A dozen prisoners incarcerated at Illinois’ Menard Correctional Center began a hunger strike in January 2014 amid reports of prison retaliation including the beating of hunger striker Armando Velasquez. The reports come from recognized historians and social activists Staughton and Alice Lynd, who have actively supported the strike since being contacted by the prisoners.
The male prisoners have protested abusive conditions, including filthy, rodent-infested cells, cold temperatures, inadequate blankets, lack of hot water, and poor access to mental health care.
“The conditions here are inhumane & repressive,” an unidentified prisoner states in Solitary Watch, a letter announcing the hunger strike before its January 15th start date. “So much that we are forced to make a stand as men in righteous indignation.”
The strikers are segregated from the general prison population in conditions of “severe isolation,” according to a report sent to Common Dreams by the Lynds.
Staughton Lynd, who is also an attorney, says he is uncertain if the men are being held in solitary confinement or in double cells, but said either way, the segregated conditions are “extremely burdensome.” He explained, “Their cells may be 6 feet by 12 feet. The so-called bed is usually a slab of concrete with a thin mattress. You have to imagine men cooped up in those conditions for 23 or 24 hours a day.”
Sarah Lazare, “In Illinois Prison, a Hunger Strike Against Inhumanity,” Common Dreams, February 7, 2014, https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/02/07-12.
“Illinois Inmates on Hunger Strike Against Inhuman Treatment,” Press TV, February 8, 2014, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/02/08/349804/illinois-prisoners-on-hunger-strike/.
Student Researcher: Chelsea Todaro (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)