He laughed as he told of being sent to the Lebanon, Pennsylvania jail in order to keep him safe (from being targeted for snitching). His cellmate had been convicted of attempted murder. Like that made him feel safe?
Conditions were beyond filthy, he said. Every night men threw whatever garbage they had out of their cells, including feces.
Today is day 50 of the longest prison hunger strike in United States history. It's happening in California, at Pelican Bay, San Quentin and other prisons. Some 30,000 people are refusing food in an effort to improve conditions in the nation's prisons. They are asking for five core changes (listed here), including an end to long-term solitary confinement. Many Americans have been imprisoned in isolation for decades. No good is served by this, no matter what their crimes -- and most of them didn't commit murder. Read their stories here.
Solitary confinement is sadistic, pointless torture.
This ugly, inhumane practice is an inseparable part of our community. It affects all our lives. As long as these horrendous conditions exist, we will never be free.
It starts with who gets arrested. People with lower status and with nobody to speak for them -- overwhelmingly people of color -- get arrested and go to prison in greater numbers. Meanwhile, many people who commit serious crimes go unpunished.
It is unconscionable to lock up some people under such unhealthy, soul-destroying conditions while many others go free. It benefits nobody -- not their victims, nor the extended community. It's time to overhaul the criminal justice system, and embrace better alternatives.
The lack of resolution to the reasonable demands of the hunger strikers is a scandal of international standards, unworthy of this Land of the Free. Until the prison system is reformed, we are all in the cell block together.