials revealed in an interview granted as part of a legal settlement with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
President Barack Obama called for reduction of solitary confinement during a July 14 address to the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia:
“I’ve asked my Attorney General to start a review of the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons. “The social science shows that an environment like that is often more likely to make inmates more alienated, more hostile, potentially more violent. Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, for months, sometimes for years at a time? That is not going to make us safer. That’s not going to make us stronger.
Billionaire Charles Koch: ‘Reversing overcriminalization and mass incarceration will improve societal well-being’
In a Jan. 7 column for Politico Magazine, billionaire Charles Koch said the United States is paying a “heavy price” for leading the world in incarceration, driving a large number of people into poverty and harming the national economy. “Reversing overcriminalization and mass incarceration will improve societal well-being in many respects, most notably by decreasing poverty,” Koch wrote in the column co-authored with Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden. “Fixing our criminal system could reduce the overall poverty rate as much as 30 percent, dramatically improving the quality of life throughout society — especially for the disadvantaged.”
Former inmate Talib Akbar says years spent in segregation in the Wisconsin prison system took a toll on his mind. Akbar now lives alone in a small RV that he parks around Madison while volunteering for Wisdom, a statewide faith-based group that campaigns against solitary confinement. The drawing Akbar made while confined in a cell at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel was used to help make a mock-up of a typical 6-foot-2-wide, 12-foot-long segregation cell that Wisdom takes to public events to raise awareness about solitary confinement. Akbar, 62, served a 20-year sentence for sexual assault until his release in 2013. He said he has never added up the exact amount of time he spent in solitary.