Frank Chapman, national executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, on Wednesday, July 6, called on Governor Pritzker to close the Menard Correctional Center prison he calls a “death trap.”
“The conditions at the Menard prison are bad. There are a lot of infrastructure problems, mold on the walls and inadequate ventilation, which is horrific during this pandemic,” said Chapman.
In an interview with the Chicago Crusader, Chapman said he has received more than 270 complaints from families of those incarcerated at Menard and from some prisoners, about the horrible, unsafe and punitive conditions prisoners are forced to live in every day.
Citing the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted,” Chapman said, “If the government can send billions of dollars to foreign countries, it can take care of those who are incarcerated, including fixing what is broken.”
Saying Menard is 124 years old, Chapman said, “Besides infrastructure problems, there is constant tension going on between the guards and the prisoners. We are working with several families who have come to us protesting the treatment of their relatives.”
Ironically, all of the family members say the prison complaints are the same: denial of adequate food and medical care; physical and verbal abuse; retaliation for speaking up; restriction of and tampering with communications; lost grievances and mail, legal mail being opened; denial of phone calls and video visits; abuse of isolated confinement and collusion of guards to bring false charges against inmates.
One of those is Isiah Brady, who is serving a 53-year sentence at Menard. Chapman said he has had manufactured crimes pinned against him and grievances unjustly denied. He was allegedly denied access to food and medical care and is being held in segregation, where he has reportedly lost 35 pounds.
Kenyatta Brown is serving a 173-year sentence. He has won several lawsuits against Statesville Prison where he was held prior to being transferred to Menard. “When he was moved to Menard, they attempted to force him to cut off his locks and brought false charges against him, then tampered with his legal mail,” said Chapman.
Steven Douglas, who has been at Menard prison for three years and spent five years at the Cook County Jail for a crime he said he did not commit, complained about not getting health care. “His arm was infected, but the nurse kept saying it was a new tattoo which is not true,” said Octavia Towns-el, his 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 for a long time has raised questions and pointed out the deficiencies and inequities in the system, particularly at Menard,” Grant said.
“It is a death trap. The (tainted) water, the malfeasance of the administration of the institution, the trauma and terrorizing of the inmates have long been noted by civil rights groups and independent investigators,” Grant said.
“There is only one remedy for it as a facility and that is close it down to ensure these inmates and corrections officers and others who work there have a safe, hazard-free environment and facility.
“It is inhumane, unjust and unacceptable to have anyone living in and under those conditions. It is time to close Menard,” Grant told the Chicago Crusader, echoing Chapman’s demand