Prison Radio
Dontie Mitchell

“A Question of Leadership.”

So, let me tell you all what I’ve been dealing with for the last week or so. I was finally allowed to run for the ILC, which is the Inmate Liaison Committee. The ILC are prisoners elected by the prison population to represent them through a monthly meeting with the facility administration, to discuss the concerns and problems of the entire prison population.

Last year, I was outright denied the opportunity to run. So, I was surprised when I was allowed to run this year. Needless to say, I won the A block representation-ship by a landslide. It didn’t take me long to see what the biggest problem here was at this facility. It’s leadership. There’s a lack of leadership on both sides, prisoners and staff.

Among prisoners there’s a lot of finger pointing and skepticism. Elders have given up on the youth. I’m likely the only older prisoner who actively engages the youth. Those older prisoners who can make a difference are recluse, but prisoners can’t be the blame for the problems because we lack control over this environment.

The lack of leadership among staff is by far the principle aspect of the biggest problem. For example, every other day prisoners here receive showers and phone access on the galleries on a front-half, back-half basis. Meaning, like tonight, prisoners in the front-half cells on a gallery get a shower and ten minutes on the phone. While the prisoners in the back-half cells will go out to the yard.

I’m in the front-half, that’s why I’m on the phone now. With the introduction of the JPAY tablets, we have to access a kiosk to upload our emails or download games, movies, music and educational videos. A kiosk is located on each gallery.

We can only use them during our shower and phone times. We must choose between phone or kiosk. Be that as it may, the facility administration doesn’t want showers and phones started until after dinner chow, which often runs late. Then they have specific time-consuming protocols, such as not allowing two prisoners out on the gallery at a time.

All of this results in the council officer, who’s responsible for opening and closing our cells, not being able to get every prisoner out for showers, kiosks, and phones. The council officers say, let them run showers, kiosks and phones earlier. The facility administration says no. So, prisoners beef with officers who beef back, often creating a hostile environment that increases violence.

The small conflicts result because facility administrators here are apathetic, indifferent, and don’t listen. Not to their staff nor to the prison population. As the ILC representative, I hope to change that because harm is being done on both sides.

I don’t want to live in a perpetually chaotic and stressful environment. And I’m sure prison staff don’t want to work in one as well. Someone has to step up and be a leader. This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York.

Follow me @FreeDontieMitchell on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Send me an email, video-gram through I love to hear from and struggle with you. Thank you for listening and God bless.

(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.