Family members suspect “lockdown” at Leavenworth as officials search for gun

Tricia Brown usually hears from her fiance a couple of times a day, but it has now been weeks since she last heard his voice.

Her fiance is an inmate in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. Brown said he typically gets to call or email her a few times a day to check up on her. And she would visit him in person a few times a month.

But ever since March 1, when the federal prison first suspended visitation at the facility, she has been prohibited from seeing him. And he has not had access to phone and email to call or message her.

“It’s been 21 days,” Brown said on March 21, “and they are not allowed to email or call out.”

Brown is one of many friends or family members of inmates who have had little contact with their loved ones housed at the Leavenworth facility because of an investigation into a possible gun brought into the federal prison. They have gone about a month without hearing from them and have only been able to communicate through rarely mailed letters from the inmates.

In some of those letters, the inmates describe the situation as a “lockdown” that is keeping them in their cells a lot longer than usual and sometimes leaves them receiving meals late in the evening.

The Kansas City Star reports the inmates are living in inhumane conditions, with some getting little food and others losing access to water.

Sara Kesler, an official for the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ North Central Regional Office, said in an email that the Leavenworth facility that houses about 1,800 inmates is in what’s called modified operations because of the investigation.

She said that means the prison has changed inmates’ movement within the prison and changed access to prison programs and services. The prison warden may add temporary security measures to make sure the prison remains safe and in order.

Federal Bureau of Prison officials have also moved additional staff to the facility to help investigate and provide relief for the prison’s staff.

However, Kesler said the inmates still have access to medical care, food and water as well as programs like educational classes. She declined to provide any further specifics on how inmates are being treated or how long the investigation might take.

“The institution will return to normal operations status as soon as possible,” Kesler said in the email.

A sign in front of the Leavenworth federal prison shows that it is under surveillance.
Friends and families of inmates at Leavenworth federal prison have not visited their loved ones housed at the facility for more than a month.

Brown said she’s only communicated with her fiance through letters he sent from the prison. The Kansas News Service has verified Brown’s fiance is an inmate at the prison, but is not naming him because Brown fears the prison may retaliate against him for speaking out.

In the letter to Brown, her fiance said he is burned out by the “lockdown” and that he is bored while he is stuck in his cell. He said he wished the prison would move him to a different facility.

He said he’s also received his meals much later than usual. Dinner was once served to him at 9:30 p.m.

“This place is hell,” he said in the letter to Brown. “They feed us late every meal.”

Meanwhile, others don’t know if their loved ones are receiving their attempts to communicate.

Crystal is a friend of an inmate at the prison. The Kansas News Service is not using her last name because she also fears the prison may retaliate against her friend. She said she has sent several letters to her friend, but he seems to not be getting them.

“I write every single day,” Crystal said. “He hasn’t received any of my letters, because a lot of the stuff that he asks or mentions, I’ve already told him.”

Crystal said she’s in contact with several other families and friends of inmates through a Facebook group.

The members of the group are concerned because they are not able to check on their loved ones’ well being. They’re also frustrated because they don’t know how long this will go on and they aren’t getting answers from the prison.

Federal prison officials declined to be interviewed and did not respond to a request for comment on the concerns of the family and friends of inmates.

“It’s mentally crippling us,” Crystal said, “because we’re so worried about what’s going on.”

Dylan Lysen – Kansas News Service
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MAILING LIST
Get content delivered to your inbox. It's never been easier to stay INFORMED!