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'Inhumane': Former inmates detail conditions inside prison, call for its closure

'Inhumane': Former inmates detail conditions inside prison, call for its closure
GBCI protest
Posted at 12:24 AM, Nov 10, 2023
  • JOSHUA (Justice Organization Sharing Hope & United for Action) and EXPO (Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing) of Wisconsin hosted a vigil Thursday just outside the walls of Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI), calling for the facility to close
  • Former GBCI inmates speaking at the protest say they spoke with current inmates who confirmed reports of the prison being on lockdown for at least four months
  • The protesters say the lock downs mean no fresh air, medical treatment, hot food or contact with the outside world
  • Video shows the protesters' words, as well as a response from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and a State Assembly representative

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

There are renewed calls for the closure of a 125-year-old prison. Your Allouez neighborhood reporter Karl Winter was at a protest where former inmates said the conditions inside were inhumane.

The protest and vigil here at the Green Bay Correctional Institution brought to light the reported conditions inside. I'm Karl Winter and the people here spoke about the experience of being locked in their cells around the clock.

"End the lockdowns, stop the torture, close Green Bay," protesters chanted.

Many of the protesters served time here.

"I entered Green Bay in 1995 as 19-year-old boy," Monte Azul said.

"I was a teenager when I walked through these doors," Bobby Ayala said.

"I got out in 2022," a man who said his name was Two Feathers said.

They say they've talked to current inmates, who confirmed reports that the facility has been on lockdown for months — keeping inmates in their cells 24 hours a day.

"You're in the cell all day, every day," Dant'e Cottingham said. "You don't have hot meals. You don't have access to medical."

"There is no sunlight," Ayala said. "There is no wind. This is torture. Can you imagine 24 hours in your room with another person? That is inhumane."

Ex-incarcerated People of Wisconsin, or EXPO, helped organize the protest. Two EXPO representatives, who served together in GBCI, say the only way to fix the prison's issues is to shut its doors for good.

"With this prison being so outdated, the only way to do that is to close it," Cottingham said.

"The maturation that I endured didn't come at the hands and the help of the institution," Azul said. "It came in spite of it."

The Department of Corrections responded to a request for comment with an email, writing this about the lockdowns:

"Nobody wants to restrict access to any of the activities offered at our facilities, but the safety of our staff and those in our care is a priority. We will continue to assess the operations at this facility and incrementally increase participation in all activities when it can be done in a way that's safe for everyone involved."

Prison reform has stalled in Madison for years. David Steffen, who represents Allouez in the State Assembly, is calling on Governor Tony Evers to take up the issue.

"Set politics aside, go through the process, start identifying a new site, start working on designs," Rep. Steffen said. "It's a four year process to get a new prison. So we need to start now.

Two Feathers says the current inmates need help from the outside.

"I hope that the state hears us, man," he said. "I really do."

The Village of Allouez also called for the prison's closure back in early October. EXPO says they plan to come here for another vigil on Thursday, Nov. 16, to continue drawing attention to the conditions.