IDOC Watch Statement and Videos from the ISP Protest 8/25 - and info on ISP's Neo-Nazi guard
This is the brief speech IDOC Watch gave at the recent protest at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Below are links to videos of the protest rally and march, from the Michigan City Social Justice Group's Facebook page.
This week, incarcerated people across the US have launched a nationwide strike to fight prison slavery and the general dehumanization of incarceration. Their demands, including greater rehabilitation services, an end to the legal system’s targeting of black and brown people, and other calls to recognize the rights of prisoners reflect the struggles of incarcerated people across Indiana, even if they are not formally part of the strike. One demand in particular reflects the abuses at Indiana State Prison that bring us out today: the call for “immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned persons.”
ISP, and the entire Indiana Department of Correction as a whole, very clearly doesn’t recognize the humanity of those they incarcerate. People on the inside are treated worse than animals. They’re thrown in cells infested by bedbugs and cockroaches and given moldy, rancid Aramark “food” that is marked “not fit for human consumption”. People are starving because they can’t eat the food without getting sick. And when they do get sick, they get no help. The prison - the people running it and working in it - neglect their medical care and keep them from the healthcare services they need. The building itself is decrepit and unsafe, a danger to our loved ones inside.
On top of all of this, the CO’s and guards harass prisoners, constantly shaking them down, rifling through and censoring their mail - limiting their communication with their comrades and loved ones - and even using racial slurs and beatings to intimidate and suppress them. When this kind of thing happens, and it happens every day, there’s no set grievance process for them to seek any kind of justice.
Even more telling is that ISP’s education and rehabilitation programs are severely limited and severely inadequate. All of this is not an accident or a few bad guards. The system is set up to strip people of any dignity or humanity. It targets people — poor people, black people, brown people, people struggling with addiction and with mental illnesses. The prison system degrades them, separates them from their loved ones and support networks, and refuses to let them go.
Knowing all this, Warden Ron Neal has the inhumanity to say that the last protest happened because of a “few offenders who convinced their families to hold this protest exaggerated – or simply lied in some cases – about conditions of confinement.” But we know the truth. We know that the Warden is scared that what goes on inside these walls will become public knowledge.
IDOC Watch has been working to bring these abuses to light all across the state while uniting people on the outside and inside to fight against the IDOC and its abuses, including the racist harassment of our organization’s founder, Angaza Iman Bahar, who is currently being held in prison past the time he was scheduled to be released on the basis of petty, vindictive conduct reports filed against him for his political activity, which the prison authorities are using to deny him the credit time he has earned. We work especially to help people communicate beyond prison walls. As we saw from our protest three months ago, working with and supporting our loved ones through from the outside is a threat to the impunity the prison authorities are used to. They used the presence of prisoner’s family members and supporters to justify banning visits, then stationed police and guards in the parking lot to try and intimidate us. The guards were ordered to make loud noise on the inside in order to drown out the sound of our protest. This shows that they want to keep people on the inside and the people who love them silent, separated, and afraid.
When they realized we wouldn’t back down and that news had spread about the June 23rd protest, the prison authorities responded. Contact visits were restored, food sharing was allowed again, and ISP promised they would improve the jobs and training available to prisoners within a week of the last protest. Our demands being met not only shows the power of organizing together and demanding immediate change, but also shows that the pretenses the prison authorities constantly use to justify their abuse and neglect are lies. The authorities will say that they don’t have the power or resources to make the necessary changes, that all the problems are the result of decisions made at the central office. By meeting our initial demands, they’ve shown that they do have the power and resources to make changes, but what they lack is the interest or desire to do so, unless we put pressure on them. In fact, the prison authorities’ desire and interest is in maintaining people locked in prison in horrible conditions without any way to advocate for themselves, so that they will be easy to control and exploit while they’re inside, and vulnerable and traumatized when they’re released - so that they can be easily re-incarcerated or will accept whatever crumbs are offered to them. That is what prisons are for.
As long as our friends and family are in cages, we haven’t won. But we are taking steps in the right direction — steps toward realizing the power of acting together, inside and outside, toward showing people the true face of the IDOC, toward freeing our loved ones from torment, abuse, and degradation at the hands of the so-called justice system.
Given the inhumane conditions and treatment of prisoners in ISP, we demand that the prison immediately address the infestation of bedbugs and cockroaches, give prisoners food that is not only fit for human consumption but nutritious and filling, and improve the quality of medical care provided to those on the inside - our family, friends, and loved ones.
Testimonies of medical neglect being read during the rally: https://www.facebook.com/MCSocialJustice/videos/271137800172462/
Black Lives Matter Gary-NWI speech during the rally: https://www.facebook.com/MCSocialJustice/videos/1524915377654244/
Most of the rally: https://www.facebook.com/MCSocialJustice/videos/233284467356108/
Brief video of the march: https://www.facebook.com/MCSocialJustice/videos/2007899922782578/
Info on Neo-Nazi ISP Guard Jeff Lecouris
This is an image of ISP guard Jeff Lecouris, dressed in full Nazi regalia. He is a genuine Neo-Nazi employed by the state of Indiana at Indiana State Prison.
Read more here:
If knowing that Indiana State Prison employs a Neo-Nazi bothers you, please call Warden Ron Neal at (219) 874-7258, IDOC Commissioner Robert Carter, Jr. at (317) 232-5711, and Governor Eric Holcomb at (317) 232-4567, to let them know your concerns.