Combating Repression Following the Kinross Prison Uprising: New Perspectives, New Efforts

Almost three months ago, prisoners at Kinross Correctional Facility participated in a nationally-coordinated prison strike that took place on September 9th. The work stoppage quickly escalated into a mass protest in the prison yard demonstrating the unity of the prisoners and, when faced with violent reprisal by the guards, escalated again into an all-out riot.

Following the events of September 9th and 10th, approximately 250 prisoners were transferred from Kinross to other facilities in the Michigan prison system, most being placed into Administrative Segregation (the hole), being charged with “Inciting a Riot or Strike” and “Rioting or Striking Misconduct,” and having their security statuses raised.

In order to respond to this, supporters across the country have been gathering as many names as possible of prisoners facing retaliation, sending them letters and reading material, and raising money to support them during their time in the hole. Folks in Durham, NC have done a series of very successful fundraisers to send money to a bunch of prisoners facing repression. Others are focusing on the legal angle and gathering information related to violations of due process rights.

An affinity group in Michigan is responding to the retaliation and folks have been doing some amazing work. If you have any information about prisoners facing retaliation or would like to help out, get in touch with them at: miprisonabolition@riseup.net

Right now, what we need more than anything is financial support. There are a couple hundred prisoners in the hole who need money on their accounts and things to read. Michigan prisons allow books only from designated vendors and all books must be new. Therefore, even though we are being thrifty, sending reading material is expensive. If you can, please donate to supporting the continued resistance of Michigan prisoners.

Coming out strong to help rebellious prisoners who are being repressed is one way to work toward the continuation of their struggles. As prisoners in Michigan are sitting in cells wondering whether or not their resistance was worth the consequences, we can help them feel like it was.

Here is a list of a few of the many Michigan prisoners facing retaliation after the Kinross uprising. Read on for a report from a Buddhist prisoner facing retaliation for the uprising who is being denied access to vegan meals and a new perspective on the uprising from prison rebel Lamont Heard.

Gilbert Morales #186641
Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204
Timothy D. Schnell #516619

Jacob Klemp #231258
Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Darrin Coats #185616
Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Harold Gonzales #194496
Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Jamarr Loyd #234363
Oaks Correctional Facility
1500 Caberfae Highway
Manistee, MI 49660

Richard Carter #178539
preferred name: Ahjamu Baruti (write Richard Carter on the envelope)
Oaks Correctional Facility
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Please take a moment to write to these prisoners. These folks need letters of support, reading material and money for the commissary accounts so they can buy letter writing materials, food and other things they need.

They can only receive books through these approved vendors: Schuler Books, Edward Hamilton Books, Barnes and Noble and Amazon (books must come from Amazon itself, not a person listing books on Amazon), Prison Legal News, and Wal-Mart.

Books must be new and the package must include a receipt. Not all books will be approved. Please choose books that are unlikely to attract negative attention from the prison mailroom.

To send some money to these folks that they can use to buy things they need from commissary, go to Jpay.com and make an account or print out this form to send a money order.

As reports continue to come in from Michigan prisoners who were involved with the uprising, both the scope of retaliation and individual stories of resistance are making their way out.

The attempt by vegan prisoners to maintain agency over their own bodies through daily insistence on food keeping with their ethics, is one ongoing avenue of struggle. Even in the most ordinary circumstances, maintaining a vegan diet in prison is very challenging. In the wake of the Kinross uprising, it’s become even more so for some.

The following report came in from Jacob Klemp, a participant in the events at Kinross, who has been vegan in prison for over six years.  After being transferred first to Marquette, and then Baraga, Klemp went on hunger strike to protest and bring awareness to his situation. As services continue to privatize and food (both vegan and otherwise) continues to be used as a weapon of retaliation as well as a way for prisoners to maintain a sense of their own individual autonomy, we fully expect to hear more stories like this.

From Jacob:

I went on hunger strike for 6 days in an attempt to get their attention. But to no avail.

I began eating again after I had lost 10 lbs and came to the realization that I could die in here and without media exposure they wouldn’t care. They didn’t even check on me regularly.

Food service is run by a privatized company. Trinity food service group. The supervisor’s name here is Ms. Bousquet.

What they are serving and claiming as a vegan diet lacks vital nutrients and is what is causing me to suffer malnutrition. The menu they have printed is even deceptive.  I have never seen vegetable stir fry served here which is on the menu.

They can technically claim they are serving me a vegan diet but it is a lie of omission. They are lacking in vegetables, fruit, nuts and the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

The issue lies with needing a menu change. At very least, back to what it was before food service was privatized. What they are serving isn’t fit to serve a dog. The diet was good until food service became privatized. I have written numerous grievances to no end and am beginning to think nothing will change until legal action is taken.

I would have continued my hunger strike if I thought the public/media would be made aware. This is more of an issue now due to the fact that I’m in administrative segregation and have to rely on them completely for my food. I don’t have the option of purchasing mixed nuts or getting vegetables from the garden.

The bottom line is what they are serving and calling a vegan diet will ultimately cause anyone who is on it to suffer from malnutrition. It consists mostly of GMO soy and potatoes.

I know a lot of it has to do with costs and the privatized company just doesn’t want to pay the money needed to provide adequate nutrition. They figure they can just throw some soy and beans at us and that’s enough.

Before being transferred here I was at MBP for a month. They don’t have any form of the diet there and didn’t even bother to attempt to transfer me until everyone arrived with as transferred.

I just want to walk my spiritual path and not have to suffer physically in order to do so.

Write to Jacob:

Jacob Klemp 231258
Baraga Correctional
13924 Wadaga Road
Baraga, MI 49908

What follows is another perspective on the Kinross uprising from Lamont Heard, a prison rebel in the Michigan DOC who was active during the protests at Kinross Correctional in March of this year. Lamont was not present at Kinross during the September uprising, but compiled the following account from inmates who were transferred to his current prison after the events of September 9th and 10th.

From Lamont:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Most Merciful. Elijah Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

As’ Salaam Aliakum! Below is a report of the rebellion at KCF as told to me by someone who was there:

There was weeks of preparation to shut Kinross Correctional Facility (KCF) down on September 9th, 2016. It was to commemorate the rebellion at Attica prison in the 1970’s. The organizers at KCF wanted to push for higher pay wages and improve the living conditions of the inmates.

Prior to 9-9-16, the prisoners had shown unity several times by the entire population going outside and standing in front of their housing unit and not going to chow (all 1,200 prisoners). Now when September 9th came, it was understood that no one was to go to work for 3 days. On 9-9-16, no one went to work. When we ate chow in the morning, it was a sight to see no prisoner working. Staff had to assist in serving us our food. On this day, lunch was fed to us around 3:00 in the afternoon, and dinner at 11:00 at night. The first day seemed successful.

On 9-10-16, when prisoners went to chow, they were expecting to get their breakfast of waffles, a patty, oats, juice, and milk; but instead, they received a cold cheese sandwich, 4 small duplex cookies and milk. What a change in a day that can make. One prisoner was taken to the hole that morning for just the simplest of infraction. This began to light a fire in some prisoners. [Editors note: As reported here previously, eyewitness Gilbert Morales reported that the administration had previously met with Block Representatives, gave a green light to the work stoppage, and said their would be no consequences and no one would be penalized for participating.]

After chow, yard usually opens around 8:00 am. But this morning, the administration did not open the yard. What did they do that for! At around 9:00, prisoners started coming out of their units. G and H units started coming out first. Then F, D, E, C, A, and B. At this point there were about 300-500 prisoners on the yard at this time. They were walking around in a long line making circles around the front court where we are not allowed to walk normally unless we have a pass or call-out. The prison blew its siren for emergency count. These prisoners that were protesting remained on the yard during the entire time. The prison guards made rounds and took count at 9:15 am. Around 9:30 am, large masses of inmates went into every unit and told everyone to get out the unit and join the protest; and if they didn’t, when they come back they were going to stab anyone who were left. So the majority of the rest of the prisoners who took count left the units for fear of their lives (some of these prisoners were found guilty of “inciting a riot” tickets even though they were not willing participants).

Now the prisoners on the yard grew to about 900. Prisoners were still walking in circles around the common area and the court yard in front of every unit was filled with prisoners. This continued for about 30 minutes. Then prisoners began to settle, mostly in front of the housing units. Prisoners observed outside the gates that there were guards in riot gear with the state police securing the perimeter of the institution. The deputy warden must have felt that this was a good time to come in front of the control center with a bull horn just as the siren blew for the second time and stated, “I’m giving everyone on the yard a direct order to go back to their units!”

Approximately 300–400 prisoners walked up to the control center where the deputy warden was. Before they made it to where he was, he ran back to the door of the control center for fear of his life. But the talking heads of the protesters told the deputy warden before he ran back into the control center, “Are you ready to talk now?!” The deputy warden came back out and heard what the prisoners had to say. They raised issues ranging from pay to visitation to prisoners’ living conditions.  And he assured them that they would do everything they could to meet their demands.

At this time, the prisoners left the control center and began to congregate. During these discussions, there were two different mindsets. One wanted to tear the joint up and the other wanted to exercise peace. Peace prevailed. Everyone went back to their units. The institution blew the siren for the third time that morning. It was now about 11:30–12:00 pm.

The prison guards took count. Bagged lunches were served to the prison population in the housing units. The prison remained on lock down the entire day. At 3:00 pm shift changed and a new batch of officers came. [Editor’s note: According to another account, at this point prisoners again demanded no physical or administrative retaliation and prison officials again made false promises.] Around about 5:00–6:00 pm, a call came over the guards’ radios saying something that sounded like “10-14 … 10-14.” At this time all the inmates witnessed all the guards in every unit running to the control center. There was silence on the units. This probably was the quiet before the storm. When all the guards left the prison, armed guards with pepper spray guns, shot guns and 40 caliber pistols stormed the prison.

Prisoners in every unit (except 2) started destroying everything that belonged to the prison. Prisoners kicked holes through the walls of the counselor’s office and set it on fire, burned files, taped cameras, broke computers, burst windows, sinks, toilets, walls, and broke into contraband lockers. One unit even threw a washer and dryer out the window. This continued for about 4-5 hours. Surprisingly enough, no prisoner on prisoner violence was reported.

Around 9:00 pm, the ERTs (Emergency Response Teams) started to shoot pepper spray into the units and slowly made their way into each unit. Prisoners were pushed back to their cubicles as they gagged and coughed. Then the guards sprayed pepper pellets down the hall and into every cubicle. Now with every unit subdued, they ordered everyone in every cubicle to step out one at a time to exit the rear door where there were armed guards waiting to zip-tie every prisoner and extract the ones they had on their list. The ones they extracted they immediately placed on a bus and drove them to higher security level prisons. About 100 to 150 prisoners were taken that night. The remainder of the prisoners were taken in front of the housing units with tight zip-tied cuffs on and forced to sit on the cold ground. Minutes later it started to rain. Some prisoners stood up to gain some circulation in their arms and the ERTs shot them with pepper balls and continued to shoot them even after they sat down.

Now it was about 12:30 in the morning and they took one unit at a time to the chow hall where they fed us. By the time they finished feeding us and getting the property of every prisoner they extracted, some made it back to their units around 3:00 in the morning.

The next day when all the smoke cleared, there were about 50 plus ERTs inside the prison with guns and pepper spray guns. The entire yard stayed on lock down for the entire day.

Now on October 12th around 4:00 pm, the administration sent the ERTs into each unit and extracted about another 100 prisoners. On the 13th, another 100 prisoners or so were extracted. On the 13th, the higher level prisons could not sustain any more ride ins, so a prison block in Jackson’s RGC (Reception and Guidance Center) had opened to hold these additional prisoners.

Every one of these prisoners was written an “incite to riot/strike” ticket. Of the ones who went to Jackson, only about 10 prisoners were found “not guilty.” One was the individual who went to the hole at breakfast on 9-10-16. The other 9 were prisoners from F-Unit who were threatened out of the unit. The ironic thing with these F-Unit prisoners is that once the inmates stormed in the unit threatening other prisoners, the 2 prison guards did not stop them from coming in to the unit nor leaving. The 2 guards (King and Moran) went cell to cell telling prisoners that they could go outside if they felt as if they feared for their lives. One observer said that he felt as if the guards feared for their lives and did not want the mob of inmates to return and that is why they did what they did.

One inmate who was housed in the Jackson RGC said that he was one of the last prisoners to go to court. And on his finding, he requested the video of the unit hallway to support his claim that he was forced out of the unit.

The hearing took a week to continue from the postponement. The prisoner discovered in the report that Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor (ARUS) Myers lied about the events that happened in F-Unit, claiming that no one was given permission to leave the unit. And that out of all the videos from the incident, no video from F-Unit was sent. The Hearing Officer stated that he requested F-Unit’s video on numerous occasions and Kinross Correctional Facility stated that it was not retrievable. But later, they sent only the lobby area of the incident and not the unit hallways where Officers King and Moran went and told everyone they could leave the unit if they felt threatened. The H.O. found this prisoner “not guilty” at that point. Unfortunately, other prisoners who were also forced out of F-Unit in particular (who had staff permission to leave the unit) were not as fortunate as the prisoners who were heard later in the day. The prisoners heard prior to this hearing were all found guilty because they did not have Moran’s statement nor the video to support their defense.

Write to Lamont:

Lamont Heard #252329
Thumb Correctional Facility
3225 John Conley Drive
Lapeer, MI 48446

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