Civil rights

Civil rights leaders call on Pritzker to close Menard’s ‘Death Trap’ prison

Frank Chapman, National Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, on Wednesday July 6 called on Governor Pritzker to close the jail at the Ménard Correctional Center which he calls a “death trap.”

“Conditions at Ménard prison are poor. There are a lot of infrastructure issues, mold on the walls and inadequate ventilation, which is horrible during this pandemic,” Chapman said.

In an interview with the Chicago CrusaderChapman said he has received more than 270 complaints from families of people incarcerated at Ménard and some prisoners, about the horrific, dangerous and punitive conditions prisoners are forced to live in every day.

Quoting the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, “Excessive bail shall not be exacted, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted,” Chapman said, “If the government can send billions of dollars to foreign countries, he can take care of those who are incarcerated, including fixing what is broken.

FRANK CHAPMAN (seated, far left), joined by other activists and protesters, led a rally on March 23, 2022 to end torture at Ménard prison. The rally took place at the Thompson Center/State of Illinois Building in downtown Chicago. (Photo by Chinta Strausberg)

Saying that Menard is 124 years old, Chapman said, “Apart from infrastructure issues, there is constant tension between guards and prisoners. We work with several families who have come to us to protest the treatment of their loved ones.

Ironically, all family members say the complaints from prison are the same: denial of adequate food and medical care; physical and verbal abuse; retaliation for speaking out; restriction and tampering with communications; claims and lost mail, legal mail being opened; refusal of telephone calls and video visits; abuse of solitary confinement and collusion of guards to make false accusations against detainees.

One of them is Isiah Brady, who is serving a 53-year sentence in Menard. Chapman said he had fabricated crimes against him and unfairly dismissed grievances. He is said to have been denied access to food and medical care and is being held in solitary confinement, where he is said to have lost 35 pounds.

Kenyatta Brown is serving a 173-year sentence. He won several lawsuits against the Statesville prison where he was held before being transferred to Ménard. “When he was transferred to Ménard, they tried to force him to cut his locks and made false charges against him, then forged his legal mail,” Chapman said.

Steven Douglas, who has been in Menard jail for three years and spent five years in Cook County jail for a crime he said he did not commit, complained he was not given treatment health. “Her arm was infected, but the nurse kept saying it was a new tattoo, which is not true,” said Octavia Towns-el, her aunt.

Chapman has partnered with a number of civil rights organizations calling for prison reform, including the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and its field director, Bishop Tavis Grant.

“Reverend Jackson has long raised questions and pointed out the shortcomings and inequities in the system, particularly at Menard,” Grant said.

“It’s a death trap. The (dirty) water, the misdeeds of the administration of the facility, the trauma and terror of the inmates have long been noted by civil rights groups and independent investigators” , Grant said.

“There is only one remedy for this as an institution and that is to close it down to ensure that these inmates and prison officers and others who work there have a safe environment and facilities. and safe.

“It is inhumane, unjust and unacceptable for anyone to live in and under these conditions. It’s time to shut down Menard,” Grant told the Chicago Crusaderechoing Chapman’s request