Militant Journalism

‘Hunt’s Forgotten’ prisoners launch hunger strike at David Wade Correctional Center

Photo: The first full paragraph of a hand-written letter announcing the hunger strike at David Wade Correctional Center.

To show solidarity with the hunger strike, contact the David Wade Correctional Center Warden Jerry Goodwin at (318) 927-0400 and demand their demands be met!

On July 14, a collective of more than 20 Elayn Hunt Correctional Center (EHCC) prisoners held at David Wade Correctional Center in Louisiana launched a hunger strike in protest of the extremely cruel and inhumane conditions of their incarceration. 

The prisoners published a letter announcing the hunger strike, documenting the conditions they are facing and outlining their demands. The letter, signed “Hunt’s Forgotten,” opens with a question: “When does prison in America become human rights violations or criminal acts? Sometimes it’s best to simply state the facts then to allow the people to decide.”

The prisoners, who were sent to David Wade Correctional Center as a part of an informal “90-day turn around program,” have been held at the center for many months beyond the 90 days — some for nearly two years. During the course of their time at David Wade, the prisoners have endured “discriminatory practices, mental and emotional abuse, unceasing abuse, torture and inhumane treatment.” 

The letter details a long list of abuses. Prison staff routinely allows cell temperatures to reach “life-threatening levels” of heat and refuses to follow extreme heat protocols. Inmates are regularly exposed to black mold, and are subject to prolonged confinement in double man max security cell confinement — up to two years in some cases. 

Several hunger strikers report sexual and physical abuse. Many note that they have gone years without disciplinary issues, and yet they are being held in solitary confinement or similar conditions indefinitely. 

Inmates with chronic illnesses report being denied access to their medication. Kermit Parker, one of Hunt’s Forgotten, reports, “in essence, I was told my punishment was punitive — so my pain was a part of my sentence; so my meds were cancelled.”

Vondaris Bellard, an inmate with diabetes, has been denied access to the care he needs to manage his blood sugar. He reports: “I have nothing to help me keep my sugar up in these cells. I have passed out over 25 times at David Wade. Next time I go out, it might cost me my life.”

A common theme across many inmates’ complaints is their inability to connect with their loved ones. Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, located near Baton Rouge, is much closer to most of their family members — a manageable drive for a visit. By comparison, the drive to David Wade Correctional Center is almost a ten hour round-trip, which is too much of a burden for most of their family members. As a result, many of these prisoners have not been able to see their children, or their sick and elderly parents, in more than two years. 

David Wade Correctional Center has offered no solutions. Prison officials have even denied these inmates the opportunity to participate in video chats, despite offering that service to other inmates with similar security levels.

In fact, some of the EHCC inmates are not even able to access their loved ones by phone on a consistent basis. Kermit Parker’s wife, Marsha Parker, reports that he “has been in solitary since December 2019, and completely stripped of literally everything from society. Not even regular phone calls home.”  

The prisoners have repeatedly asked David Wade Correctional Center Warden Jerry Goodwin to address these concerns, only to be met with denials. According to the letter published by the Hunt’s Forgotten collective, “between every inmate that is being represented in this petition, we have utilized every single complaint/grievance avenue made available by the prison and [Department of Corrections] — all to no avail.”

The prisoners are concerned with the possibility of retaliation for this hunger strike, citing “a pattern and a practice of countering peaceful protest (hunger strike) with threats, intimidation.”

Routine practices by prison security include: “fabricating disciplinary reports, blocking any/all mail correspondences … cutting off all outside family communications between hunger strike inmates, stripping the cells of the mattress, property and clothing — leaving the inmate naked in a paper gown — laying on cement 24/7 until the pain prevails or hunger strike is ended, keeping the cell lights on 24/7 adding constant light and heat 10 degrees above the cells 95 degrees+ temperature, and threats of being maced or beaten if the protest is not ended,” and more.

The prisoners hope to avoid any retaliation by attracting media attention to their plight and achieving the goals of their strike: to be returned back to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center as originally intended, or alternatively to receive equal and fair treatment along with the other David Wade inmates until transfers can resume. “Our hunger strike is our desperate plea for our voices to be heard.” 

To show solidarity with the hunger strike, contact the David Wade Correctional Center Warden Jerry Goodwin at (318) 927-0400 and demand their demands be met!

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