Monroe Correctional Complex, Monroe, Washington
April 8, 2020
Between 100-200 prisoners at the Monroe Corrections Complex (MCC) staged a protest and uprising in response to an outbreak of Covid-19 at the prison and the inadequate response of the administration and staff.
“They were starting a riot over inadequate conditions that they were exposed to for the virus and lack of protection,” said Deborah Hawley, who spoke with K5 News. Her son is in the Monroe complex on a parole violation.
Joshua Vermaat, a prisoner at MCC, described in a letter to a friend dated the day of the protest the conditions at the prison and the decision of those incarcerated there to refuse orders to move. Excerpts of these letters were previously published by KUOW:
Hope this finds you well. We were put in a very bad position tonight by DOC attempting to move us to COVID-19 contaminated tiers from the tier we’ve been on which is not contaminated. We’ve been safe until now, but because of their lack of foresight and proper planning, now they need rooms for more vulnerable inmates and they want us to go into the “hot zone” to make room for them. They tried to bribe us with McDonald’s food. Are you flipping kidding.
Man, if you would do anything I ask you to tell this to the news and to the governor, this isn’t right.
Hopefully I’ll be able to give an update tomorrow on the status but for now we’re still on the safe tier. We didn’t move.
Later, Josh described to his friend the outcome of the protest and provided additional background and information on the protest:
Updates are that not much is being done to keep us distanced, this place is not designed to do so. They have screwed us on our limited phone time to call families, on our limited time to get out of the units, they have lied to us continuously about staff and inmates being sick and have seriously down played what’s going on. The few measures that they have taken have either been taken way too late, or not completely. Things have been very half-assed. One observation that I share with quite a few others I the fact of how their “tones” have changed in dealing with this since the push back they’ve been getting. No one here wants violence, NO ONE, but at the same time you’ve got 400+ caged animals if you will who are now being backed into corners. We just want the best outcome for ourselves and even the staff, that is the truth. Everything is shutdown right now and I’m not sure what is going to happen with it all today after last nights “disturbance”. It wasn’t a riot, not even close. Let me know what you find out and do the same…
“‘Help We Don’t Wanna Die’: Inside The First Prison To Protest Lack Of COVID-19 Protection,” HuffPost, March 23, 2020.
“Inmates ‘riot’ over 6 coronavirus cases at Monroe Corrections Complex“, K5, April 8, 2020.
“PRESS RELEASE: Disturbance at Monroe Correctional Complex Under Control”, Washington State Department of Corrections, April 8, 2020.
“Inmates ‘revolt’ over COVID-19 safety in major disturbance at Monroe Correctional Complex“, KIRO 7, April 8, 2020.
“Monroe prison disturbance,” KOMO News, Facebook Live Video, April 8, 2020.
“Letters from Twin Rivers Unit, MCC“, Washington Prison History Project, April 9, 2020.
“Nearly 200 inmates rioted after officials announced coronavirus cases in a Washington state facility“, CNN, April 9, 2020.
“Over 100 Monroe prisoners riot after COVID-19 outbreak,” Herald Net, April 9, 2020.
“‘The riot was the only way for us to be heard.’ Monroe inmates speak out about their coronavirus fears“, KUOW, April 9, 2020.
“‘Help We Don’t Wanna Die’: Inside The First Prison To Protest Lack Of COVID-19 Protection“, HuffPost, April 15, 2020.
“Prison Log, Twin rivers unit“, Washington Prison History Project, April 26, 2020.
“Letters from Joshua Vermaat to Anonymous Friend“, Jpay, April 8 and 9, 2020.
Article Published: 4/30/2020
Header Photo: KOMO News, Facebook