The men call themselves the “Dallas Six” and they are on trial for “rioting” while in solitary confinement. It is hard to imagine how a person could “riot” when in solitary confinement – but, those are the charges.
What they did do is cover the window of their cells with their mattresses, which is not allowed, in response to another prisoner being beaten. Other prisoners and their families are calling these men “whistleblowers” for daring to report the conditions under which they live and the treatment they receive as prisoners within the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutes.
My concern is that prisoners receive just and humane treatment.
When a prisoner is mistreated, it is both the prisoner and the guard who suffer. The guard loses some of his/her inherent dignity and humanity, and the relationship of “guard” and prisoner becomes one in which the abuse of power can too easily occur.
Luzerne County, where this trial took place, is also known as the county that engaged in “kids for cash.” In 2008, two judges were sending kids to youth correctional facilities in return for kickbacks from the operators. This county does not have a stellar reputation.
I was in that courtroom because I want to learn more. I also knew that my presence, my “witnessing,” lent support to both the system and the families.
Prison advocates have suggested that “allies” spend time in a courtroom; observing the proceedings, the defendants meeting their court-appointed attorneys just minutes before their trials, and, the plea bargains that are arranged. This appealed to me as a person who does not have much experience with the justice/prison system.
This is happening on “our watch.”
Our prison population has increased 500% over the past 30 years and the U.S. imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. We all share in the responsibility for this system.
Changing the “prison industrial complex” is part of creating a just and thriving world for our fellow citizens.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? How Can You Learn More?
- Before The Law, by Jennifer Gonnerman, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/law-3
- On Trial for Protesting Conditions in Solitary Confinement: The Case of the Dallas 6
- Human Rights Coalition, www.hrcoalition.org
- My previous blog, Mass Incarceration, Racism and a Just Society
- Spend some time sitting in your local courtroom. Take a friend. Observe what happens.