In late May and early June, I, along with Chicago group Voices for
Creative Nonviolence, organized a 150-mile walk against indefinite
detention, solitary confinement, and the racist U.S. prison system. For
two weeks, 20 of us walked across the state of Illinois from east to
west, interacting with hundreds of passers-by, carrying placards to give
a momentary reminder to thousands of motorists, and holding public
face-to-face discussions at churches and libraries. We began on May 28
at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago and then
walked through Chicago's west side, the western suburbs, on to DeKalb
and the rural northwest part of the state.
march swelled to 35 by the last day, June 11. When we arrived in the
small town center of rural Thomson, IL, we noticed that 18 police cars
were staged in this town of 600 residents. Undeterred and carrying
placards saying "Education Not Incarceration" and "Hospitals Not
Prisons", we continued walking the final mile up to the Administrative
U.S. Penitentiary, Thomson, which is expected to open in 2017.
word "administrative" is a euphemism for a facility that consists
entirely of isolation cells, in this case 1,900 of them, according to
the watchdog organization Solitary Watch. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons
would try to fill these cells by taking prisoners from other prisons to
bring them to Illinois, a state where activists have spent decades
furthering a general awareness of solitary confinement. The general
disgust with solitary confinement in Illinois recently forced the state
assembly to consider a House Bill 5417, legislation that requires a
documented reason for putting any prisoner in isolation confinement and
which limits the duration of such confinement to not more than 5 days.
at the rally, I admonished the U.S. government for not releasing the
remaining prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, who for 14 years have not been
charged with any crime. It is thought that Thomson prison may still be
part of a murky and politically expeditious plan to avoid releasing
these detainees by simply moving them around. Similar to having people
wait years and years without a speedy trial in Cook County jail,
indefinite detention without charge or trial is a government crime, the
brunt of which falls on poor people and on people of color, especially
black people, who on the national level in 2008 were 6 times more likely
to go to prison than white people, according to the NAACP.
walk to Thomson prison is a recently woven row in the vast tapestry of
work being done to challenge the prison system. The more work that can
be done to engage people on the issue of mass imprisonment, the better.
Facilitating dialogue and sparking people's imaginations can eventually
lead to a diversion of public resources away from building prisons and
into alternatives that help to build a healthier society.
Buddy has been a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence since January 2012 and a volunteer since 2005. He organized Voices' 4 most recent walks in protest of drones and in protest of the NATO summit. He visited Afghanistan 3 times with (more...