CHICAGO—Protesters gathered on North State Street demanding Governor J.B. Pritzker shut down Menard Correctional Center due to inhumane conditions and ill-treatment of inmates.
The mothers, families and supporters of inmates say the prison, which is located on 711 Kaskaskia Street in Menard, Illinois, and holds more than 2,000 male prisoners, has conditions unfit for a dog.
Alicia Gill spoke for her brother Michael Minnifield during the rally August 1. Mr. Minnifield is serving a 54-year sentence for a murder his family says he is innocent of. “When they sent him to Menard, he wasn’t in the cell for a day and they put another fabricated ticket on him for supposedly having a carving knife under the sink and threw him in segregation for one year,” Ms. Gill said referring to a disciplinary action made against her brother. Mr. Minnifield was said to have poor ventilation in his cell, no utensils, no shower privileges and was denied access to food and medical care.
Ms. Gill said of the rally, “This is to get our loved one’s immediate transfers and exonerated.”
Menard Correctional Center has been in operation since 1878 and is considered Illinois’ largest maximum security adult male facility. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the warden or state governor is responsible for the conditions of a correctional center.
The Final Call contacted Governor J.B. Pritzker and Menard for comment but did not receive a response before presstime.
According to casetext.com, an online record of federal cases, statutes, regulations and rules, there are more than 1,000 state and federal cases against Menard. Many of them are complaints about the conditions and treatments of correctional officers.
The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) stands firmly for the inmates they say are suffering at Menard. Frank Chapman, a veteran activist and education director at the CAARPR, said the ill-treatment of inmates never makes the news. “The reason why we’re doing this in front of the news station is because there’s been a white-out on this question on what’s going on at Menard. The reason why they’ve been totally silent is because all of these people are defending the prison industrial complex. They want it to stay in place. We’re calling for an end to the prison industrial complex,” Mr. Chapman continued.
Madeline Sanders is CEO of the Harriet Tubman Initiative, which is a legal services firm in Chicago that advocates for wrongfully incarcerated individuals. She told The Final Call, “The larger picture is to get Governor Pritzker by way of Attorney General Kwame Raoul to clear the wrongful convictions in Illinois and investigate every wrongful incarceration in this state.”
“I’m out here standing against all-state oppression against all people,” said Lily Goldklang, who was at the rally. “We heard the mothers speak and it was very touching and brought to light a lot of the issues with the criminal justice system that have been going on for years.”
When asked if Governor Pritkzer or Atty. Raoul would answer to the demand of shutting down Menard Prison, Ms. Goldklang said she does not think so.
“I’m hopeful but I don’t think so because this has been going on for years and it seems like Governor Pritkzer does not have the concern of Illinois’ people and Illinois’ Black people at heart.”
Adolfo Davis was one of the speakers at the rally. He was accused of murder at the age of 14 and served 24 years without parole. Though he was released after the 2012 Supreme Court hearing Miller vs. Alabama, which ruled that juveniles should not be subject to mandatory life without parole, he suffered heavily in prison.
“We need to end this shit!” he said during the rally. “We need to bring awareness to what’s going on in the prison. Brothers are being killed and the institute is lying.”
Lionel Muhammad has been in the community and inside jails and prisons teaching Islam as taught by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He described Menard as a “torture pit.”
“Menard is ran by White people, and down at Menard they call you a ‘nigger’ and it ain’t nothing,” he said.
He added that inmates were mentally tortured with the conditions of the prison. “First of all, you’re in a prison that was built in the 1800s and it gets so hot in the summertime that if you’re on a top gallery, you can’t even breathe. … If the prison is on lockdown, you might get a shower every three months.” Mr. Muhammad said to improvise, inmates would use buckets of water and bathe over their cell’s toilets.
“The prison industrial complex came along later and they came along as an institution to privatize prisons and that way, everybody can get a share of it,” he continued.
Currently, the three major prison stock companies are CoreCivic, The GEO Group Inc. and Serco. These companies profit off of the incarceration of people and make up the prison industrial complex. According to the Vera Institute, Blacks make up more than 50 percent of the population of Illinois prisons.