Sunday, February 21, 2016

On Cell Phones and Solitary Confinement

Tyreem Henry - 34,5 years torture (solitary) for social

Cell phones in prisons.  Guess what?  It’s a thing!  Lots of incarcerated have them.  Lots of incarcerated use them to communicate with each other.  To post on Facebook.  To keep up with the outside.  To participate in internet radio programs and broadcast websites.  To urge their brethren and sistern to organize.  Or just to try to maintain some human connection.  Get over it.

And yes, some use them to pursue criminal activities as well.  But you know . . . if they are using their phones for that purpose – and since all cell communications are already monitored by federal agencies – it is the perfect way for agencies to monitor any such criminal activities.  So the existence of the cell phone should make controlling any said crimes by the incarcerated easier – not harder.

So we do not need boogey man stories about how cell phones among the incarcerated is some sort of dangerous scourge.  It is part of the incarcerated life.  It is one of those things that makes many of those incarcerated beholden to the authorities since there is always the potential for a thorough search that could put a substantial percentage of the incarcerated in deep trouble including years of solitary.

The presumption of the carceral state is that the public naturally would go along with the ideology that it is a horrible thing for incarcerated to possess and use cell phones and to participate in social media.  While there could be a strong tendency – as decarcerators we need to SHOUT THAT DOWN!  HELL NO!

“Tough on crime” rhetoric being used to pander to political base (and the base-ist of politics) has run its day.  The current rhetoric is for reform, reduction to incarceration rates.  (Most such rhetoric honestly – including both political parties – is more form – little substance – as the ranks of incarcerated continues to grow, the local enforcement priorities of minimalist offenses continues to proliferate, and the conjuring of new excuses to incarcerate – like establishment democrat Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to jail those who sell “loosey” cigarettes in Chicago for example – continue to proliferate.  But among at least sectors of the public, there is no longer a knee jerk reaction of support for tough on crime political pandering.

We need to apply this rejection to the idea that cell phones in prison are to be severely punished.   And the punishment can be quite severe.  I refer to the case of

From the linked article:

Tyheem Henry received the harshest penalty to date. Henry was handed down 13,680 days (37.5 years) in disciplinary detention and lost 27,360 days (74 years) worth of telephone, visitation, and canteen privileges, and 69 days of good time for 38 posts on Facebook. Others such as Walter Brown, who received 34.5 years in solitary and lost 69 years of phone, visits, and commissary privileges, were handed down these sentences that have been termed “cruel and unusual punishment” by human rights organizations.

Read that a couple of times and let that sink in.  37.5 years of solitary!

This is no isolated incident either:

“A report from the SCDC that was released earlier this month reveals that 432 similar cases were placed against 397 inmates since the“Creating and/or Assisting With A Social Networking Site” Level 1 offense was implemented in 2013..”

First off – solitary is torture and must end immediately.  While decarcerators should continue to press for abolition (in my case) or reform (if that is your view) – we need to be steadfastly united toward the immediate cessation of solitary – recognized as a form of torture internationally. 

But we also need to reject the knee jerk reaction to cell phone use and social networking among the incarcerated. 

The Decarceration effort that will be successful *must be led* by the incarcerated as they are most directly impacted by this form of modern day of enslavement.  It is the incarcerated that understand the issues better than any and are in the belly of the beast.  When incarcerated organize, cell phones are in play.  They are used to capture abuse by the corrections officials, to photograph inhumane conditions on the inside.  They are used by the incarcerated to organize, to communicate, to converse – with each other and with their families and supporters on the outside.  So as decarcerators we must reject these administrative and arbitrary rules that severely punish for cell phones and social networking.

In NJ we need a means to communicate with the incarcerated – to let them know about Decarceration efforts going on outside but also to find out about their organizing efforts on the inside and to let us know about the abuses going on inside so that we can demand an end to such abuses.  The means that the incarcerated use to communicate is for their choosing – not for us to decide.  We need to stand ready to oppose any such severe penalties as they are meted.  

No comments:

Post a Comment