Prisons Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on prisons corruption
Free access to books has dramatically improved the lives of incarcerated individuals, offering immense emotional and mental relief as well as a key source of rehabilitation. But as of last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) has decided to make such rehabilitation much harder. Going forward, books and publications, including legal primers and prison newsletters, cannot be sent directly to incarcerated Pennsylvanians. Instead, if they want access to a book, they must first come up with $147 to purchase a tablet and then pay a private company for electronic versions of their reading material - but only if it’s available among the 8,500 titles offered to them through this new e-book system. Incarcerated people are paid less than $1 per hour. Most of the e-books available to them for purchase would be available free from Project Gutenberg. And nonpublic domain books in Pennsylvania’s e-book system are more expensive than on other e-book markets. This policy, part of a larger trend of censorship in state prisons around the country, should alarm everyone. Not only does it erect a huge financial barrier to books and severely restrict content, it also ... severely damages an incarcerated person’s ability to fully reenter society. Perhaps more alarming is that the head of the Pennsylvania DOC, Secretary John Wetzel, is president of the Association of State Correctional Administrators. If Pennsylvania’s policies remain in place, other states are sure to follow suit.
Note: The above was written by Jodi Lincoln, co-chair of Book ’Em, a nonprofit organization that sends free reading material to incarcerated people and prison libraries. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade. Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million dollars in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody. Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states. By far the largest recipients of taxpayer money have been Southwest Key and Baptist Child & Family Services. From 2008 to date, Southwest Key has received $1.39 billion in grant funding to operate shelters; Baptist Child & Family Services has received $942 million. International Educational Services also was a big recipient, landing more than $72 million in the last fiscal year before folding amid a series of complaints about the conditions in its shelters. The recipients of the money run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities. They are essentially government contractors for the Health and Human Services Department — the federal agency that administers the program keeping immigrant children in custody. In a recently released report, the State Department decried the general principle of holding children in shelters, saying it makes them inherently vulnerable.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Eric Loomis pleaded guilty to attempting to flee an officer, and no contest to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Neither of his crimes mandates prison time. At Mr. Loomis’s sentencing, the judge cited, among other factors, Mr. Loomis’s high risk of recidivism as predicted by a computer program called COMPAS, a risk assessment algorithm used by the state of Wisconsin. The judge denied probation and prescribed an 11-year sentence. No one knows exactly how COMPAS works; its manufacturer refuses to disclose the proprietary algorithm. We only know the final risk assessment score it spits out, which judges may consider at sentencing. Mr. Loomis challenged the use of an algorithm as a violation of his due process rights. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear his case, meaning a majority of justices effectively condoned the algorithm’s use. Shifting the sentencing responsibility [from judges] to a computer does not necessarily eliminate bias; it delegates and often compounds it. Algorithms like COMPAS simply mimic the data with which we train them. An algorithm that accurately reflects our world also necessarily reflects our biases. A ProPublica study found that COMPAS predicts black defendants will have higher risks of recidivism than they actually do, while white defendants are predicted to have lower rates than they actually do.
I was 29 and mowing the lawn at my mother’s house in Birmingham, Alabama, on a hot day in July 1985 when I looked up and saw two police officers. I asked the detective 50 times why I was being arrested. Eventually, he told me I was being arrested for a robbery. I told him, “You have the wrong man.” He said, “I don’t care whether you did it or not. You will be convicted.” At the station, it became clear I’d been at work when the robbery occurred. The detective verified this with my supervisor, but then told me they were going to charge me with two counts of first-degree murder from two other robberies. When I met my appointed lawyer, I told him I was innocent. He said, “All of y’all always say you didn’t do something.” I might have seen him three times in the two years I waited for trial. The only evidence linking me to the crime was the testimony of a ballistics expert who said the bullets from the murder weapon could be a match to my mother’s gun. They found me guilty. [In] 1986 I went to death row. Eventually, [in] 2015, the State of Alabama dropped all charges. I was released that same day. When you’ve been locked up for nearly 30 years, nothing is the same. It was like walking out on to another planet at the age of 58. Every night, I go outside and look up at the stars and moon, because for years I could not see either. Now, I am determined to go wherever I am asked to help end the death penalty. I am so thankful that I get to travel with Lifelines and [the Equal Justice Initiative], and share my story.
I do my best to resist the thought that prison is a reflection of our society, but the comparisons are unavoidable. From the moment I crossed the threshold from freedom to incarceration because I was charged with, and a jury convicted me of, leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter, I needed no reminder that I was no longer an individual. Prison, with its “one size fits all” structure, is not set up to recognize a person’s worth; the emphasis is removal and categorization. Inmates are not people; we are our offenses. Considering the charges and conviction that brought me here, I’m not exactly sure to which category I belong. No matter. There is an overriding category to which I do belong, and it is this prison reality that I sadly “compare unto the world”: I’m not just an inmate, I’m a black inmate. Here, I am my skin color. Whenever, in my stubborn idealism, I refuse to acknowledge being racially categorized and question the submission to it, the other prisoners invariably respond, “Man, this is prison.” What I see in prison is sad, but what I’m seeing from prison is worse. During my time in the CIA it became clear, in the organization’s words and actions toward me, that they saw me not as an American who wanted to serve his country but as “a big black guy.” There is a black America, there is a white America, there are many Americas. The greatness and promise of this country lies in equality reinforced by our differences. When I am free, I don’t want to feel that I’m merely going from one prison to another.
Note: The above was written by Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent targeted for prosecution as part of the Obama Administration's "crack down on the press and whistle-blowers." Author James Risen tried to help Sterling expose CIA racism, and later wrote an unrelated book exposing some questionable government practices. Sterling was then sent to prison for what Risen wrote. Risen's latest book exposes major government corruption related to the war on terror.
A bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities, cutting America’s prison population for the first time since the 1970s. But large parts of rural and suburban America ... have gone the opposite direction. Prison admissions in counties with fewer than 100,000 people have risen even as crime has fallen. Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties. The stark disparities in how counties punish crime show the limits of recent state and federal changes to reduce the number of inmates. Far from Washington and state capitals, county prosecutors and judges continue to wield great power over who goes to prison and for how long. And many of them have no interest in reducing the prison population. The divide does not appear to be driven by changes in crime, which fell in rural and urban areas at roughly equal rates. Cities have adopted a more lenient approach to drug offenses in particular, diverting many low-level drug offenders to probation or treatment rather than to jail. Those choices have started to reverse - if only modestly - longstanding racial disparities in American prisons, where blacks and Hispanics are incarcerated at drastically higher rates than whites. But rural, mostly white and politically conservative counties have continued to send more drug offenders to prison.
Note: The war on drugs has been called a "trillion-dollar failure," and spending on jails outpaced spending on schools by three times over the last 30 years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Between 2005 and 2015, 6,913 people died while in legal custody in Texas. Many died of natural causes while serving long prison sentences. Others ended their own lives. A few died at the hands of another inmate, or, in some cases, police or correctional officers. Together, these deaths form revealing patterns about Texas-style justice and the state of corrections in an increasingly carceral country. This information used to be hard to access, but it’s now readily available in an online database called the Texas Justice Initiative. The final product was culled from thousands of internal reports and includes names, time and place of death, cause of death, time in custody, and a description of the circumstances. “These deaths occurred in local jail cells, in the backs of police cars, and on prison sidewalks,” [project creator Amanda] Woog wrote in the summary report of her findings. Among the “suicide” listings is one for Sandra Bland, who died in police custody after a traffic stop. Like Bland, more than 1,900 of those who died, or 28 percent, had not been convicted of or even charged with a crime. Pre-booking deaths reported by law enforcement have been on the rise since 2005. The data gathered on Texas reflects a markedly high number of deaths in custody compared to national trends.
Over the last 30 years, local and state governments increased how much they spend on putting people in jail three times more than how much they spend on educating students, according to a new analysis by the Department of Education. From 1979-1980 to 2012-2013 ... governments increased spending on incarceration by 324 percent (from $17 to $71 billion). This is more than three times the spending increase on education, which only grew 107 percent (from $258 to $534 billion) over the same time period. All of the 50 states had lower expenditure growth rates for PK-12 education than for corrections. “When I think about the lives of those who are incarcerated, I can’t help but feel disheartened,” Education Secretary John King wrote on Medium. “I can’t help but think about their families, spouses, sons, daughters, and parents - or about the art not created; the entrepreneurial ideas that may never reach the drawing board; the classrooms these Americans will never lead; and the discoveries they’ll never make.” King also cited research showing [that] a 10-percent increase in high school graduation rates leads to a 9-percent decrease in the rates of criminal arrest, and reduces murder and assault rates by 20 percent. “Redirecting some of the funds currently spent on corrections in order to make investments in education that we know work,” the Department of Education report said, “could provide a more positive and potentially more effective approach to both reducing crime and increasing opportunity.”
There were 149 people exonerated in the United States last year after being wrongly convicted of crimes. More than a third of the people exonerated were convicted of murder, says a report released Wednesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Northwestern University School of Law. All of the people exonerated last year ... had served an average of more than 14 years in prison. Five of the people who were exonerated had been sentenced to death. All told, the National Registry says it has logged 1,733 exonerations in the country since 1989. “Not long ago, any exoneration we heard about was major news,” the report stated. “Now it’s a familiar story. We average nearly three exonerations a week, and most get little attention.” There are also more exonerations in cases involving false confessions or guilty pleas than there used to be. In four of 10 exonerations last year, the people had pleaded guilty, largely in cases involving charges of drug possession. About a third of all exonerations last year involved these drug possession cases. A remarkable number of these cases occurred in just one place: Harris County, Tex., home to Houston. The registry’s report described how the Harris County District Attorney’s office had investigated cases after noticing a number of people who pleaded guilty to possessing illegal drugs, only for a crime lab - sometimes months or years later - to reveal that the materials these people had were not drugs after all.
Note: Most false convictions never see the light of the day. A detailed report by forensics expert John Kelly and former FBI chief scientist Dr. Frederick Whitehurst reveals "a drug testing regime of fraudulent forensics used by police, prosecutors, and judges." And recently the FBI was found to have faked an entire branch of forensic science. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
On the evening of April 21 in Building 21 at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, Samuel Harrell ... got into a confrontation with corrections officers, was thrown to the floor and was handcuffed. As many as 20 officers repeatedly kicked and punched Mr. Harrell, who is black, with some of them shouting racial slurs, according to more than a dozen inmate witnesses. Mr. Harrell was then thrown or dragged down a staircase. Corrections officers called for an ambulance, but ... mentioned nothing about a physical encounter, [and] told the ambulance crew that Mr. Harrell probably had an overdose of K2, a synthetic marijuana. An autopsy report ... concluded that Mr. Harrell, 30, had cuts and bruises to the head and extremities and had no illicit drugs in his system. The manner of death: Homicide. No officers have been disciplined in connection with the death. Inmate witnesses at Fishkill say they are the ones who have been punished. Several described being put into solitary confinement and threatened with violence after speaking with Mr. Harrell’s family, their lawyers and with news reporters. The Times documented similar allegations of abuse from inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., where in June two convicted murderers escaped, resulting in a three-week manhunt. There, inmates described being beaten and choked with plastic bags by corrections officers seeking information about the escapees.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
One of the biggest corruption scandals to hit America's juvenile justice system began unfolding in 2007, when parents in a central Pennsylvania county began to complain that their children had been tossed into for-profit youth centers without a lawyer to represent them. The kickback scheme, known as "kids for cash," has resulted in prison terms for two Luzerne County judges and two businessmen. Convictions of thousands of juveniles have been tossed out. Now the case is entering its final chapter: a few remaining class action lawsuits. One of those claims drew to a close ... when a federal judge signed off on a settlement in which one of the businessmen, Robert Powell, would pay $4.75 million. Powell, who co-owned two private juvenile justice facilities, served an 18-month prison term after admitting to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to former ... Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. and his boss, Judge Michael Conahan. In return, Ciavarella routinely found children guilty and sent them to Powell's facilities. Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 of racketeering and other charges, and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Conahan, a friend of Powell's who oversaw the scam, pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced to more than 17 years behind bars. A fourth conspirator ... pleaded guilty for his part in the plot and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Note: More than 5,000 kids were exposed to a court that jailed them for profit in this conspiracy involving just a handful of corrupt officials. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and civil liberties.
At any given time, roughly 480,000 people sit in America's local jails awaiting their day in court, according to an estimate by the International Centre for Prison Studies. These are people who have been charged with a crime, but not convicted. They remain innocent in the eyes of the law. Three quarters of them ... are nonviolent offenders, arrested for traffic violations, or property crimes, or simple drug possession. Many will be found innocent and have their charges dropped completely. Defendants who [are] detained before trial [wait] a median of 68 days in jail. Many ... are forced to wait simply because they can't afford to post bail. A 2013 analysis by the Drug Policy Alliance ... found that nearly 40 percent of New Jersey's jail population fell into this category. People sit behind bars not because they're dangerous, or because they're a flight risk, but simply because they can't come up with the cash. A recent analysis by the Vera Institute ... found that 41 percent of New York City's inmates were sitting in jail on a misdemeanor charge because they couldn't meet a bail of $2,500 or less. For low income people, the consequences of a pre-trial detention, even a brief one, can be disastrous. And in many cases, these people will eventually be found to be innocent. Some civil rights reformers [argue] that bail policies are tantamount to locking people up for being poor. We spend somewhere in the ballpark of $17 billion dollars annually to keep innocent people locked up as they await trial.
Two Ohio men wrongly accused of murder experienced freedom for the first time in nearly four decades on Friday morning, but said they don’t harbor bitterness over their unjust imprisonment. A Cleveland judge on Wednesday had dropped all charges against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, allowing for the pair’s release. Jackson was 19 when he was convicted along with Bridgeman and Bridgeman’s brother, Ronnie, in the 1975 shooting death and robbery of Harold Franks, a Cleveland-area money order salesman. Testimony from a 12-year-old witness helped point to Jackson as the triggerman and led a jury to convict. The witness, Edward Vernon, now 53, recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives, according to Cuyahoga County court documents. Vernon wrote in a 2013 affidavit that he never saw the murder take place, but he was told by detectives that if he didn’t testify against Jackson, his parents would be arrested. The Ohio Innocence Project, which took up the case, said Jackson had been the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated. Jackson was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated because of a paperwork error. The Bridgeman brothers remained on death row until Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978. “One of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project.
Note: Watch an inspiring five-minute video of this beautiful man who was originally sentenced to death based largely on the testimony of a 12 year old, who it turns out was coerced by police to blame him. And how many have been wrongly executed that we will never know about? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties articles from reliable major media sources.
The officers got the wrong man, but charged him anyway—with getting his blood on their uniforms. Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him. [A] 52-year-old welder named Henry Davis ... had been arrested for an outstanding warrant that proved to actually be for another man of the same surname, but a different middle name and Social Security number. The booking officer had no other reason to hold Davis, who ended up in Ferguson only because he missed the exit for St. Charles and then pulled off the highway because the rain was so heavy he could not see to drive. The cop who had pulled up behind him must have run his license plate and assumed he was that other Henry Davis. Davis said the cop approached his vehicle, grabbed his cellphone from his hand, cuffed him and placed him in the back seat of the patrol car, without a word of explanation. The booking officer ... proceeded to escort him to a one-man cell that already had a man in it asleep on the lone bunk. Davis balked at being a second man in a one-man cell. The booking officer summoned a number of fellow cops. One opened the cell door while another suddenly charged, propelling Davis inside and slamming him against the back wall. [A] female officer allegedly lifted Davis’ head as the cop who had initially pushed him into the cell reappeared. “He ran in and kicked me in the head,” Davis recalled. “Paramedics came. They said it was too much blood. I had to go to the hospital.” A federal magistrate ruled that the [police] perjury about the “property damage” charges was too minor to constitute a violation of due process and that Davis’ injuries were ... too minor to warrant a finding of excessive force. Never mind that a CAT scan taken after the incident confirmed that he had suffered a concussion.
Note: If you are willing to know how bad it gets, read the entire article at the link above. Then read an educational article on the skewed reporting of the New York Times on the Michael Brown murder. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
For more than a decade, researchers across multiple disciplines have been issuing reports on the widespread societal and economic damage caused by America’s now-40-year experiment in locking up vast numbers of its citizens. Several recent reports provide some of the most comprehensive and compelling proof yet that the United States “has gone past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits,” and that mass incarceration itself is “a source of injustice.” That is the central conclusion of a two-year, 444-page study prepared by the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The report highlights many well-known statistics: Since the early 1970s, the nation’s prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million, making it the world’s biggest. That is five to 10 times the incarceration rate in other democracies. A report by Human Rights Watch notes that ... “in its embrace of incarceration, the [US] seems to have forgotten just how severe a punishment it is.” The severity is evident in the devastation wrought on America’s poorest and least educated, destroying neighborhoods and families. From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with fathers in prison rose from 350,000 to 2.1 million. Since race and poverty overlap so significantly, the weight of our criminal justice experiment continues to fall overwhelmingly on communities of color, and particularly on young black men. After prison, people are sent back to the impoverished places they came from, but are blocked from re-entering society.
Note: For more on the prison-industrial complex in the US, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
"CCA" has become a dirty word. Kanye West cited it when rapping about America's class of "New Slaves." Anonymous invoked it to describe a bad financial investment that undermines justice. And for state after state, the word represents a failed approach to public safety. Profiting off mass incarceration is a dirty business. Private prison company Corrections Corporation of America [CCA] squanders taxpayer money and runs facilities rife with human rights abuses. All private prison companies have corrupting incentives. One is to save money by cutting corners. Another is to promote their bottom line. Although CCA isn't the only company with these incentives, it has done more than any other corporation to [make] the private prison industry into a behemoth plagued by abuse and neglect and profiting off our nation's over-reliance on incarceration. CCA routinely shirks its responsibility to comply with basic standards. In Idaho, CCA employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records. In Ohio, auditors found outrageous violations like prison without running water for toilets, in which prisoners had no choice but to use plastic bags for defecation and cups for urination. And yet, CCA made $1.7 billion in just the last year -- more than any other private prison company. The company pours money into both lobbying and campaign contributions. From 2002 to 2012, CCA devoted more than $19 million to lobbying Congress, and its PAC shelled out over $1.4 million to candidates for federal office during the same time period.
Note: CCA is just one of the many powerful entities getting rich off mass incarceration. Meet the other Prison Profiteers and take action to fight their abuses at PrisonProfiteers.org. For a video exposing this craziness, click here. For more on corruption in the government-prison-industrial complex, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
From Enfield, Conn., to New York City and the San Francisco Bay, lush gardens filled with ripe fruits, vegetables and flowers are growing in unexpected places — prison yards. Prisons use them to rehabilitate inmates and to teach them basic landscaping skills that they can use to get jobs. For the last three years, all 18 state prisons in Connecticut have had garden programs. None cost taxpayers money. Last year, Connecticut prisons produced more than 35,000 pounds of produce – saving taxpayers $20,000 a year by putting produce back into the prison system. “We believe that everybody has a heart and everybody has a chance for transformation,” said Beth Waitkus, the director of the Insight Garden Program that started 10 years ago at San Quentin prison. “What happens with gardening is … they reconnect to themselves. They reconnect to their feelings. They reconnect to each other as a community, a small community in the prison, and they really reconnect to nature. And, I think that offers a huge opportunity for transformation when we reconnect to ourselves and to the natural world.” While Waitkus spends her time in San Quentin teaching inmates how to plant flowers, take care of soil and prune plants, she also keeps the connection strong once they leave prison. Nationally, the recidivism rate is more than 60 percent, according to the 2011 Annual Recidivism Report. For garden prisoners at San Quentin, Waitkus said the return rate is less than 10 percent, and most other prison gardens report return rates in the single digits. In Connecticut, officials say not one of the garden graduates has returned.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
The healthcare provider Corizon makes an estimated $1.4 billion off sick prisoners every year. With profits like those, you would think it was actually treating prisoners. But in states that are using Corizon to provide healthcare in their prisons—and right now twenty-nine are—medical neglect and abuse run rampant. Corizon’s attitude toward the debilitating virus Hepatitis C is especially alarming: They just don’t treat it. Last year alone, no fewer than seven sick prisoners died at Metro Corrections, a jail in Louisville, Kentucky, while on Corizon’s watch. The company made headlines when six employees quit their jobs, according to local press, “amid an investigation by the jail that found that the workers ‘may’ have contributed” to two of the deaths. This summer, it was announced that the contract between Corizon and the city would not be renewed. The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”
Note: For a video exposing this craziness, click here. Corizon is just one of the many powerful entities getting rich off mass incarceration. Meet the other Prison Profiteers and take action to fight their abuses at PrisonProfiteers.org. For more on corruption in the government-prison-industrial complex, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Thousands of teenagers, some as young as 14 or 15, are routinely subjected by US prisons to [the] psychological torture [of solitary confinement]. One teen who participated in the Human Rights watch report wrote that being in isolation felt like 'a slow death from the inside out'. Molly J said of her time in solitary confinement: "[I felt] doomed, like I was being banished. Like you have the plague or that you are the worst thing on earth. I guess [I wanted to] feel like I was part of the human race – not like some animal." Molly was just 16 years old when she was placed in isolation in an adult jail in Michigan. She described her cell as being "a box": "There was a bed – the slab. It was concrete … There was a stainless steel toilet/sink combo … The door was solid, without a food slot or window … There was no window at all." Molly remained in solitary for several months, locked down alone in her cell for at least 22 hours a day. No other nation in the developed world routinely tortures its children in this manner. And torture is indeed the word brought to mind by a shocking report released today by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. Growing Up Locked Down documents, for the first time, the widespread use of solitary confinement on youth under the age of 18 in prisons and jails across the country, and the deep and permanent harm it causes to kids caught up in the adult criminal justice system.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the injustices rampant in prisons, click here.
For the past 16 years, I have spent at least 22 1/2 hours of every day completely isolated within a tiny, windowless cell in the Security Housing Unit at California's Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City. Eighteen years ago, I committed the crime that brought me here: burgling an unoccupied dwelling. Under the state's "three strikes" law, I was sentenced to between 25 years and life in prison. The circumstances of my case are not unique; in fact, about a third of Pelican Bay's 3,400 prisoners are in solitary confinement; more than 500 have been there for 10 years, including 78 who have been here for more than 20 years. Unless you have lived it, you cannot imagine what it feels like to be by yourself, between four cold walls, with little concept of time, no one to confide in, and only a pillow for comfort - for years on end. It is a living tomb. I eat alone and exercise alone in a small, dank, cement enclosure known as the "dog-pen."I have not been allowed physical contact with any of my loved ones since 1995. I have developed severe insomnia, I suffer frequent headaches, and I feel helpless and hopeless. In short, I am being psychologically tortured. Now fellow SHU inmates and I have joined together with the Center for Constitutional Rights in a federal lawsuit that challenges this treatment as unconstitutional. I understand I broke the law, and I have lost liberties because of that. But no one, no matter what they've done, should be denied fundamental human rights, especially when that denial comes in the form of such torture. Our Constitution protects everyone living under it; fundamental rights must not be left at the prison door.
Note: For more on the unbridled cruelty and corruption of the prison-industrial complex, click here.
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