Feb 17, 2020
Two inmates at Chippewa Correctional Facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were put into solitary confinement for complaining about conditions there. Edward Roland Combas and Eric Tobais Woods signed an open letter to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington.
They complained of forced labor, black mold in bathroom and shower areas, overcrowded visitors’ rooms, and discriminatory and abusive treatment of minority prisoners by the mostly white prison guards.
Walton said prisoners are forced to work on the yard crew “outside in heat or freezing conditions” or in the kitchen where “you’re worked like a dog for pennies a day serving food.” Though there are plenty of prisoners who want to work, Walton says those who refuse are confined to their cells or falsely accused of more serious misconducts.
Combs said shower areas “are covered with black mold which is causing respiratory failure.” His mother, Betty Combs, said after having to travel six hours to visit her son, prison officials rush visitors out because the visiting room has been overcrowded.
Prison officials deny every claim the two prisoners have made. Yet, they punished the two for speaking out with solitary confinement, saying they were inciting a riot inside the prison, when all they called for was for people to protest peacefully outside the prison.
Officials claim prisoners have the right to free speech. But they are so defensive they have to torture those who speak out with solitary confinement.