Compliant Prisoners Teargassed without Provocation; Michigan Department of Corrections Withheld Information

KINCHELOE, MI –(ENEWSPF)–October 26, 2016.  Shocking accounts continue to emerge of the protests at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Most prisoners refused to report to work on September 9 in conjunction with a nationwide prisoner work stoppage, and over four hundred marched peacefully in the yard on September 10 to air grievances such as low wages as well as poor food quality and quantity.

Historian Heather Ann Thompson of the University of Michigan received detailed accounts from several prisoners who were at Kinross at the time. One prisoner wrote, “At 9:30 p.m. SWAT entered my housing facility took control, ordered everyone on our bunks. Every single person complied. At 10:00 p.m., after a half hour of compliance and silence, they deployed pepper spray and tear gas in that unit without provocation. I don’t understand why they’d use it a half hour after they had full compliance and control.” In an independent report to Thompson, another prisoner corroborated that riot squads deployed pepper spray and teargas at prisoners in housing units and “then they took their stand with their shields and all.”

Gilbert Morales, another prisoner who witnessed the events at Kinross, explained in a detailed report: “Everything started with a meeting with the Block Representatives and the Warden’s Forum which included Warden Duncan MacLaren, ADW Daley and Warden’s Assistant Dave Mastaw on September 7th, 2016. They discussed that there would be a green light to those who did not want to go to work on September 9th. They (the administration) said there would be no consequences because they did not want to endanger anyone. So he said no one would be penalized for participating.”

Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) has not mentioned in any public reports that wardens negotiated this agreement in advance with prisoners—an agreement that they later broke.

Numerous discrepancies between claims from the MDOC and witness accounts from prisoners and guards alike have come to light thus far. MDOC spokesperson Chris Gautz claimed that only prisoners at Kinross participated in the September 9 nationwide work stoppage. Multiple prisoners contradict this claim and state that kitchen workers at Marquette Branch Prison, Michigan Reformatory, and Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility also refused to work that day. MDOC said that only kitchen workers and a few others refused to report to work at Kinross, but Kinross prisoner Anthony Bates reports that it was a facility-wide work stoppage.

The Detroit Free Press obtained e-mails exchanged between high-ranking prison officials on September 10. Officials debated how transparent to be in MDOC’s official press release and sought to minimize the significance of the incident. The e-mails confirm prisoner Bates’s report that the damage (see photos) to two of the housing units began only after riot squads came in firing tear gas and grabbing prisoners.

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