Inmate of 36 Years Describes Inhumane Treatment in Michigan Prison

Tracy Stengel
4 min readJun 24, 2023
Image by MDOC

Johnathan Lancaster, inmate at Alger Correctional Facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had a history of mental health issues and stopped eating. His health deteriorated and he was restrained in an observation cell for three days but didn’t receive any emergency medical attention. After 15 days without food or water, Lancaster lost over 50 pounds and died on March 11, 2019. He was 38 years old.

This week, Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel, charged eight current and former employees of Alger Correctional Facility with felony counts related to Lancaster’s death.

“These are serious, and numerous, charges that reflect the broad culpability the defendants shoulder in the death of Jonathan Lancaster. The eight defendants had a responsibility for the care and well-being of those in their custody, and my office will continue to rigorously pursue accountability when that is not met,” Nessel said in a statement.

Those are strong words from the AG, but cases of abuse, neglect, and indifference within the Michigan Department of Corrections don’t start and stop with the tragic death of Lancaster.

Temujin Kensu aka Fredrick Freeman knows all too well how callous and corrupt the system can be. “I’ve been advocating for that investigation [of Lancaster’s wrongful death] for probably the last year,” Kensu said.

You may not recognize Kensu’s name, but Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel know it well. They’ve ignored the rallying cries of judges, politicians, celebrities, a retired police lieutenant, a veteran Detroit reporter, and thousands of citizens to grant clemency to Kensu who received life in prison without parole in 1987 for a murder he could not have committed.

When Scott Macklem was gunned down in the St. Clair Community College parking lot in Port Huron in the fall of 1986, Kensu was over 400 miles away in Escanaba, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. Multiple witnesses backed up his alibi. There was no physical evidence tying Kensu to the murder.

Last month, Khaliah Ali, human rights activist and daughter of Muhammad Ali, called Kensu’s conviction, “a flagrant abuse of the law and justice.”

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Tracy Stengel

Writer and freelance fiction editor. Find me curled up w/ a blanket of metaphors or at www.tracystengel.com. You can buy me ☕️ at https://ko-fi.com/tracystengel