Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UN Investigatory Backs Ban on Solitary Confinement

Yesterday, from the BBC:

"Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles," he said.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Execution in Oregon

Gary Haugen is scheduled to be executed on December 6th. He will be the first man to be executed in the State of Oregon since 1997, when Harry Charles Moore abandoned his appeals. Gary was sentenced to the Oregon State Penitentiary almost 3o years ago, at the age of 19. He was sentenced to death a few years ago, after he and Jason Brumwell were convicted of murdering fellow inmate David Polin. He has abandoned his appeals voluntarily.

Voluntarily. What does "voluntary" mean in the U.S. prison system?
What sort of system do we have when "choice" is equated with "death"?
We spend $28,390 per year on each prisoner in the penitentiary. A 6 x 9 cell and diabetic diet of TV, anti-depressants, fried food, illegal drugs and gang culture is what most receive. Oh, and the exercise yard - that hour of outside air and light. Hardly rehabilitative.

No wonder Gary Haugen doesn't want to keep appealing. No wonder he doesn't want to go back to the general population. No wonder he doesn't want to live on death row any longer. No wonder.

Gary Haugen is a reminder of the work we all have to do:
  • the work of making prisons places where men and women who have a chance can find a way through the violence, fear, and victimage to hope and opportunity;
  • the work of standing by and standing up for children who need advocates (;
  • the work of dismantling the prison industrial complex and creating institutions that reflect our values and beliefs about human possibility;
  • the work of providing support and resources to victims and their families;
  • and the humble work of befriending.
Gary Haugen is giving up on this work while hoping to draw a little more attention to the need for it to continue. But many of us here, outside prison walls, are not so tired and defeated. We cannot give up.