Infestation at Shirley Medium

Incarcerated people at MCI Shirley face an unsanitary outbreak of mice and pest contamination of food and meal trays. Wayland Coleman and others avoid eating this unsanitary food at great personal expense, and Wayland consistently helps others access clean food through canteen.

We are supporting Wayland and his brother Adrian in raising $7000 to cover his food costs for a year, so he can eat enough to stay healthy without risking contaminated food.

hear from those incarcerated at Shirley about what conditions are like inside the faclity.

Hear Wayland Coleman explain the problem and why he and other people inside are
organizing to get safe and sanitary food for people incarcerated at MCI Shirley – Medium.

My name is Wayland X Coleman. I’m currently incarcerated here at MCI Shirley.

Today what I want to do is give a brief report on the situation with the mice here at MCI Shirley. There are many environmental health issues here, but one of the issues that we have a lot of problems with is the infestation of mice at this prison.

The mice in this prison are everywhere. They’re in the units. They come into our cells. And one of the worst environments that is contaminated with the mice is the chow hall, or the kitchen. The kitchen, where they prep our food, our trays are supposed to be cleaned, and all of those things, the mice have pretty much taken over the kitchen. And so, the food trays that we’re being served on all have been covered in mice feces before they prepare our food on them. And what they do is you know they’ll wash and rinse the trays off, and then serve our food. So that’s pretty disgusting.

One of the other issues that’s happening with our food, in the morning, every morning they send up a crate of milks. Our milks, even though they try to rinse the milks off, there is still mice feces attached to the milks when we receive them in the morning.

And so, because there’s such a problem with the mice in this prison, many of us, we do things like block our doors, the bottom of the doors, so that the mice won’t get into the cell. We also tape a piece to the wall on the side of the door so that they won’t come in through the side.

About a month ago, I was locked in my cell for a couple of hours out of retaliation from bringing this issue up to the superintendent. What the superintendent was doing when he did his round in the unit, he attempted to remove the piece of paper that I had to block the mice from coming into the cell. So what I did was I explained to them that that particular piece of paper, which was just a flattened out toilet paper roll, that was all it was, and it was just taped to the wall to the bottom of the door, and it didn’t interfere with the door or anything. So what I did was I explained that that was there in order to keep the mice from coming into the cell.

And so, his position on that was, well, I’m taking care of the mouse problem, and, you know, the blocking of the door is not supposed to be there, the little piece of paper on the door is not supposed to be there. So I’m saying, well, “that’s keeping the mice out, you know, because you guys got a mouse problem and you know, this is keeping the mice out.” He didn’t care about any logic, any reasoning, or anything. His superiority complex just simply made them simply repeat “it doesn’t belong there,” right. And so what I asked him was, “okay so are you telling me, I have to let mice come in and out of my cell?” And, you know, to a question like that they usually look at it like you know we’re being stubborn and things like that but it’s a reasonable question, right? “Are you telling me that I have to let the mice come into my cell? Is that what you’re telling me?” So he storms off and tells me to take care of it, so I told him well you take care of your mouse problem, right?

Sergeant Lewis became upset with the way, I guess, you know, I spoke to his boss. And so he starts telling me, you know, “why you got to run your mouth all the time.” And so I told him listen you guys have a mouse problem, right, and I don’t want the mice in my cell, right, and so I’m blocking the door to keep the mice out of my cell. It’s not obstructing the doors, it’s not doing anything that stops the door from locking or any of that. It doesn’t interfere with your security. I’m just trying to keep the mice out of my stuff. So his response to that was, “well, the superintendent says he’s taking care of it. And he’s going to take care of it.” So when I asked them, “Okay, so, are you going to keep the mice from coming in here tonight, right? Because I hear him say he’s taking care of it, but are the mice not going to come in here tonight?” And so he became upset, and I told him, you know, “You guys get to go home at the end of the day and you don’t have to stay here. We have to live here and you guys don’t have to deal with the shit we got to deal with in here.” And so when I said that to him, he slammed my door closed and ordered the unit officers to leave me locked in until shift change.

So that’s a major issue for us, because at the end of the day where we’re just simply trying to do things that’s humane for us, you know. We don’t want mice in our food. We don’t want them shitting all over our cells. You know, we’re trying to do things that’s clean for us and that’s humane for us, and the administrative attitude towards that is always, “I said it, and therefore you have to do it. If I say move it, you move it.” Not caring that we’re just trying to take a necessary measure, you know, to keep our cell space free of mice. That’s irrelevant to them. The administrative attitude is oppressive. If you don’t do what we say to do, regardless of, you know, us understanding you’re trying to, you know, keep your environment clean and healthy.
We said don’t keep it clean and healthy and that way, you’re not supposed to. And so, when you refuse to do that, then, the next step is to repress you, and this was, you know, them locking me in for a couple of hours for addressing a mouse problem.

And so I decided to get involved with their mice problems, since they don’t want to take care of it and they don’t want us to take these efforts to keep them out of our living spaces, then maybe we should hold them accountable for having this problem in the first place. And so here I’m just reporting to you that there is a significant problem with mice infestations in this prison, and they are everywhere.

I don’t eat the food here, because I don’t want to eat mouse droppings. Unfortunately, I do drink the milk, because it’s my only source of vitamin D. I am vitamin D deficient medically, and that’s one of my only avenues to get vitamin D. And so I’ll drink the milk but what I do is I wash him. I wash him, throw him in my sink, I wash them with soap and water. And then to drink it, I pour it in a cup. I don’t drink out of the carton. So that’s what’s going on.

I did meet a while ago with House Representative Liz Miranda. And after that meeting, they brought trays, because we had missed chow for the meeting, so they brought trays for us. And everybody was taking their trays and I didn’t take mine. And so she asked me, “how come you’re not taking your food?” I explained to her that I don’t eat that food, that I wouldn’t touch that food, because it’s contaminated. And so she asked me to explain. So I told her well, you know, the mice run the kitchen in this prison, and they are in everything. They’re in our meat, they’re in our food, they’re on our trays, they’re in our milk. Everything they have in that kitchen, the mice are in. And so, I told her, you know, so I’m not going to take these trays because I don’t trust that these trays are healthy. So I asked her, you know, when you leave, take a tour of the kitchen. Take a tour of the kitchen. And, you know, once you see what’s going on in that kitchen, then you know you’ll have your answers to why I won’t take that tray. And so she said she would. I don’t know if she did. But I haven’t heard anything else from that. But that is, you know, a pretty significant thing that’s going on that I think people need to pay attention to.

What I’m going to do is, we do have a few of my peers in here who work in the kitchen. I can’t tell their stories. Some of them are willing to step up and tell their stories. Now, there is always a fear of retaliation, when people do tell their stories. And so these kitchen workers who will tell you about what’s going on in the kitchen and the infestation and how nasty it is, they can tell you better than I can. And they will be telling you, but they are at risk of losing their jobs once they tell you their stories. That’s one of our concerns in here. Sometimes, the prison job is all the person has even though they’re getting paid pennies. It’s still all they have, and the fact that these few men are willing to step up and speak at the risk of losing the little bit of livelihood they got speaks volumes and speaks to the importance of this issue.

Shortly after, maybe in a few days or so, we will start hearing from those individuals who are specifically and directly working under those conditions. So for now, I want to thank you for your time. I hope you guys do take this mice infestation at MCI Shirley seriously, because it’s disgusting.

Almost every night, you know, sometimes the mice, they still get through your blockade. And you know, I’ve been chasing them out of the cells. Late night, you know, almost every night I gotta chase one out of there, and it’s pretty disgusting.

So please hear us. Hear our voices and just know that this is a concern, it’s an environmental health issue. Under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution exposure to vermin and rodents and things like that are an Eighth Amendment violation, so recognize that exposure to these mice could be a violation.

So with that said, I’m going to thank you for now, for your time, and again, just ask you to hear us, and be willing to help us and support us in getting this issue eradicated from the prisons, or to get this prison closed while there is an infestation here, because we shouldn’t be living under these pretty disgusting conditions. So thank you for your time. In the struggle, I am Wayland X. Coleman.

An anonymous worker shares how pervasive and long-standing this issue is, as well as the response
from the prison administration to complaints from incarcerated people.

Good morning Deeper Than Water. I am from the Boston area, I’ve been incarcerated here at MCI-Shirley for about the last four months. I just arrived not too soon ago, and now I’ve been employed in the kitchen. As I’ve been in the kitchen, I’ve seen numerous mice infestations. Being that I was a server on the line, when the food comes to us, I would see certain trays, because I was the one that sometimes I would put the trays on the cover, covers on the trays, and also sometimes I would serve the food. So when I would see these things I would stop immediately, and bring it to the director’s attention. He would then order me to go see the lieutenant, to no avail did I get any help or explanation of any sort. So now what he did tell me was, you know, if you see it, just throw it away. I said, you might as well throw all of them away because they’re all contaminated.

Also, my job, the title of my job was to come in at five o’clock in the morning and clean out the dish tray, but the dish tray, the dish washing machine, so to say, was so packed with food, because I’ve dealt with, I deal with integrity, so I would go in there with my heart and clean this thing out, man, but I can’t speak for other people. But I was bringing this to the administration’s attention that, you know, there’s so much food in this thing that I’m back cleaning out that shouldn’t be there, they didn’t care, to no avail again.

So what I did was, you know, I would do my job regardless of whom or what, because I like to deal with integrity and I just didn’t think about myself, I’ve thought about the people as well, because we eat off these things. And then the mice poop that was on these trays, man, was just terrible. It’s like nobody cares in the kitchen. Neither inmate nor staff. There’s only a chosen few that do care, you can’t speak for everybody and you can’t do for everybody all they can do for you, oneself, man. One man can’t carry that whole burden. You can try but it’s not going to get accomplished because there’s always another shift. And the rat infestation within the unit where, you know, rats and mice are coming into our cells, man, eating up our food, you know destroying our food that we pay for and we’re not getting compensated for. They come around, ask us, you know, you give your name and they said we’re working on it. Nothing happens.

My problem was the food in the kitchen. I just got fired for speaking my mind, telling the administration, man you could take this, man you could take my uniform, you’re worried about a uniform, but you’re not worrying about the mice infestation that’s running around here rampant. So with that being said, I was disgusted and I got tired, and it was just a matter of time before they fired me anyways, because I was the one that would speak up.

Regardless of whom or what, I’m standing on my square and saying whatever I got to say, man, in reference to us as a unified body, as a whole. So that being said, man, I greatly appreciate Deeper Than Water’s time and appreciation for allowing me to have this time to bring forth this said matter. I appreciate everybody, man, that’s involved with this, man, and I look forward to solving this issue that we have up here with this mice infestation in this kitchen that needs to be shut down. I don’t see how they’re able to pass these so-called Board of Health when they come through to give an evaluation on the kitchen itself. It has to be an inside job of people knowing somebody knowing somebody, to say, okay, put a checkmark there when there’s a major problem. You’re hearing it from somebody that just recently got fired from the kitchen.

Thank you again for your time and patience. With that being said, man, we’re waiting for, to hear back from Deeper Than Water, thank you.

Hear the voice of a worker who was fired from the kitchen for speaking out about the
infestation and unsafe food and food storage conditions.

This is.. calling back on the same situation. But then we also have these problems in every unit, where they’re coming in the cells and we’ve got our canteen foods and they’re eating up our canteen foods or going through it, and somehow they get in lockers. And then they’re running around the unit in the daytime and nighttime so everybody’s trying to block their door to keep the mice out of their cells. But somehow they still get through them and so a lot of people have to throw out their canteen food because it’s not edible no more once the mice get into it and start biting all over it.

This has been addressed. The superintendent tells us they are working on the problem. Since I’ve been here in 2019, no problem has been addressed. This is still going on in the units, too. So every unit in Shirley medium has this problem. Upstairs and downstairs. It’s not just a full-on downstairs problem, this is upstairs. They are running rampant at nighttime, so when the third shift come in, and during the daytime they’re running around. 
So then that’s the other thing. Also, due to this COVID issue, they’re conserving, just today was the first day they started doing styrofoam trays. Knowing that COVID’s got a few blocks locked down, because of COVID, but they’re still serving food in hard trays that do not get cleaned properly. So if you’re not going to bleach the trays that means that COVID is going to still exist so they’re like passing it around. So the only way we’re getting COVID is through COs and nurses and people that come to the CRA so that’s the other issue that needs to be addressed because they’re not getting tested every time they come to work. So they’re bringing it in. And they’re shutting the prison down and because they’re the ones bringing it in. We don’t get sick unless they bring it in. There’s no contact visits so they’re the ones bringing it in. And some people got weak immune systems so when they die they can say, oh, due to COVID. No, they brought it in. But you know, the last thing that was supposed to be brought up, is still right here right now though.

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