Columbia: Info From Inside

Columbia Info From Inside
Letters on Recent Toxic and Arbitrary Regulations at Columbia Correctional Institution
From Incarcerated Workers at Columbia

Earlier this year unit 2 had to be locked down because there was a food strike. Dissatisfied with the new rule that we could no longer choose where we sat for meals, inmates unified and refused to eat. Several other units chose to follow suit to some degree. For days on end administrative staff had to be present on the units to ensure that inmates were adjusting to the new rules.

Warden Bitmann redid the rule book. As a result a push back occurred. People were protesting the assigned seating and other smaller causes. Staff had no sense of what the new rulebook stated but yet they tried to enforce it. Unit 2 started the protest. No one was coming out to eat or they were tossing their trays. When the whole strike started they had at least 20 staff on the unit. Every high up, white shirts, and a lot of officers. They were on high alert. After everything was done and over with the warden said he didn’t think anyone was going to do anything (they underestimated our resolve). The unit 2 hunger strike led to units 4 and 5 then 8 and 9. No one held out very long and staff just locked down the units who were involved.

What are your concern about current prison policies?
They keep changing them all the time and we either don’t know them or the COs don’t know them and implement their own and then write you up for it.

What would you like to change? Focus on small change that have a change to be won eg some recent rule changes.
Procedure in handling mentally ill inmates. There is a pattern of indifference practiced in DOC especially CCI where a seriously ill prisoner cries out for help and wants to hurt himself and is ignored or actually encouraged to proceed with attempting suicide. And DOC (CCI) is giving people like me 90 days in seg for disruptive conduct and disrespect.

Is seating at meals an issue for you?
Absolutely. I won’t sit by a pedophile. There are people who will want to fight me for sitting at a table with them. If I don’t I get a ticket.

What are your concerns about current prison policies?
That they are exceedingly dangerous and cause prisoners to be driven insane and put everyone at risk

What one or two things, if they were changed, would make a difference for you?
The warden (Michael Dittman) and security director (Lucas Weber)

What are your concerns about current prison policies?
High, because some of them were made to be violated civil and criminal laws

What do you see as threats in trying to make policy changes at your prison?
Retaliation to a level where you may get killed.

Do you have ideas for specific tactics that might result in policy changes?
Of course, preliminary injunctions pursuant to rule 65(a) of the Federal rules of civil procedures.

What tactics have you seen used in the past that didn’t work? (that resulted in little or no change)
Exhaustion of legal remedies, prisoner to prisoner supports, criminal investigations, church supports, family supports, etc

Is seating at meals an issue for you?
Yes, because my anxiety problems

What kind of help would you like for making changes in your current conditions?
Political pressure and media publicity.

What opportunities do you see for making changes?

Is seating at meals an issue for you?
Yes, because there are inmates that have jumped me and I’m forced to sit with them at meal times. I don’t go to some meals just so I don’t have to sit with some people.

What one or two things, if they were changed would make a difference for you?
The way seg is being misused by staff. I know just for writing you I could end up in seg tomorrow for nothing but some lie they come up with. They could do more for people other than lock them in seg units like they always do. People have been pushing to change this but they can’t stop or they will keep miss using seg in prison.

The only thing the DOC understands is lawsuits…That’s how policy gets changed.

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