The prison system of The United States: Take undeserving prisoners out of solitary confinement
The psychological effects that solitary confinement take on a mentally stable person imprisoned can severely damage him before he is released, therefore making that person worse off than when he was first incarcerated. Dickens Etienne has spent 7 years (the majority of his imprisonment) in isolation. He is now protesting on his 3rd hunger strike in just over a year due to unfair treatment at his current facility. Dickens is incarcerated for a selfless act of defense in the third party. It is felt that this unfair treatment has to do with the fact that he is a Haitian man that came to a prominent white community.
In all his time spent in prison, Dickens has never once seen his discovery. Every person brought to trial has a civil right to see their own discovery. Dickens has been continuously denied this right, along with other rights.
On behalf of Dickens Etienne, I have formatted this petition as a protest against abuse of the Eighth Amendment, which addresses cruel and unusual punishment. We, the undersigned believe that prolonged isolation such as what Dickens has suffered is cruel and unusual, particularly since it appears to be based on nothing more than his national origin and his religion.
Dickens does not practice Christianity, nor is he a Muslim or Buddhist. He does not subscribe to a religion that is “accepted” by the prison system and is therefore, I believe, being persecuted for his religious beliefs. His freedom to belong to this religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In addition to the prolonged isolation, Dickens has been denied proper medical treatment. Although many of his current medical problem might be traced to his voluntary hunger strikes, the prison system still can not legally deny him access to treatment. At this time, Dickens is suffering from kidney problems and we can only guess at what psychological problems he might have acquired in the last seven years. He has not had a psychological examination since his incarceration.
No direct action to address either the physical or mental effects of isolation and hunger strikes although there have been promises to do so. At this time, he is not even able to receive mail, which only isolates him more.
Housed in the SHU, he is denied socialization. Prisoners in this section can communicate verbally, but that is not socialization. It is not real contact with other humans any more than being escorted by armed guards can be called “human social contact.” During his brief times outside the SHU, he caused no harm to other prisoners, and his crime was no more violent than that of some others who are allowed in the general population of the prison.
Criminals are human beings, and this factor has been addressed many times when we have sought prison reform. The lack of human contact, the inability to work on his case (due to lack of access to his Discovery) and now the denial of communication with the outside world has left him feeling helpless and hopeless. Isolation can foster feelings of anxiety, paranois, rage and hopelessness. If a dog was confined 23 hours a day with limited exercise and no real human contact, we would be outraged. The dog’s caretaker would be charged with a crime and punished by the law. Dogs, after all, are living creatures and deserve not to be abused or
subjected to abject suffering at the hands of others. However, we view prisoners differently. Once a man or woman is confined in a prison, they are seen as sub-human and less deserving of decent treatment than a dog.
Dickens is serving a life sentence. Without proper medical attention, his life will be significantly shorter. He was not sentenced to death by the court, but appears to have had that sentence put on him by the prison system by denying him access to medical and mental health treatment. There is only one way to describe this: Wrong.
We need to find alternatives for prolonged isolation when it comes to prisoners who have not committed violence while incarcerated. A prisoner who kills or seriously injures another prisoner might need to be permanently removed from the population, but this is not the case with Dickens. Quite often, the prison system will look the other way while it prisoners “serve up justice” to pedophiles, etc. No matter how righteous we act over such actions, the system knows it is wrong, but continues to allow it. Allowing the penal system to have such power robs the courts of theirs and makes a mockery of our judicial system.
If the courts thought that Dickens deserved a death sentence, it would have made that judgment. It did not, so the penal system took over. Regardless of the alleged actions that lead to Dickens being so isolated for so long, the prison does not have the authority to ignore his medical or mental health needs, nor does it give the system the authority to withhold information that is legally his right to access.
There are currently over 80,000 prisoners in solitary confinement across our nation. How many of them are being mistreated as Dickens is? Mistreatment does not always manifest in guards beating or abusing inmates directly. It can be executed by the Administration, as is the abuse against Dickens.
This needs to change. Please sign this petition for humane treatment of prisoners and for better prison reform. By signing this petition, the authority for punishment goes back to the courts and is removed from the hands of the penal system. Thank you.