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The prisoners of Missouri’s South Central Correctional Center’s ad-seg units have initiated a consolidated effort to protest and change the conditions found not only at the facility, but in every other Level 5 institution across the state. Prisoners began to refuse their cellmates on the basis of protective custody, after which they are placed on iron benches, shackled with hands behind their backs for hours at a time where they are denied meals and, due to overcrowding, not offered any alternative cell to go to – ultimately forcing prisoners to accept living in a volatile situation just in order to get to eat.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s eighth book written from prison cells in the state of Pennsylvania, USA, is a selection of 107 essays that date from January 1982 to October 2014. They cover practically the entire period of his incarceration as an internationally recognized political prisoner. Most of the pieces were written while he was on death row after being framed for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981, in the city of Philadelphia.
“What sort of conditions could be so unbearable that they’d drive a person to suffer cutting through the skin, nerves, muscles and arteries of his own face, at the risk of permanent disfigurement, disability or even death?” Amerika inflicts such extreme torture on prisoners that they routinely commit such acts as could never be expected of a sane and stable mind. And this is the point: Solitary confinement drives people into insanity.
This morning we lost without a doubt the biggest, bravest and brashest personality in the political prisoner world. On Oct. 4, 2013, Herman Wallace, an icon of the modern prison reform movement and an innocent man, died a free man after spending an unimaginable 41 years in solitary confinement. Herman spent the last four decades of his life fighting against all that is unjust in the criminal justice system, making international the inhuman plight that is long term solitary confinement and struggling to prove that he was an innocent man.
What a tragic image: A man and his son handcuffed and shackled together, yet musingly delighted about seeing a senior family member whom they are not going inside to visit. Rather, the two are to join in what is widely considered as America’s modern day form of slavery. The inhumanity represented in this artwork should be disturbing to anyone with a conscience – but few are moved.