"THE SHOE"

The Wabash Valley Correctional Institution is Indiana's newest, most technologically advanced prison. Inside of WVCI, like an old infected heart is the state's Best Kept Secret. The Secured Housing Unit, the SHU (more appropriately, The Shoe).

This prison is located in the southernwest most part of the state, far away from the state's urban communities.

The Shoe is, in fact, a supermaximum Control Unit, operating under the guise of long-term punitive segregation.

The Shoe is staffed, predominantly by North Amerikkkan males. The prison racial make-up consists of approximately 55% Afrikans/Blacks, 30% North Amerikkkans/Whites and 15% other.

Recently a pacification program was instituted that permits certain prisoners to purchase televisions (13" color Zenith, $250; Sony Walkman $25 and converse gym shoes, $45).

Many prisoners on The Shoe have no income, therefore, the full sensory deprivation remains a significant factor. The deprivation includes to some extent. 23.5 hours confinement, daily, 24 hour lighting, no windows or visual stimulation with regards to trees, grass, flowers, etc., television or radio, one phone call every 14 days, no contact visitation, and for many, due to The Shoe's location, no visits at all.

Intensification of the impact of the deprivations is made manifest by conspiratorial psychological attacks in which custody staff arbitrarily deny privileges of recreation, telephone and shower, forcing 24 hour confinement. Where false reports of misconduct are imposed (evidence is of no consequence because the issue blatantly becomes "credibility"). Where retaliatory cell strips, macing, direct threats, physical attacks and intimidation become the tools by which fear is projected onto many prisoners.

It is apparent that custody staff, rather than the "Administrators", are the officials. They are instituted as go betweens and speak loud and clear for the administration. This line staff clearly has the green light to do as they see fit, and to arbitrarily impose sanctions.

These sanctions sometimes result in losses of earned credit time (good days), or demotion in time earning class status (subsequently prolonging release from prison), physical attack by "Quick Response Teams," or subjection to chemical agents, placement in four 4-way restraints. These abuses of official discretion have often resulted in the physical injury of Shoe prisoners.

The number of instances where custody staff use racist and other discriminatory terminology is on the rise by both North Amerikkan females and males. These abuses and the seemingly free reign afforded these staff members has fostered an atmosphere that's oppressively infectious and has impacted significantly on fragile, already sensitive communicative relations between Afrikan and North Amerikan prisoners.

Many complaints have been documented both in the administration and the District Courts, therefore, Indiana's highest ranking DOC officials are more than aware. They are openly supportive.

There are no indications that the abuses are systematically addressed. The psychological traumas imposed on The Shoe may be more significant because there is no way to measure the damage caused by the mistreatment or the effect on the individual.

The medical treatment is relaxed at best. There is always, at least a three week delay in seeing a doctor, from the time medical staff is notified of a medical problem. In many instances medical personnel (nurse) incompetence or plain neglect results in even further delay.

When a doctor is finally seen, the subconscious demands in the minds of custody staff, to deprive Shoe prisoners of humane treatment, takes over the predicament and custody interference with the medical interview dictates the length of the visit and even the doctor's and nurse's demeanor toward the prisoner.

The human rights abuses, combined with the blatant abuses of official discretion has dictated that Shoe prisoners take drastic steps to expose the violations.

On May 6, 1995, six Shoe prisoners initiated a hunger strike in an effort to expedite the collective conditions. This was not the first such attempt. These strikes on the Shoe have been sporadic, yet they have had surprisingly significant impact. This of course is related to previous struggles at the Maximum Control Complex in Northern Indiana. In any case many organizations and families have been brought together and collectively and in no uncertain terms insisted that Indiana's prison officials answer to The People.

The very design, in fact purpose, of The Shoe has served administrators. Well, however, as the systematic, arbitrary and discriminatory housing arrangements make significant organizing efforts next to impossible.

One very, very disturbing element of particular distinction on The Shoe is the great number of men classified by the Courts and D.O.C. as "paranoid schizophrenia", "manic depression", etc., and presently on psychotropic medications who are not and have never been "predators". This in light of I.D.O.C.'s insistence that The Shoe houses the worst of the worst.

Many, if not all of these men have genuine mental health needs. These illnesses are ignored, medicated and addressed in the form od disciplinary problems. The accumulated reports of misconduct have resulted in multiple years of punitive segregation. These are the men whom receive the brunt of the sadist guards daily and they often are helpless and respond in any manner.

Those who have taken up their cause and expounded on the total condition have suffered and continue to suffer the more "subtle" forms of abuses with the same physical and psychological impositions and deprivations daily.

Of course, the abuses of official discretion can never be significantly conveyed by way of pen.

Shoe administration and the I.D.O.C. have the law to protect them, a mere cover for their hypocrisy.

Many of us on The Shoe will not be cowed by threats or even physical/psychological torture. We will continue to struggle, to expose the internal violations of human rights and even state laws on The Shoe.

Aliasi Khalfani Salim WVCI Shu B2/103 P.O. Box 1111 Carlisle, IN 47838

BACK to Walking Steel Index