More on the Use of Torture Within US Prisons
by Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can't Wait
Gregory Koger, social justice activist who as a youth spent over 6 years straight in solitary confinement in prison in Illinois, moderated the forum. He opened with a discussion of the background of the hunger strike that started at Pelican Bay prison and the prisoners demands. Alan Mills, Legal Director of the Uptown People’s Law Center, described the explosion of the prison population in the U.S. since the 1970s and the inhumane conditions of isolation in U.S. prisons. Professor Stephen Eisenman of Northwestern University and author of The Abu Ghraib Effect, recounted the history of the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and documented how these conditions violate international law prohibiting torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
Dr. Antonio Martinez, a psychologist who has treated torture survivors around the world, spoke movingly to the effects of torture not just on its immediate survivors but on society at large, including its fundamental purpose of social control and repression of movements for social change. Dr. Martinez stated that US-style solitary confinement is more damaging than prison conditions under Chilean dictator Pinochet. And Laurie Jo Reynolds of Tamms Ten Year spoke about her work to stop torture and change conditions in Illinois supermax prison, Tamms, which was modeled on Pelican Bay prison. Read more about the event.
Stay tuned for more about yesterday's state hearings on the situation at Pelican Bay Prison Special Housing Units, where the June hunger strike originated.