My name is Christopher Nelson, and I am a Minnesota prisoner. I have been for about 25 painful years.
Most prisoners in Minnesota suffer in many different ways—mentally, physically and spiritually—but when a prisoner has medical or mental issues or disabilities the systematic neglect quickly becomes abusive.
When we try to seek medical care, reasonable modifications, or adaptive equipment for legitimate disabilities, we always run into staff who are very much prejudiced against prisoners in general, for whatever reasons.
It is an everyday occurrence if a prisoner needs anything from medication for heartburn to any kind of adaptive equipment, to go through a very abrasive and abusive medical staff while trying to explain that we are still actually human beings with legitimate medical needs.
This neglect and abuse are woven into the fabric of a very flawed system that is hidden away from the civilized world with no oversight whatsoever, therefore abuse runs rampant throughout the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MN DOC).
A recent Department of Justice report found they were failing to follow ADA accommodations in the GED education program, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the last 25 or so years, I’ve seen and gone through a great amount of abuse and neglect, but as of late I’ve been moved to a medium-security prison, MCF Moose Lake.
I was wrongly under the impression that the medical care would be better than the horrible care that I have been accustomed to throughout my 25 years at MCF Stillwater. I was horribly misinformed!
I am a prisoner that has several legitimate and documented disabilities, including that I am legally blind and I am in a wheelchair. I have a few things that are considered ADA adaptive equipment that I have spent years fighting for.
The health administrator here at MCF Moose Lake resents that I have such items. He has gone as far as falsifying that the fire marshall found that a hospital-grade wedge pillow with the highest fire standards was a fire hazard. Despite reporting this wasn’t right, staff came and confiscated this pillow.
At this same time period, I was in a two-man cell that was too small for the legal square footage of a wheelchair. Being that I am in a wheelchair and legally blind I am much more vulnerable, and I was requesting under the ADA laws a single cell.
Nor do I say I am vulnerable lightly, but through a hard horrible experience. In Stillwater, I was assaulted so badly that I needed to face reconstructive surgery when people demanded I give them my medications. So it is not for no reason I made such a request.
Due to the fact that I was “rocking the boat” and requesting too much, I was moved from the two-man cell to the 5-6-man cell that is used as a “punishment cell” for troublemaking kids straight out of segregation.
This was a retaliatory move that put me, a very vulnerable prisoner. into a much worse and eventually dangerous situation that I am in the process of reporting. As an older man who is legally blind and in a wheelchair I am asked to ensure my own safety while holding many younger people accountable for not playing with or stealing my adaptive equipment, which was very hard to acquire and took outside pressure to acquire.
I am continuing to request this ADA single cell along with a few other very reasonable and very needed ADA requests. These are just a few of the most recent issues. There are many, many others and much worse issues that I and every other MN prisoner face as an everyday fact of life within the MN DOC. This needs to stop!
I, unfortunately, have about 25 years of painful experiences of my own and have been witness to a great amount of others’ suffering also.
I am willing to add to any information you may need and welcome people writing me on jpay or via mail. Please just check if I am still at the location below before writing me at coms.doc.state.mn.us/PublicViewer.
Christopher Nelson’s mailing address is MN. OID. #168732, Minnesota Correctional Facility—Moose Lake, 1000 Lakeshore Drive, Moose Lake, MN 55767
This commentary was made possible through a partnership with Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. For more info, visit homeforgoodmn.org.