Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Fri Jun 9 08:27:17 MDT 2000

forwarded by Michael Hoover

> WSWS : News & Analysis : North America : The Brutal Society
> "The practice of solitary confinement as a prison-wide policy was
> abandoned at the prison by the end of the nineteenth century because
> it was found to drive inmates insane."
> http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/jun2000/penn-j03.shtml
> US court upholds nine-year solitary confinement of Philadelphia man
> By Tom Bishop
> 3 June 2000
> A three-judge panel of the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in
> Philadelphia has unanimously ruled that Pennsylvania authorities may
> continue the nine-year solitary confinement of Russell Shoats, a
> former member of a militant black activists' organization.
> In the decision, Circuit Judge Richard L. Nygaard of Erie, said Shoats
> has been in the "hole" since June 1991 "because he is, in the
> considered judgment of all the prison professionals who have evaluated
> him, a current threat to ... security, and ... to the safety of other
> people." ( To read the court's decision go to:
> http://vls.law.vill.edu/locator/3d/May2000/993603.txt).
> Shoats is in "administrative custody" at the State Correctional
> Institution at Greene in Western Pennsylvania. He is kept in his cell
> 23 hours a day, five days a week, and 24 hours a day for the other two
> days. He eats meals alone. He has been denied visits with family for
> eight years. He has no organized activities, no radio, no TV, no
> telephone calls "except emergency or legal calls," no books other than
> legal materials "and a personal religious volume." At the appeal
> hearing, prison officials acknowledged that they generally are
> concerned about the psychological damage to an inmate after 90 days of
> such confinement and would generally recommend transfer to the general
> population after 90 days as a consequence.
> Shoats was sentenced to life in prison for allegedly participating
> with five other activists in the August 29, 1970 shooting of Fairmount
> Park Police Sgt. Frank Von Colin in Philadelphia. Shoats was part of
> the Black Unity Movement, one of several paramilitary groups that
> formed during the period in response to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's
> initiating COINTELPRO in 1968, a program which included infiltration
> and disruption of the Black Panther Party. The program led to the
> murder of dozens of members of the Black Panther Party and the frame-
> ups of many more. In the decision to continue Shoats' solitary
> confinement, Judge Nygaard said, "Shoats participated in the attack as
> a member of a black revolutionary group that sought to eradicate all
> authority."
> Tensions were high in Philadelphia in the summer of 1970 because
> Philadelphia Police Chief Frank Rizzo had ordered a crackdown on
> militant groups in the run-up to the national convention of the Black
> Panther Party in Philadelphia on September 5, 1970. The shooting of
> Von Colin prompted a 2 a.m. raid on the Black Panther headquarters in
> North Philadelphia. After the raid police officials allowed news
> photographers to take humiliating photos of the Black Panthers being
> strip searched on the street.
> Shoats escaped from Huntingdon State Prison for 27 days in 1977, and
> for 3 days in 1980 from the Fairview State Hospital for the Criminally
> Insane. After the 1977 escape, he was kept in the "hole" from 1977 to
> 1982 except for the one year he spent at Fairview. Shoats had been
> sent to Fairview by the court after he was diagnosed as being a
> paranoid schizophrenic. He had previously attempted jail breaks in
> 1972 and 1976.
> In a 1982 interview with the radio station WQRO at the Huntingdon
> County Courthouse where Shoats was being retried for a kidnapping and
> robbery during his 1977 escape, Shoats said, "I don't feel as though
> I'm guilty for what I'm charged with.... Consequently, I've always got
> the hope that somewhere along the line I'll get out of prison."
> Five members of the Black Unity Movement were convicted of first-
> degree murder in Von Colin's death. The sixth, Richard Thomas, fled
> and was at large for 26 years. He was arrested in suburban Chicago in
> March 1996. The only incriminating evidence found in Thomas's
> apartment in 1970 was a telephone book with numerous names, including
> those of several codefendants in the case.
> Prosecutors tried to persuade two men convicted in the killing, Hugh
> Sinclair Williams and Alvin Joiner, to testify against Thomas in
> exchange for a recommendation by prosecutors that their life sentences
> would be commuted, but the defendants refused. Thomas, who did not
> testify, contended that he fled because he feared he would be
> railroaded - or shot - by police after he was identified as a suspect.
> Thomas was acquitted in a jury trial on November 3, 1999. Juror Bill
> Forman said, "Some black jurors remembered the times - 1970 - that it
> had been difficult being a black." The jury included six blacks and
> six whites.
> The use of solitary confinement has a long tradition in Pennsylvania.
> In 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary opened in Philadelphia. It was the
> creation of the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of
> Public Prisons, a group of "free thinkers" and Quakers. Instead of the
> previous methods of punishment by torture, dismemberment and death,
> they advocated solitary confinement where the prisoners could meditate
> on their sins and resolve to live a better life.
> Known as the "Pennsylvania System," it was considered progressive
> because it combined punishment and hoped for reform. All of the cell
> blocks radiated from a central rotunda that allowed maximum security
> and surveillance. Inmates were alone in individual cells that had a
> bed, a toilet, a worktable, a small exercise yard, a skylight and a
> Bible. Human contact was kept to the minimum possible. The
> penitentiary's radical design became the model for 300 similar prisons
> in Europe, Asia and South America. The practice of solitary
> confinement as a prison-wide policy was abandoned at the prison by the
> end of the nineteenth century because it was found to drive inmates
> insane. The prison closed in 1971 and is now a national historic
> landmark.
> After touring Eastern State in 1842, the British novelist Charles
> Dickens condemned solitary confinement, stating: "I hold this slow and
> daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain is immeasurably worse
> than any torture of the body." ( See "Philadelphia and its Solitary
> prison" from "American Notes" by Charles Dickens:
> http://www.bibliomania.com/Fiction/dickens/American/chap07.html)
> =====================================================================
>                       *  The Activist  *
>       http://get.to/activist  *  http://activist.cjb.net
>  This is not about the world that we inherited from our forefathers,
>      It is about the world we have borrowed from our children !!
> =====================================================================
> Shared by Kay Lee
> 2613 Larry Court
> Eau, Gallie, Florida 32935
> 321-253-3673
> http://www.zyworld.com/kay~lee/garywaid.htm
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>  Jackdanford at aol.com   "COMMON SENSE"   ph 704-867-5493
> 2959 Rufus Ratchford Rd,  Gastonia, NC  28056
> A prison reform newspaper and a national prison reform movement.
> Setting up chapters in  all 50 states, in every large city, every
> small town, every dot on the map.
> I'll be standing in front of one of America's prisons on Saturday,
> July 15th, 2000 to draw attention to the conditions two million people
> live in. Won't you do the same?
> A  Unity of those Concerned
> ************************************
> "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws.
> On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property
> existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place."

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