A costly mistake at age 15 holds 26-year-old Eric Allen Jr. in prison serving a 50-year-to-life plus life sentence, plus COVID-19. Eric intimately shares his fear of dying in prison alone, about his being stripped of all human rights and dignity, dehumanized and treated as an animal in a 24-hour cage who can’t fend for himself, with no voice or caretaker and at the mercy of guards who lie and falsify documents to hide inhumane wrongdoing.
Assigned to the Mental Health Crisis Bed (MHCB) unit, I found 80-plus patients suffering torture, sexual abuse and neglect. President Obama would recognize it as torture. The vast majority of victims were Black or Hispanic, all the abusers White. Cold, dark cells hold captives in isolated sensory deprivation – drugged, sick and in pain. Nurses prevented death only to prolong torment, sometimes for years. The number of patients suffering preventable deaths during “medical treatment” in CDCR facilities may exceed all legal executions nationwide.
Solitary confinement can eat away at someone’s mind, making mental illness worse and leaving many people depressed, suicidal, hopeless or hallucinating. It’s no place for individuals with mental illness. In 1995, a federal court in California agreed. After a trial exposing the appalling conditions at Pelican Bay, a federal judge ordered all mentally ill prisoners out of the prison’s security housing unit (SHU) in a case called Madrid v. Gomez.
It is hot enough in Corcoran, California, to melt people. That being said, it still wasn’t hot enough to keep upwards of 400 people from braving 103-degree weather to mobilize and rally at Corcoran State Prison in support of over 30,000 prisoners on hunger strike in California. The immediate goal is to stop the cruelty and torture that being held in isolation represents. The long-range objective is liberation.
As the 20th year passes since the West waged war against the late Saddam Hussein and the state of war slips into greater violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is another war being waged today, one which gets little coverage on TV, radio and newspapers. This war has been essentially a class war – a war against the poor and working classes.