Iranian hostages can enjoy a window: Institutional Racism and the US ‘Democracy’

In a world with corrupt media reporting stories that sell, we still have some journalists dedicated to exposing the true under reported stories and injustices. (Shout out to our very own Mother Jones magazine focuses on the under reported or unknown story of solitary confinement. Two investigative journalists, Shane Bauer and James Ridgeway write many articles and reports on the issue. Shane Bauer was an Iranian hostage from 2009-2011 serving four months in solitary confinement. Shane Bauer has a report on the injustices of American solitary confinement.

While most would consider being an Iranian hostage to be terrifying, Bauer almost explains that being in US solitary would be worse. (Its pretty hard to compare the two experiences). Bauer explains that at least in his cell in Iran he had a window while in the US (CAlifornia) the SHU cells have none. He writes “There was a window,” I say. I don’t quite know how to tell him  what I mean by that answer. “Just having that light come in, seeing the  light move across the cell, seeing what time of day it was—” Without  those windows, I wouldn’t have had the sound of ravens, the rare  breezes, or the drops of rain that I let wash over my face some nights.  My world would have been utterly restricted to my concrete box, to  watching the miniature ocean waves I made by sloshing water back and  forth in a bottle; to marveling at ants; to calculating the mean,  median, and mode of the tick marks on the wall; to talking to myself  without realizing it. For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of  sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows.  When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground  utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the  patch of sunlight that brought me back. Its slow creeping against the  wall reminded me that the world did in fact turn and that time was  something other than the stagnant pool my life was draining into.” At Least with a window, you could keep track of time, or see the sun. This is something I can’t even comprehend and feel almost unworthy to even write about it.

Bauer goes on to explain in his extensive report that men are often put in the SHU after being validated. They are often asked to ‘debrief’ (snitch) at the end of their sentences. If they debrief or snitch, they are released. Problem is desperate or easily manipulated men  who are targeted by the prison authorities  might snitch on someone in order to get out, and as a consequence drop an innocent name or without any evidence. The system doesn’t ask for evidence! If they snitch on someone who is guilty and are released they they are in turn in danger once they get out of prison. If they snitch on someone who is innocent then that person is ‘validated’ and sent into the SHU without any cross checking. Only based on ONE testimony! The prosecutors are supposed to be able to present a validaiton ‘package’ with ‘evidence’ of ‘gang activity’ which supports the ‘debrifed’ person’s testimony.

Men are being placed in the SHU especially for having items such as : Black Literature : quotes from Malcolm X, W.E.B. Dubois , References to Black history such as Nat Turner, or the Scottsburo 9, Newspapers such as SanFrancisco Bay View, Left-Wing materials such as Marx or Lenin, a mug with a dragon on it, or an Aztec cultural calendar art. “The list goes on. Other materials considered evidence of gang involvement have included writings by Mumia Abu-Jamal; The Black Panther Party: Reconsidered,  a collection of academic essays by University of Cincinnati professor  Charles Jones; pictures of Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, George Jackson, and  Nat Turner; and virtually anything using the term “New Afrikan.” At  least one validation besides Pennington’s referenced handwritten pages  of “Afro centric ideology.”

This is really what I want to focus on in this project. The Constitution is supposed to protect its citizen’s rights of free speech, and press etc. Reading a newspaper such as the San Francisco Bay view SHOULD BE PROTECTED BY OUR CONSTITUTION! The California private prison systems don’t have to answer to the Constitution because they are powerful corporations that have lobbyists and make millions which contribute to campaigns! Who can combat that? No matter what the consequence, citizens should be able to read “Black literature.” These are highly revered intellectuals! Being placed in solitary for reading Malcolm X or Marx?! This is INSITUTIONAL RACISM and there is no accountability!! The system looks to lock down those that are educated enough to question the system! They aim to shut up those that can or are able to question authority! Isn’t this the foundation for our “democracy?”

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