Summary: This report by a longtime Black political prisoner in Indiana exposes the mental and physical mechanisms being used to try to prevent prisoners from uniting against their oppressors. It concludes with a brief auto-biographical sketch on why prison abolition is imperative.
Behavior Modification Control: The Wabash Valley Correctional Facility G-Cell House Experiment
Segregated confinement has always been used to control or alter a prisoner’s behavior. The threat is that if you don’t stop your resistant behavior you will be placed in isolation.
During the 1980s Indiana Prisons were experiencing their worse episodes of violence. Officers were dogmatic and extremely brutal to the prisoners. As the political education of prisoners surged, militancy called men to take action. Prisoners in revolutionary anger lashed out in defense of their humanity, human rights, and civil rights.
We never prepared for it, but the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) had plans to build two units here in Indiana to modify the behavior of prisoners. In 1991 the Maximum Control Complex was built as an annex to Westville Prison, located in Westville, Indiana. In 1993 the Secured Housing Unit (SHU) was built as an annex to Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (WVCF). These two units were designed to house and segregate Indiana’s worst of the worst. In addition, in seeking to maintain human bodies in a cell for 23 to 24 hours a day, a lot of prisoners were gradually removed out of the general population in a series of sweeps. But it didn’t alter the internal violence taking place inside any of these plantations. The psychological threat was obvious—if you don’t stop engaging in violence or political resistance you will be buried in isolation.
While the U.S. claims not to engage in torture in military operations, it has and will continue to engage in it with anyone deemed a terrorist. Likewise, the IDOC claims to not promote retaliation against prisoners but they have and will continue to do so, even though it violates the very policies they have sworn to uphold and enforce. The purpose of this essay is to expose who the real monsters are at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Highlighting obvious facts will show how they retaliate against us. We are not ignorant of their treachery.
The Experiment and Our Movement to Challenge It
For years, two housing units at WVCF have operated as general population status. Many of us are so happy to be out of segregation that it is not being properly challenged. This is over now. They are releasing us from segregation into yet another segregation-style housing unit. G-House and P-House are both another form of segregation. The idea behind behavior modification is to take away the prisoner’s freedom of movement and isolate him from the prison’s creature comforts. We are cut off from almost everything which is supposed to give us better control or our activities.
As a revolutionary political prisoner, I have been the subject of behavior modification experiments for the past 30 years. So, I and other comrades have no other choice than to challenge these tactics. Our movement inside and outside these prison walls is about building relationships with everyone who is engaged in the same work. Getting the word out to the media about the punishment and retaliatory schemes being used by the officials here at WVCF is very important.
Targeted for Retaliation and Invidious Discrimination
The way to right the wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.
—Idea B. Wells
On September 6, 2018, WVCF officials decide to convert what was a general population cell house into G-House. That is, they transformed it into a Restricted Movement Unit. It brings together four groups of prisoners in one unit, allowing each one to come out for recreation for one hour a day, but divided by the different groups. They isolate us from all programs, educational access, and religious services. They disrupted our daily ability to socially interact with friends and comrades. This was an experiment in psychological behavior modification control.
They moved a lot of prisoners out of this unit to make room for new prisoners they were targeting for retaliation. They singled out maybe 30 to 40 prisoners they wanted removed from general population. Six months later they had to modify the restrictions to allow all prisoners held in G-House access to all programs. They found a loophole to get it approved, as a Modified General Population Housing Unit. But they never changed the way recreation is operated. We are still held in our cells 22 or 23 hours a day. There are still four groups of recreation being run, not just one. As in all the population houses, G-House cells have key locks on the food tray slots. No other house has locks on their doors.
This housing unit is a segregation unit by another name. One prisoner filed a complaint against a counselor for messing with his legal mail. He was in a time-cut program called PLUS and only months from completing it. He was kicked out of the program for filing his complaint. He had no bad conduct, yet they had him moved out of the program and sent to G-Housing. This is a case of retaliation, simply because he filed a complaint against that counselor for mail tampering.
On January 26, 2020, I was removed from my sanitation job by internal affairs and sent to segregation under investigation. I had no conduct reports, no bad work evaluations. On February 21, 2020, I was released to the G-Housing Unit and removed from a working unit. They put me in G-House to keep me isolated from the prisoners and staff alike. This was retaliation. According to official policy I was supposed to be given a job at equal pay scale as what I was paid prior to being removed from my job in January. The G-Housing Unit has to be exposed as a warehouse dungeon specifically used for prisoners they want out of the way. They want me isolated, and out of the reach of some people, even if doing so violates the law and the Constitution. But they can’t isolate my mouth, they can’t stop me from voicing my concerns. I just want to teach them to keep their feet off of my neck.
Corruption and Coverups
Corruption and coverups can only exist when revolutionary conscious prisoners turn a blind eye to it and do nothing about it. In 2019 a comrade was murdered while an officer sat at his post as if nothing had happened. Once he was found dead his body was already hard—which tells you how long he was dead. They claimed it was from a drug overdose. But he was beaten and stabbed behind his ear twice. This happened in the G-Housing Unit. The prisoner was severely beaten while an officer neglected his duties to do security checks every 30 minutes.
In 2018, prior to G-House being converted to a Restricted Movement Unit, during the running of lunch meals two prisoners hid out inside a prisoner’s cell. As soon as the lunch line doors rolled, they entered a comrade’s cell and stabbed him and beat him up. This could never have happened if she had done a count and security check to ensure everyone was accounted for securely in their respective cells. This female officer failed to do her job, and her actions caused yet another prisoner to be beaten.
The criminal justice system, in conjunction with the prison industrial complex, is a nationwide problem. Its philosophy is to create and devise programs that can ultimately control those captives in their custody. The IDOC has used units like G-House and P-House to modify behavior by turning prisoners against other prisoners, create distrust, slander each another, and destroy unity and solidarity so that prisoner will have no one around them to trust. This way prisoners can only confide in prison administrators—which is how they maintain control of this prisons. These experiments in behavior modification of the past are still being used today. This is why we organize ourselves and work tirelessly to educate prisoners to avoid these manipulations from happening.
Indiana prisoncrats are also implementing the use of a tactic straight out of the Willie Lynch handbook, Breaking of a Slave. Lynch wrote about using slaves to keep other slaves in line. He also boasted that this system would perpetrate itself long after he was dead and gone. Today, some prisoners are being given positions so to try to keep other prisoners in line, as in allowing heads of street organizations to control entire units to make these prisoncrats appear to have everything under control. Revolutionaries and political prisoners are supposed to actually be the dominant players in these environments. But we are out-numbered by the opportunist informants and reactionaries. We still trying to teach these men how to oppose this stuff. We struggle forward.
We Are Supported by a Movement
We are organizing and slowly growing in our membership. IDOC-Watch watch was created as in prison as a watchdog group. It is a voice of Indiana prisoners and exposes violations that occur in prisons. We have litigated conditions inside WVCF and other prisons. Primarily, we want to confront how long prisoners are being held in these solitary torture chambers that they call segregation units.
Our movement, IDOC=-Watch, is now in several cities in Indiana, which now include Indianapolis, South Bend, Bloomington, and Gary. We are always open to new allies and friends of the movement. If anyone wants to join us or learn more about IDOC-Watch, you can do so by logging onto our blog idocwatch.org/blog-1, or our mail address at IDOC-Watch, PO Box 11095, Indianapolis, IN 46201.
Not a General Population Unit
Since September 6, 2018, G-Cell House could no longer be considered a General Population Unit. They converted G-House into a Restricted Movement Unit, and in doing so cut us off from all programs and religious services, school, etc. This action violated all prisoners based in G-House of their first amendment rights. On April 6, 2019, due to pending legally challenges, the prisoncrats removed restrictions against attending programs, religious services, and school. But they maintained the restrictions on recreation. There is no other unit at Wabash being operated like the G-House. Instead of those houses in the left and right sides of the unit being let out of their cells together for recreation (as all the population houses do), there are two recreation groups on the left side, and two recreation groups on the right side. We never get to see people from general population. We have locks on every cell door, just like in the segregation unit. Many of us have spent six months to a year in one of these three segregation units at WVCF, instead of being sent to a regular population house once our time is up. They are having many of us sent to G-House, which is amounting to double punishment. These tactics are being used to scare prisoners into changing their behavior. Yet they have not been able to stop any violence from occurring in G- or P-Housing Units.
We want the following demands to be addressed:
- We want all prisoners with one year or more released to general population.
- We want G-House to become unrestricted and opened up as a General Population Unit and not modified segregation.
- That all padlocks be removed from every door in G-House.
- That all prisoners be give 30-day and 90-day reviews, just like it is done in other Restricted Movement Units.
Protest calls and letters should be made to:
Governor Eric Holcolm
Office of the Governor, State House, Room 206
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317 232-4567
Commissioner Robert Carter
Indiana Government Center-South
302 West Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2738
The author of this essay can be reached by going online to connectnetwork.com and setup a free account. Go to Indiana Prisoners and find “Leonard McQuay,” 874304, location Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Once you send me an email I will be able to email you back. You can also write me via snail mail at:
Brother Khalfani Malik Khaldun
PO Box 1111
Carlisle, IN 47838
* * * *
If these Walls Could Talk
If these walls could talk, they would openly reveal to you the story of a boy at 17 entering a prison plantation with a 25-year sentence to serve twelve and a half years.
If these walls could talk, they would explain to you how I transitioned into a man inside these walls and embraced the revolutionary mission as a political prisoner. If these walls could talk, I’m sure they would reveal that I spent at least 27 of my 32 years in prison fighting for change inside these walls—self-educating myself and countless young misguided youth on the struggle and the ways to survive this prison life style.
If these walls could talk, they would let you know all the main and suffering I have endured from losing my mother and two brothers, my father, two sisters, and my only son since 1997. That I pray they went to heaven. If these walls could talk, they would tell you the prisoncrats in 1994 framed me for the murder of a prison guard that ended in a trial in the state of Indiana that gave me a 60-year sentence. If these walls could talk, they would describe what it was like to spend as total of 20 years in solitary confinement, now knowing if I was every going to see the light of day. If these walls could talk, they would tell you how guards would tamper with my food trays and give racist prisoners my mail, and tear my cell up just because they can get away with it.
If these walls could talk, they would convey my discontent for President Trump who is more stupid than Forest Gump. They would say how I expressed solidarity with the comrades and organizations who opposed the assassinations of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, LaQuan McDonald, Castille Abree, and of course George Floyd. Say their names loud and proud. George Floyd changed the world, as did Eric Garner.
If these walls could talk, they would tell you the main who has sacrificed half of his life confined to a prison cell is a stand-up person full of compassion, love, and vision. He does appreciate the love and support given to him.
If these walls could talk, they would tell my story to world, calling on the entire activist community to bring Khalfani Malik Khaldun home from these trenches. If these walls could talk, they would say that I am proud of all of the youth of all races out in the streets mobilizing to defund the police. Keep that fire alive!
If these walls could talk, they would tell you that I love each and every one of you. That I am devoted to the abolition of all prisons. That I will be an outstanding representative of our national and global solidarity movement. Power of the People! Black Lives Matter! Political; Prisoners’ Lives Matter! Now as a people let us change the world. Peace and Blessings!