Perspectives from Within
Recently a close friend of mine committed suicide. Peace and love, Derreck. He was young and had a release date, which confused a lot of people. It tells you that you never know what a person is really going through on the inside.
Prison is a mental matrix that has a history of breaking the already broken. Before Covid-19 was a thing, Rush City already started taking jobs from inmates, implementing a 90-day wait on Unassigned Idle (UI) status, then a 30-day wait on Temporarily Unassigned (TU) status before you can even apply for a job position.
You can be TU status for months. While we are on this status we are put in a cell with people you don’t know for 22-23 hours a day. Not because you’ve done anything wrong, it’s simply because Rush City took away jobs, making more than half the prison segregated housing units.
On top of this, the prison will place people in small cells with complete opposites. A White separatist with a Black gang member, a young, wild inmate with an older calm inmate. A lifer with a violator! This has proven to cause problems and a few murders in the last 3 years.
You have two grown men living in a bathroom on bunk beds, for 21-23 hours a day, some already lacking in communication skills—you’re asking for violence or mental breakdowns.
Mental breakdowns are happening left and right. Not one mental health worker to check on us in “population.” In prison, a lot of inmates fantasize about being anywhere else, they create imaginary realities to deal with these inhumane conditions.
Some often fail to separate reality from fantasy, which causes temporary and long-term psychological effects. Some choose to take their lives instead of living another minute here. It tells you of the anguish this place causes.
I know some people will say “you commit a crime, then prison is the consequence,” and on the surface, they are right. But the reason for prison is rehabilitation, not torture.
MN Department of Corrections (D.O.C.) has an obligation to aid in the rehabilitation of its residents. What is justice? Making people that commit crimes worse than when they came in? Or making a better human being who will give back to the community/s they hurt?
Over 90% of prisoners will be released, and what if they end up coming through your window, or a loved one’s? An inmate’s experience in prison is detrimental to the path they take leaving it. If you treat humans like animals, then how do you expect them to act? Like angels? Broken people need help, not hell.
Rush City prison is the most corrupted prison in MN. There are “quotas” in every prison’s operations, but Rush City is best at exploiting them. Prison functions on taxpayer dollars and exploited inmate funds. They receive budgets for prison operational “needs,” the main focus being security.
Security is a broad area, used for the wants and needs of employees. How they increase this budget and others beneficial to employees is by showing politicians who set the budget, how violent the inmates are.
Then the corrections officers and administrative employees have competing unions, fighting for larger portions of the budget. D.O.C. employees often submit over-exaggerated stats of staff assault, false reports, and overcharging by due process officers (ombuds wrote a report on this, highlighting the overcharging on minor and major charges).
Imagine getting pulled over for a broken tail light and being charged with disorderly conduct, Jaywalking, disturbing the peace, public menacing, loitering, and evading arrest.
What do you think happens when inmates are not violent or committing serious violations that justify more money for new staff, salaries, benefits, and bonuses? Funds go more towards actual rehabilitation programs.
How do they respond to this? Corruption, duh. Less violence equals less funding for staff and more funding for rehabilitation.
So D.O.C. employees falsify reports and intentionally create a hostile environment by taking programs, gym or yard, less flag time, staff members becoming verbally abusive, and telling inmates to “go on and assault me so I can get paid leave” (true statement) and instigate inmate conflict, literally telling inmates that they are surprised inmates haven’t stood up yet.
Truly cruel and unusual punishment per the MN State Constitution.
A few years back, in Oak Park Heights prison, a staff was fired for putting inmates in isolation and playing a song on repeat for over 24 hours at a time. Staff members often assault inmates for causing a “disturbance,” within their own cells, by spraying their cells with chemical irritants, and/or gearing up to forcefully remove an inmate, often breaking teeth and bones in the process. Their response to everything is violence, mental breakdown or not.
We know the system is broken, this is a fact. There are zero checks and balances here, and being a corrections officer does not mean you are a saint with divine integrity.
They’re humans, who often go to jail or are the cause of many lawsuits and civil rights violations. You don’t have to believe me, it’s a public record. Do your own research and you will see.
I’m not saying all staff is corrupt, institutional failure to focus on rehabilitative training and mindset or an understanding of the consequences their actions have on society via inmates’ treatment during incarceration. Or maybe some do understand but choose self-preservation above duty. Much like those who know of global warming but still deny it for capital gain or political contributions.
Who cares what happens in the future; I’m on an all-beef diet, and I need a new hummer today. Well, we (inmates) need help yesterday, tomorrow isn’t promised. Understand what’s going on, and help right a historical wrong.
We are American Citizens, your fellow countrymen. and we need help.
Alonzo Graham is incarcerated at the Rush City Correctional Facility in MN.
The Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is a union of prisoners, ex-prisoners, families, and communities working to transform the justice system in MN.