Last summer at Alger County Correctional Facility a queer black prisoner named Rodriguez Montez Burks was being harassed and threatened by a homophobic cellmate. Burks repeatedly asked to be moved to a different cell but the guards refused Burks’ request for safety. Burks’ cellmate finally snapped and killed Burks explicitly because of Burks’ sexuality.
We know the details of the guards role in this murder because of a prisoner who witnessed the incident and was willing to speak to the media. That man is named Todd Wentworth, and he has faced brutal and persistent retaliation because of his brave decision to speak up against the corruption and violence in the MDOC. Todd has also enabled and testified in a lawsuit against the MDOC related to the guards’ role in this murder.
The harassment against Todd has been ongoing since he first spoke up over a year ago. After facing repression from both corrections officers and administrators at Michigan Department of Corrections in the form of harassment and threats, they also interfered with his parole process for not “minding his own business”.
MAPS recently received a letter from him (in mid October) detailing some of the retaliation he has faced over the past few months and also the extreme toll that this ordeal has taken on his mental health. He was transferred multiple times and was each time immediately was harassed by the guards. He was threatened, given bogus tickets, and even thrown in the hole for calling a C/O racist. Things got bad enough that he made a suicide attempt by overdose. In the ensuing ambulance ride a guard broke Todd’s pinky finger to threaten him.
We are asking anyone who wants to support Todd through this trying time to write letters to him. These letters could be as short or as long as you wish; any message would mean a lot to him. Letters would also simultaneously send a message to the MDOC and other prisoners that there are people on the outside who are willing to support those that risk their health and safety to bring the stories of the brutality of the MDOC to light.
Additionally, Todd is worried that his suicide attempt will hurt his chances at parole. He is seeking a psychologist or someone otherwise qualified to perform psych evaluations who could provide a psych evaluation to send the parole board. If you have leads on this, please let us know.
We should also clarify a detail about Todd. When he was a kid he, according to him, was hanging around with the wrong crowd. He got a few white power tattoos, some of which he has since covered up. We believe that his subsequent actions absolutely speak louder than any tattoo he got in his past and we think he should be supported because of this, but we also want to be transparent in case any one decides to look up the details about Todd online.
Please write Todd to show him support!
Todd Wentworth #400451
Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC)
1727 West Bluewater Highway
Ionia, MI 48846
For advice on writing prisoners, go here.
Additionally, Michigan has an extremely restrictive mail policy. For a letter to get in, it has to be black ink on white paper. They also throw out the envelope when they deliver the letter to the prisoner, so if you want to hear back from Todd you should be sure to include his full address on the letter itself as well as your full return address. For more details about this stupidly restrictive policy, you can read the policy directive at the MDOC website.