• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Solitary Resistance

Recently Counter Punch published an article of mine describing the U.S. crime of long-term solitary confinement or control unit prisons.  Since then there have been a couple of important developments and the editor has generously allowed me some space to continue this reporting.

Most importantly, tens of thousands of California prisoners have launched the largest hunger strike in the history of the United States.  Recent reports, even in the New York Times, have suggested that about 30,000 prisoners are on hunger strike and that many are refusing to work as well.

Although this effort has been stimulated by prisoners in solitary confinement it is apparently spreading throughout the entire system.  It is absolutely essential that we support these prisoners.  We can do this by: a) joining in the many demonstrations; b) providing financial support; c) signing the petition; and d) spreading the word everywhere.  Indeed, this situation has the potential to become one of the most important strikes (of any kind) ever. For information about how to help: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

I have received many emails in response to my initial article and it has become impossible to answer them all
OutOfContro Weblindividually.  I would thus like to thank those people who took the time to write to me, including those who disagreed with some of my basic observations.  The disagreements fell into two basic categories.

First, some people thought that I over-emphasized the role of prisons and control unit prisons in particular with respect to people of color, suggesting it was more a matter of class than of race.  Let me make it clear that I don’t believe that anyone should be placed in solitary confinement or control units ever.  They have been labeled as torture by human rights activists and scholars across the world and thus we all should oppose them for anyone.  However, it hardly seems possible to overemphasize the role of social control of people of color.  The imprisonment rate in the United States began to rise, for the first time in history, in 1972, following on the heels of the civil rights movement, the Black power movement, the great rebellion at Attica, etc.  The rates are now roughly 8 times higher for Black
people than for White people, and there are a hundred different permutations of these statistics that demonstrate how prisons target people of color.  If none of this is persuasive, I urge people to read The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s excellent book on this topic.  They also might be interested in my book, Out of Control: A 15 Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons, which discusses this topic at length. You can order it or read an abridged version online at: http://www.freedomarchives.org/CEML.html

Secondly, the issue of violence, specifically gang violence was raised by some readers as necessitating long-term solitary confinement. However, additional repression has never been an effective response to anything, including violence in the prisons.  It has been demonstrated time and time again that increased repression simply increases violence.  Additionally, it is the guards themselves that frequently use gang affiliation to get prisoners fighting among themselves, sometimes in isolation prisons and sometimes in general population.

The 30,000 prisoners who are on hunger strike are not all living in long-term solitary confinement but they oppose it because they understand that it is torture. If the prisoners themselves feel it is cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the 8th Amendment, then shouldn’t we take heed of this?  (For info re Hunger Strike: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com)

Shortly after they opened the first such California prison at Pelican Bay, the prison administration claimed that violence went down. However, my husband is a statistician who crunched the numbers and found that violence was going down even before they opened the prison.

Shane Bauer who spent 26 months in solitary confinement in Iran, upon his return to the U.S. investigated the California situation and found that the “rate of violent incidents in California prisons is nearly 20 percent higher than when Pelican Bay opened in 1989.”  Furthermore, he explains that “in states that have reduced solitary confinement–Colorado, Maine, and Mississippi–violence has not increased. . . Since Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman released 75 percent of inmates from solitary in the mid-2000s, violence has dropped 50 percent.

If there was a third thread to the emails I received, it was a weariness, a cynicism about change. This is not the time for cynicism, our worst enemy. On July 13th there will be a huge demonstration at one of these California prisons, Corcoran. Hundreds of people will travel for many hours to demonstrate in the blazing heat.  That sacrifice will be nothing compared to the Hunger Strike of the prisoners who are literally risking their lives in order to be agents of change.  And by the way, this is a Hunger Strike that cuts across ethnic lines, and the prisoners have called for all conflict between the various groups to cease. Let us not prevaricate. Let’s embrace their resistance. For more information, to join the demonstration, sign a petition, or donate needed funds, go to http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.

Nancy Kurshan is the author of Out of Control. She can be reached at: Nkurshan@aol.com 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
June 02, 2020
Zoltan Grossman
Deploying Federal Troops in a War at Home Would Make a Bad Situation Worse
Nicholas Buccola
Amy Cooper is Christian Cooper’s Lost, Younger Sister 
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming is Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
An Unavoidable Recognition of Failure: Trump’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan
John Feffer
Is It Time to Boycott the USA?
Kathy Kelly
Beating Swords to Plowshares
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Urban Riots Revisited
Sam Pizzigati
“Failed State” Status Here We Come
Ron Jacobs
In Defense of Antifa
Cesar Chelala
Bolsonaro and Trump: Separated at Birth
George Wuerthner
The BLM’s License to Destroy Sagebrush Ecosystems
Danny Antonelli
The Absurdity of Hope
Binoy Kampmark
Sinister Flatulence: Trump Versus Twitter
John Stanton
How Much Violence and Destruction is Enough for Depraved American Leaders and Their Subjects?
Richard C. Gross
The Enemy Within
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s “Free Speech:” Doctrine: Never, Ever, Ever Mention He’s a Liar
John W. Whitehead
This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation
June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
Dave Lindorff
Eruptions of Rage
Jake Johnston
An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability, and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations
Nick Pemberton
What is Capitalism?
Linda G. Ford
“Do Not Resuscitate”: My Experience with Hospice, Inc.
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?
Manuel García, Jr.
A Simple Model for Global Warming
Howard Lisnoff
Is the Pandemic Creating a Resurgence of Unionism? 
Frances Madeson
Federal Prisons Should Not be Death Chambers
Hayley Brown – Dean Baker
The Impact of Upward Redistribution on Social Security Solvency
Raúl Carrillo
We Need a Public Option for Banking
Kathy Kelly
Our Disaster: Why the United States Bears Responsibility for Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Letter to Joe Biden on Race
Scott Owen
On Sheep, Shepherds, Wolves and Other Political Creatures
John Kendall Hawkins
All Night Jazz All The Time
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Joshua Frank
In Search of a Lost Socialism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail