PORTAGE, Wis. - Families are growing increasingly concerned about loved ones who are at the Columbia Correctional Institution during the lockdown, which is now in its second week.
After our original report Monday regarding the lockdown, several emails and letters have been sent to us from parents of inmates at CCI.
One of the parents, who wished to remain anonymous, said they couldn't reveal their identity because, "It's pretty well-known that the guards will retaliate in a pretty violent way."
The parent sent us an email they received from their son, who described the lockdown conditions.
"The food has been abysmal, maybe a shower every three or four days," they said. "Those emails are reviewed and read before they're sent. So if there's anything in them they don't want to get out, then we have no way of knowing."
We asked the 81st Assembly District representative, Dave Considine, to respond to some of the concerns. When asked if the lack of showers and type of food the inmates were receiving were part of the lockdown protocol, he said: "It's not necessarily part of the rules of a lockdown, but we need to understand how hot meals are prepared in the corrections system. Many of the inmates help with that. Obviously in a lockdown situation, that's a struggle, and again, we are understaffed."
After requesting an interview with a spokesperson from the Department of Corrections, we received the following response:
"Generally, the person who could best speak about the lockdown is the Warden at Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI). However, due to the continuing lockdown process, we feel her time is best spent at the institution working and supporting staff as they continue to conduct a thorough and safe search.
"The Department of Corrections (DOC) is responding to family members and providing them with the information we can while maintaining a safe process for inmates and staff. We plan on proactively telling those individuals, and any others who inquire, once the Institution returns to normal operations. If any concerned individual does have questions, we ask they send an email to DOCMedia@wisconsin.gov and they will receive a response.
"Inmates have, and will continue to have access to showers on a modified schedule through the lockdown. I can confirm that inmates are receiving three meals a day, including one hot meal that conforms to the caloric and nutritional standards. Inmates who have purchased a tablet are able to send emails and mail is being processed on a daily basis.
"DOC leadership continues to monitor the status and progress of the lockdown daily. All of our staff are committed to completing the lockdown safely and returning the Institution to normal movement."
Considine met with the warden at CCI this week, who confirmed they had found contraband inside the building but couldn't confirm what they found. But several families have told us that "several of the inmates were getting cellphones snuck into the institution."
While family members grow increasingly concerned about their loved ones at CCI, Considine believes no one is being abused and there is a valid reason for the lockdown. Considine also believes the lockdown will end soon.
"I think it's almost over because they have only four more housing units to go through and two open areas, so I would expect we are nearly at the end," Considine said.
We have not been able to get a definitive answer as to when the lockdown will end.
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