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CI: Andre Thomas is Both Mad and Now Blind, As is the System About to Murder Him…

February 27, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

“[T]he Eighth Amendment prohibits a State from carrying out a sentence of death upon a prisoner who is insane.” Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U. S. 399, 409–410 (1986) .  ~ Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in Panetti v. Quarterman (2007)

Andre Thomas is Both Mad and Now Blind, As is the System About to Murder Him…
by nancy a heitzeg

Much of the nation continues to move away from the machinery of death ; Death Penalty Information Center reports a near record low number of death sentences and executions as well as additional states considering abolition. Still, Texas marches on. The state  continued to lead the nation in both executions and , perhaps, controversy, including sending to death in defiance of Atkins v Virginia, one Marvin Wilson, IQ 61.

And, now,  Andre Thomas – a man with a documented life-long history of extreme mental illness, a man who, hearing the voice of God,  killed his estranged wife and 2 children , a man who himself then later removed first his right eye, according to Biblical proscriptions, then later removed his left, and ate it – awaits word from a federal district court in Beaumont, Texas as to whether he is sane enough to die.

Andre Thomas at Arrest, After removal of his Right Eye while awaiting trial; and after the removal of his Left Eye on Death Row, 2008

Andre Thomas at Arrest, After removal of his Right Eye while awaiting trial; and After the removal of his Left Eye on Death Row, 2008

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CI: Cruel and All Too Usual

October 03, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Cruel and All Too Usual
by nancy a heitzeg

“Do you think you can be this man? Do you in your freedom think enough right now to understand? What a man endures in captivity daily, by his lonesome? Do you think your mind, heart and spirit contains the strength to maintain focus? Behind this steel door 23 hours a day. Or more likely 24 hours. Don’t test your freedom–stay free! This is truth of SMU experience in Georgia by Mr. BigMann.”

Excessive and extensive use of long term solitary confinement is amongst the most egregious of the many human rights violations in US prisons and jails. The practice is now so pervasive that, according to Solitary Watch: “Based on available data, there are at least 80,000 prisoners in isolated confinement on any given day in America’s prisons and jails, including some 25,000 in long-term solitary in supermax prisons.”

These stints are no longer the “proverbial “30 days in the hole” but regular conditions of confinement that last for decades, sometimes, as in the cases of Hugo Pinell, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace — ranging up to 40 years.

The Pelican Bay Hunger Strike of 2011 revealed the pitfalls of this practice in California  – the state with the highest number of isolated prisoners –  and elsewhere. Still more than 1 year later, inmates at that infamous Supermax have gotten little relief and no satisfaction regarding their Five Core Demands:

1.Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations;
2.Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;
3.Comply with the recommendations of the 2006 US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;
4.Provide adequate food;
5.Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

Despite a recent denial of additional media access to inmates by Governor Brown, the spotlight on solitary continues to intensify. Amnesty International has just published a new report — The Edge of Endurance: Conditions in California’s Secure Housing Units.

The essence of the report is best captured here in an infographic worth more than my 10, 000 words.

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