Stillwater policy allows prisoners to “fight”


(Photo courtesy of Urban News Service)

In a note to those incarcerated at Stillwater Prison in September, the prison administration team admitted knowingly creating unsafe conditions in the cell blocks. They apparently do not intend to change their practices.

In a meeting with prison administrators, one inmate asked, “Why do those who go into segregation for fighting end up living in the same cell block as those they fought against?” This causes repeated fighting and unnecessary blockages. “

In a note dated September 17, the prison administrators responded in writing. “Inmates have a responsibility to immediately report any safety concerns to staff so that these issues can be properly addressed. While on the surface [forcing prisoners to live in the same cell block after they’ve fought each other] appears to be preventable, it becomes a big volume to deal with due to the number of fights occurring in the facility.

“Staff are reviewing the placement and the reasons a person was in segregation prior to being released from segregation,” the memo continued. “However, the options are sometimes limited due to the space in the bed.”

The idea that it is incumbent on inmates to alert staff to inmates living together in the cell block after a fight is ludicrous. This requires inmates to tell staff what they already know and what is already documented.

The excuse that there is not enough bed space (cells) in the prison to separate individuals who have assaulted each other speaks volumes about the need to reduce the prison population and use alternative tactics. to fight crime, such as restorative justice practices.

It also speaks to the need for the prison itself to use restorative justice practices to help inmates resolve conflict rather than the sensory deprivation punishment of segregation.

An investigation by The Prison Mirror (July 2020 issue) revealed how segregation can exacerbate violence. Some of the responses from the prisoners at Stillwater included, “It just makes me mad at the world and plays with the thought of suicide; “” I only think of reprisals. There is nothing more to do here than prepare for my next attack; And “It makes me think of more violence and makes me worse.” Only a few inmates interviewed said solitary confinement was a useful experience for them.

A few weeks after the publication of the administrative team’s note, a fight involving several prisoners broke out in the A-East cell block. They were known rivals who had already had altercations between them.

During the chaotic scene, groups of men walked through the cell block in search of their “ops,” which is street slang for “opposition” or perceived enemies. Once staff regained control, the cell block was closed around the clock for several days, disrupting the possibility for some prisoners trying to make their time indoors constructive by attending college classes.

Some of the men involved in the melee were recently moved back to the same cell block after being released from solitary confinement. As a result, tension boils in the air.

The DOC lists security as its primary value. According to the agency, this is done by “supporting a safety-conscious environment for staff and offenders.”

The environments of combat clubs embarrass and endanger prisoners, including those who try to use their time constructively. This problem will not be resolved simply because one inmate has called for increased access to restorative justice processes and prison population reductions to facilitate the separation of inmates if necessary.

The public can voice concerns to the DOC central office at 651-361-7200 and to the Stillwater Prison Service at 651-779-2700.

Jeffrey Young writes for the Stillwater Prison Mirror and resides at MCF-Stillwater.

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