Since the shelter-in-place ordinances began, MAPS and other organizations have organized and supported multiple phone zaps with varying targets. Phone zaps are one tool of prisoner solidarity—they have significant limits, but they can also have material impacts that improve conditions for comrades in need. Flooding prison phone lines can let officials and guards know they’re being watched and can make it more difficult to conduct “business as usual.” Flooding the phone lines of politicians and political appointees can in turn put pressure on prison officials from above. One of our formerly incarcerated comrades says that neither MDOC director Heidi Washington nor the agency as a whole cares about what happens at any facility until free people make a racket on the outside. These actions also let prisoners know that people on the outside are thinking of and trying to watch out for them.

However, prison authorities purposefully hide so much of what happens on the inside from the public, so it can be hard for organizers and especially for participants to figure out what effects a phone zap has had. This is why we wanted to put together some updates, not only to give folks a sense of what we’ve been working on together but also to share some responses of comrades on the inside who’ve gotten back to us about the call-ins. Here is a list of updates that we’ve been able to gather from each phone zap:

  • Phone Zap on Tuesday, February 25 to stop the repression of prisoners Edward Walton, Edward Combs, and Eric Woods at Chippewa Correctional Facility:
    • Backstory: In January 2020, Edward Walton, Edward Combs, and Eric Woods had written an open letter highlighting the abusive and unhealthy conditions at Chippewa Correctional Facility and demanding an outside investigation. In retaliation, on February 3, MDOC put Walton in “administrative segregation” (solitary confinement).
      **Edward Walton was finally let out of administrative segregation on April 9.
    • Edward Combs recorded an update for us on March 23, which you can listen to here.
    • Eric Woods was placed in solitary and lost privileges for demanding medical attention for flu-like symptoms (see above update).
    • The demands for an outside investigation into the conditions at Chippewa were quickly overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the black mold, forced labor, and prisoner retaliation remain constant problems at this facility. All eyes on Chippewa!
  • Phone Zap on Thursday, April 23 for Juivonne Littlejohn’s Commutation:
    • Backstory: In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, all incarcerated people are highly vulnerable to infection and death. Juivonne Littlejohn, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, has been locked up for more than three decades. We organized a phone zap to pressure Governor Whitmer to sign his commutation—and to use her emergency powers to expedite commutation of sentences and pardoning of prisoners more broadly.
      We don’t have concrete updates from Littlejohn yet, but we’ll be in touch when we do hear something. Unfortunately, there’s been little movement from the governor on the general matter of commutations and pardons.

If you or a loved one have any updates related to prisoner retaliation or further developments at any MDOC facility, reach out to us at maps@riseup.org

One thought on “Updates on Recent Phone Zaps

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