Activists and Families Demand MN Department of Corrections End Political Imprisonments

St. Paul, MN — Prisoners are continuing to face retribution six months after 100-plus inmates in Minnesota’s MCF-Stillwater prison protested their living conditions and took part in a day of non-violent civil disobedience. Several incarcerated participants spent the last half year in solitary confinement for speaking out during the protest. Another prisoner has faced “misinformation” charges for speaking to the press and was given a week in solitary and a man was arrested upon his release from Stillwater for prepping to speak with the media and bringing water from inside the prison to be tested by outside sources.

Related Coverage: Civil Disobedience Inside Minnesota’s Stillwater Prison (Sept. 7, 2023) Prisoners Face Retaliation for Protest at MCF-Stillwater (Sept. 13, 2023)

On Wednesday, March 6, two dozen people gathered in front of the Minnesota Department of Corrections headquarters in St. Paul and held a “press conference to end political prisoners in Minnesota.” Activists, advocates and family members of incarcerated people gave updates to the retaliation and spoke about the overall treatment of people imprisoned and potential pathways forward to abolish slavery in the prison system.

Hosting the presser was Marvina Haynes, the founder of MN Wrongfully Convicted Judicial Reform and the sister of Marvin Haynes who was recently exonerated and freed from his life sentence after being charged with a murder he didn’t commit.

Many other family members of currently incarcerated people spoke during the presser. Speaking for their loved ones which they also say are wrongfully sentenced to life in prison for murders they didn’t commit, Nakisha Armstrong spoke about her loved one Deaunteze Bobo and Bri’ana Hooper spoke of her father, Brian Hooper Sr.

An advocate for Philip Vance, Miss Nikki, also addressed the crowd. Incarcerated for more than 20 years over a murder he says he didn’t commit, Philip Vance is one of the three inmates who faced a six-month “retribution” for his “participation in the protest.” From a cell in MCF-Stillwater, Vance wrote a letter to Unicorn Riot in October 2023 and noted he was given six months in the prison’s segregated housing unit for acting as “the voice for the peoplethe news played my explanation of the events that were occurring inside the facility.”

“Because my voice went nationwide, the administration decided to give me 6 MONTHS in segregation. I did nothing more than the other 130 participants who only received minimal discipline. No one was hurt, harmed, or threatened. Nothing was broken or destroyed. I advised guys that we were only making a point, and that there was no need for destruction. The administration took my stance as being the orchestrator of the “peaceful protest,” and found me guilty of inciting, unlawful assembly, protest and riot. I witnessed guys who have been in 10 man fights (riots), offender assaults, staff assaults, and they receive less time than I have. A guy on my wing was found guilty of attempted murder, great bodily harm for the stabbing he committed against the man convicted of killing his sister. They originally offered me 220 days. His offer was 250 days!! Clearly this is retribution for my participation in the protest that was aired for a week on every news outlet here in Minnesota.”

Philip Vance

Miss Nikki said during the Wednesday morning presser that this morning Vance received a “red box,” meaning he needs to pack up his belongings and be ready to be moved with no word on where. Vance just finished his six-month solitary sentence for the September protest on Friday, March 1. Two of the others in Stillwater given six-months in segregated housing, Kawaskii Blanche and Victor Shelton, have both since been moved from Stillwater.

It’s this retaliation against prisoners that has activists calling for an “end to political prisoners in Minnesota jails and prisons,” claiming the inmates are facing retribution for political reasons.

Organized by MN Wrongfully Convicted Judicial Reform, Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, Communities United Against Police Brutality, and Racial Justice Network, the press conference event description read:

“The MN Department of Corrections is continuing its egregious practices of political repression. When the men of Stillwater Prison stood up for their human rights last summer, they were met with retaliation. In fact, specific men were targeted. Kawaskii Blanche, Lincoln Caldwell, Philip Vance, and Victor Shelton were given MONTHS in solitary confinement for speaking the truth about the conditions inside Stillwater prison. Eli Anderson experienced backlash for bringing water outside the prison in a water bottle. Willie Crump, a Faribault inmate, wrote an opinion piece for the Spokesman Recorder and is now facing retribution. Join us in front of the Department of Corrections offices to demand this ongoing practice of political repression END immediately.”

Press Conference graphic posted to MN Wrongfully Convicted Judicial Reform Facebook page

See our past coverage of the Stillwater protest and read a letter from a separate inmate written in September speaking on how they were retaliated against.

Recent Unicorn Riot Prison Coverage:

Marvin Haynes Exonerated and Released From Prison After 19 Years [Jan. 2024]

In a historic ruling, Hennepin County Judge William Koch vacated Marvin Haynes’ murder conviction, dismissed his charges with prejudice, and ordered his release from prison where he was sentenced to serve life. Haynes walked out of MCF-Stillwater as an exonerated man into the loving arms of his family and supporters on Dec. 11, 2023.

‘Let Me Pay My Taxes’ Says Incarcerated Industry Worker [Nov. 2023]

From inside a Minnesota prison cell, an incarcerated worker in the state’s Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) is demanding the Department of Corrections (DOC) allow him to pay his taxes. Kashaun Pierce Sr. said for the last seven years he’s been trying to pay his taxes but the DOC has been listing him as an independent contractor.

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An email sent to the media on the morning of Sept. 12 from a person housed in B East details some of the retaliatory actions by corrections officers and the “aggravated” charges that those demanding humane treatment inside Stillwater now face for their actions.

Latest Unicorn Riot newsletter focusing on related stories [Sept. 2023]

A peaceful protest in a Minnesota prison and prisoners in Georgia and Alabama have been taking stands. We take the reader through some of our recent coverage of prison related stories.

Civil Disobedience Inside Minnesota’s Stillwater Prison [Sept. 2023]

Men housed in Stillwater Prison’s B East unit refused to go back to their cells on Sept. 3, protesting no air conditioning, no clean or cold water and whole units intentionally being locked down with no recreation time nor showers because a staffing shortage.

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The Case of Marvin Haynes – An Investigative Series & Film [2023]

Despite no evidence tying Marvin Haynes to a 2004 murder and Marvin’s consistent claims of innocence, Haynes has remained in prison for nearly two decades based off of coerced testimony of jailed teenagers. We examine his case in our investigative series.

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