Welcome back to the Perilous Podcast, a news and oral history project featuring original interviews with prisoners and detainees who have participated in or witnessed protests, uprisings and other forms of unrest behind bars. We also gather analysis and insight from researchers and advocates in an effort to build a better understanding of systems of incarceration and collective action and strategy.
In this episode, we cover a protest that began this month, August of 2020, at Winn Correctional in Louisiana. We were able to interview several detainees in the facility to talk about the protest and the conditions that sparked it, as well as an interview with Shane Bauer, the author and investigative journalist who worked undercover at the Winn Correctional in 2015 and released a book about his experience titled, “American Prison”. A full article version of the story can be found on our website, as well as the unedited audio from every detainee interview we conducted. Before we jump in, here are a few recent headlines:
July 23: Walkout at Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson, AZ
On July 23rd in Tucson, Arizona prisoners at the Wett Stone Unit in the Arizona State Prison Complex staged a walkout citing unsafe conditions for COVID 19. Prisoners demanded to remain on lock-down and have their meals delivered to them in their cells. On Friday, July 24th the Arizona Department of Corrections confirmed implementation of modified operations for the unit, stating that prisoners will receive meals delivered in house for 14 days. The ADOC confirms 2 deaths in the facility linked to COVID 19 with another 3 deaths potentially linked to the virus.
July 29: Hunger Strike at Easterling Correctional Facility in Alabama
On July 29th prisoners at the Easterling Correctional Facility in Alabama began a hunger strike to protest denied outside exercise time, denied access to the law library, and a lack of clean water and healthy food. Hunger strikers also demanded adequate medical treatment and measures for COVID 19 as well as immediate medical care for prisoner Daniel Wilson and 86 year old prisoner Michael Mayola, who both have untreated medical conditions.
August 1: Disturbance at Lincoln Hills Juvenile Correctional, Irma, Wisconsin
On Saturday August 1st, 30 youth prisoners at Lincoln Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in Irma, Wisconsin called a disturbance at approximately 4 in the afternoon. 15 sheriffs responded. According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections the youth prisoners filled their socks with rocks and made threats to staff. Prison property was damaged and one youth was treated for cuts from broken glass.
Ware State Prison, Waycross, Georgia
Later that night, on August 1st in Waycross, Georgia a riot broke out in Ware State Prison. Windows were smashed and multiple fires were set including one golf cart set ablaze. One guard was taken hostage and two guards were reportedly stabbed. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections the incident was contained using non-lethal ammunition. A video posted by a prisoner from a cell phone to social media showed two inmates bleeding from what appeared to be gunshot wounds. Three inmates sustained significant injuries. Tensions have been high at ware state prison due to the death of a prisoner three weeks ago resulting in lock down conditions, in addition to negligent mishandling of COVID 19
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Times-Picayune Article, “In north Louisiana, sheriff and private prison operator trade prisoners for ICE detainees”
New York Times Article, “It was like a time bomb: How ICE helped spread the coronavirus”