Solitary confinement: Torture chambers for black revolutionaries

An estimated 80,000 men, women and even children are being held in solitary confinement on any given day in US prisons.
10 August 2012

“The torture technicians who developed the paradigm used in (prisons’) ‘control units’ realised that they not only had to separate those with leadership qualities, but also break those individuals’ minds and bodies and keep them separated until they are dead.”  – Russell “Maroon” Shoats

Russell “Maroon” Shoats has been kept in solitary confinement in the state of Pennsylvania for 30 years after being elected president of the prison-approved Lifers’ Association. He was initially convicted for his alleged role in an attack authorities claim was carried out by militant black activists on the Fairmont Park Police Station in Philadelphia that left a park sergeant dead.

Despite not having violated prison rules in more than two decades, state prison officials refuse to release him into the general prison population.

Russell’s family and supporters claim that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) has unlawfully altered the consequences of his criminal conviction, sentencing him to die in solitary confinement – a death imposed by decades of no-touch torture.

The severity of the conditions he is subjected to and the extraordinary length of time they have been imposed for has sparked an international campaign to release him from solitary confinement – a campaign that has quickly attracted the support of leading human rights legal organisations, such as the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild.

Less than two months after the campaign was formally launched with events in New York City and London, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, agreed to make an official inquiry into Shoats’ 21 years of solitary confinement, sending a communication to the US State Department representative in Geneva, Switzerland.

What the liberals won’t tell you

While the state of Pennsylvania has remained unmoved in this matter so far, some in the US government are finally catching on. Decades after rights activists first began to refer to the practice of solitary confinement as “torture”, the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and human rights held a hearing on June 19 to “reassess” the fiscal, security and human costs of locking prisoners into tiny, windowless cells for 23 hours a day.

Needless to say, the hearing echoed in a whisper what human rights defenders have been shouting for nearly an entire generation: that sensory deprivation, lack of social contact, a near total absence of zeitgebers and restricted access to all intellectual and emotional stimuli are an evil and unproductive combination.

The hearing opened a spate of debate: with newspapers in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Ohio and elsewhere seizing the occasion to denounce the practice as “torture” and call for a reversal of a 30-year trend that has shattered – at a minimum – tens of thousands of people’s lives inside the vast US prison archipelago.

But as happens with virtually all prison-related stories in the US mainstream media, the two most important words were left unprinted, unuttered: race and revolution. Continue reading

Prisoners from Corcoran State Prison-SHU respond to prison official’s lies

[A careful and detailed rebuttal of the state prison officials justifications for the tortuous conditions prisoners in the Security Housing Units are subjected to — and severe repression of California prison hunger strikers.  This article is well-worth reading, and passing along. — Frontlines ed.]

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A Brief Discussion on the Reality and Impact of SHU Torture Units in the Wake of the August 23rd Legislative Hearings, From the N.C.T.T. – COR-SHU

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”  — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, 4/16/63

These sage words by Dr. King are both appropriate to the discussion we’d like to have with you on indefinite SHU confinement, and cautionary as to who we are as a society in these troubled times. This 2nd point is very relevant to this discussion and we hope you’ll stick with us as we explore subject matter that is both broad and disturbing which requires us to share some inconvenient truths.

Security Housing Units, SHUs, like those in Pelican Bay, Tehachapi, and this one here in Corcoran are torture units. They are used to indefinitely house human beings in solitary confinement, under constant illumination, based on an administrative determination that they are “gang” members or associates, with an impetus towards breaking their minds in hopes of eliciting information, coercing them into becoming informants or active agents of the state. The torture units are the living tombs of not only alleged “gang” members or associates, but political and politicized prisoners, human rights activists, critics of the prison industry, jailhouse lawyers and most anyone who in the sole determination of Institutional Gang Investigators (I.G.I.) and administrators, are not content to accept and submit passively to their role as commodities in the prison industrial complex. The United States, and many of it’s media outlets such as the ‘New York Times’ and ‘San Diego Union Tribune’, prior to the U.S. “War on Terror” routinely criticized China, Turkey, Burma, Syria, and other nations for holding prisoners in indefinite solitary confinement, under conditions of constant illumination and/or sensory deprivation, etc. for expressing contrary political views. They universally condemned the practice as torture, citing the United Nations Human Rights Commission Treaty. Their hypocrisy was of course revealed soon after the policy of U.S. sponsored torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and numerous secret C.I.A. blacksite prisons was exposed. Yet America’s dirty little secret is, state sponsored torture in the U.S. is neither new or exclusive to it’s “War on Terror”. Years before Abu Ghraib and ‘Gitmo’ they were murdering prisoners in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center, boiling men alive at Pelican Bay-SHU, and holding murderous bloodsport style bouts in Corcoran-SHU all along holding alleged “gang” members and left wing political ideologues for decades in sensory deprivation torture units at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and Tehachapi SHUs. Yes, indefinite solitary confinement and constant illumination is being used right now in California SHU units, in conjunction with a program of systematic isolation and experimental behavior modification to torture prisoners everyday … with no end in sight. Continue reading