Men incarcerated at Leavenworth say lockdown, rats inside make them feel ‘less than human’

Prisoners say they have been “treated like savages” during a lockdown at the federal facility in Leavenworth.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons initially said the corrections institution was placed on “modified operations” on March 1 after a firearm was thought to have gotten inside. That limited prisoners’ movement and access to programs and services.

The agency said Thursday that new procedures have been implemented to prevent contraband. Over the past month, there have also been three water main breaks. Work on the lines continues, but the BOP said water has been restored.

“Based on our current progress, we anticipate the institution resuming normal operations shortly; the Warden will continue to monitor events carefully and will adjust its operations accordingly as the situation continues,” the bureau said in an emailed statement.

The facility houses about 1,800 people. According to the BOP website, visitation remains suspended.

Russ Gildner, union president for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 919, said this week in a phone interview that the prison is understaffed and relying on overtime, which is stretching the budget.

Four people incarcerated at Leavenworth recently wrote to The Star, describing the conditions these past few weeks. They did not want to be named. One man wrote, “Retaliation is definitely something to worry about.”

He and two others said there were rats in the chow hall.

“The conditions of this place are far worse than you could begin to imagine,” one of them said. “As we walk through the dining hall there is an absurd amount of rat feces all over the floor. The rat infestation is out of control. The rats that scurry across the dining room are the size of small cats.”

Two men corroborated other accounts saying they had to defecate in bags when the water main broke.

One of the primary complaints is the food. Prisoners have been served basic meals of bread, sliced meat and peanut butter, though there have been days with hot meals.

One man wrote, “Our food portions are small and frequently I have found hair and rocks in the food.”

Another said, “The food and milk is frequently spoiled and inedible. I assure you, your pets eat better.”

Those who wrote to The Star held similar sentiments.

“I feel deprived and less than human,” one of them said. “I treat my dogs at home way better.”

“We understand we’re in prison and all we ask for is the basics,” he continued.

Another wrote, “We are being treated like savages. A lot of us are good people who made mistakes in our life to put us in here, most of it simply addictions.”