Kinross Correctional Facility, Kincheloe, Michigan
March 20-21, 2016
Prisoners organize a food strike to protest poor food quality by the privatized food contractor Trinity Services Group just eight months after Trinity takes over the role from Aramark Correctional Services. According to a prisoner at Kinross who participated in the events, the protests are also a demonstration of prisoner unity.
On Sunday, Kinross prisoners left the yard and returned to their housing units about 20 minutes before officials normally close the yard, in a silent protest, [Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris] Gautz said. On Monday, only 40 prisoners went to the chow hall for breakfast, compared to about 500 who normally go, he said. Only about 60 went to the chow hall for lunch and about 30 went for dinner Monday night, Gautz said. Each of those meals normally draw about 1,200 inmates, he said.
According to It’s Going Down, an anarchist media project, a prisoner from Kinross wrote the following report on the event:
In regard to the March 2016 events. The religious groups and street organizations got together in unity to stand together against the severe prison conditions. It was a two-day event. On Sunday, nearly the entire population (over 1200 persons) came out of the housing units and stood on the basketball court. No one was allowed to play ball. That first day was to show our unity. We looked like a solid wall made of bricks. I viewed it as a start of something greater to come.
The next day, no one went to the dining hall, unless persons had medical conditions. This was not a protest because we submitted no formal complaint. This was about unity. The first and most difficult step.
I really did not have great emotions over the first day, because I am looking toward the end result. Yet what spark me, and behoove me was the unity. It showed me the power in unity. An act I want to be involved in in the future. Because it showed me that unity, without a demand, can bring an oppressor to the table with the hope of compromising in the interest of self-preservation. The oppressor rather compromise than have disruptions.
The idea of not going to the dining hall came from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s reminder of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech. Dr. King stated, when a business does not treat you right, then the people must show unity and redistribute the pain, through economic withdrawal. We recognize that Trinity, the food service provider, is a business, and that each meal is a dollar in Trinity pocket. Thus, not eating for an entire day was a form of redistributing the pain. I got great pleasure of doing that. Because at least 1200 persons learn a lesson that could be shared with others anywhere in the world.
In the future, our movement must be beyond prison conditions. It must be based on repairing the capture and releasing reform men back into the community. This must be the next step.
It is my prayer that my experience will be helpful to others.
In the same article, It’s Going Down also included the following report from another prisoner at Kinross:
Without putting any names or pinpointing specifics we as a whole (General Population) were tired of the living conditions, the way officers treat us, and the food that Trinity was serving us. All our complaints and cries for relief fell upon deaf ears. First, a peaceful stand off would take place on the 20th of March 2016. All we were to do was to stand at attention for 35 minutes on the recreational commons area then disburse at the same time. In sequence. We were closing our yard 10 minutes early. There wasn’t a soul left on the yard. The officers were stunned. As the shit was changing 2:45pm until 3:20pm they were witnessing the biggest peaceful demonstration in years. Every organization, every gang, every white, black, and latino renegade participated.
On the 21st of March 2016 no one went to the chow hall. Everyone sat in and ate together. Whoever didn’t’ have they received from the fellow inmate. And this was coming from one of the supposedly violent prisons in Michigan. It lets you know that we are fed up. And we were willing to unite for one common good.
Every Wednesday we (Prisoner Block Representatives) meet with staff to discuss our issues that effect the general population. On this particular day, no staff member showed up so we adjourn the meeting and walked out. The officers came running after us to get us back to the meeting. The look of concern on their face was priceless. I think it was a tactic by staff to see where our minds were at but it backfired. That day Warden Duncan MacLaren, Deputy Warden Hardwood, and Deputy Daley thoroughly discussed the changes they were going to make immediately. Why did it take a demonstration to get them to do their job? Who isn’t paying attention to daily activities? How relax could these officers be that 1200 inmates could plan, design and carry it out right under their noses? Poor security. That is the reason why this place is so violent.
Several inmates were questioned about the demo and about drug activity in the prison. I was included. After a week went by and some changes were made they were investigating who was responsible for organization of the demo. Their answer to the problem was to retaliate against us by transferring key representatives t oother prisons in the state of Michigan. Even our Chairman. It was a tactic to intimidate us and make sure we don’t do it again. But it does not move our leadership. When one leaves another replaces him.
We had a new election and I was nominated the Chairman again. I don’t know where this journey will lead us but we will unite and rise again. They have struck down some of our brothers but we won’t abandon them. We may get weary but we will find rest for the journey. We will keep hope alive that someone out there will hear our cries of affliction. Some of us realize that we don’t deserve the life we live but it isn’t up to us…
Until then we are waiting to see if they are going to prove good on their word. If they don’t put some of the key issues in play by the time the heat hits this place is going to blow up in violence.
The thing about me is that I never took an oath to join a gang but I’ve been part of the Brown Movement all of my 30 years in. My life has been dedicated to serve my Latino people, but what happened here let me know I am now devoted to the whole population.
The following analysis of the events, also from It’s Going Down, are from a prisoner at the Alger Correctional Facility who did not witness the events first hand:
The prisoners at old Hiawatha Temporary Facility, now the new Kinross Correctional Facility (KCF) took action against the terrible food the new private food service contractor, Trinity, is serving us.
On 20 and 21 March, Sunday and Monday, prisoners, about 1,000 (out of no more than 1,200) either refused to eat in the chow hall and/or all requested a sub (vegetarian) tray, which wreaked havoc on the system, either way. If they don’t go to chow and swipe their ID card, Trinity doesn’t get paid. If they all request subs, not only does Trinity have to come up 1,000 subs when normally they might have 50 prepared, they have to toss the 1,000 regular trays they’ve already prepared. This was a successful nonviolent action no matter which way it actually went down (the reports I’ve received, the press and oral, vary and our news channels, local, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS were blocked on those days and the MDOC is trying to keep all newspapers with articles on this action out of these prisons). No prisoners were hurt and Trinity took it in the pocketbook. Compared to what recently went down at Holman in Alabama, this was a great success! Or the action in Tecumseh State Correctional in Nebraska, for that matter.
“‘This was about unity'”: A Wave of Protest Spreads Through the Michigan Prison System,” It’s Going Down, April 20, 2016.
“Prisoners protest food under new contractor Trinity,” Detroit Free Press, March 22, 2016.
“Inmates protest food quality at Kinross Correctional Facility,” The Sault News, March 24, 2016