Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Water torture is real

We’d like to shed a little more light on the subject of water, and how it is sometimes used to torment and abuse mentally challenged Michigan prisoners…and not just women.

I hope you read the MLive story, written by a reporter for the Ann Arbor News, outlining alleged abuse of two female inmates at the women’s prison in Ypsilanti. One of the claims was water deprivation.

First you should know what the American Bar Association has to say about food and water deprivation: Correctional authorities should not withhold food or water from any prisoner.

I guess the staff at the women’s prison doesn’t feel these guidelines apply, because here’s what the mother of one of those inmates told me today: “Chief Christine Wilson (head of the acute unit) said they can keep food away for 24 hours and water for 3 or 4 days. She said that they can do that when a person is in segregation.” 3 or 4 days?!

But stuff like this has been going on for years.

Some ten years ago my friend Mary Ann reported that her mentally challenged brother was placed in segregation on a hot summer day by prison guards. And then, just to enhance the punishment, they turned off the cold water. All he had in his cell was hot water.

Shutting off water in a prisoner’s cell falls within state policy, but the policy goes on to say that inmates must be given water from time to time. Lois DeMott, mother of a young man who had been struggling with mental issues while in prison, says, “The problem is, water is not provided then according to policy.” She cites stories about her son as proof.

Who can forget the tragic account of Timmy Souders who died, chained to the prison floor, on a sweltering summer day in a Michigan prison? That was back in 2007. The feature on 60 Minutes can still be seen on-line.

DeMott, now coordinator of the Family Participation Program for Michigan prisons, flatly states that these detestable practices continue to occur in all segregation units in Michigan facilities. She contends that it is “normal practice” by some officers who, she says, “think their walls are so high they can get away with it.” And one of the reasons is that, so far, they have gotten away with it.

That’s precisely why we fed the ACLU these shocking details from Ypsilanti, and that’s precisely why the letter was written. It was time for us to stand up and be counted.

ACLU attorneys will be meeting with the Director of the MDOC on the 15th.

Think we’ll see any change?

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