Voices from the Inside Out: Prisoners against slavery and for compassion

March 19, 2023

From the March-April 2023 issue of News & Letters

Tucson, Ariz.—On Sept. 23, 2020, the attorney general of Kentucky says that a Black woman, Breonna Taylor, was murdered for nothing, but the policemen who rained bullets on her were justified. Even so, every bit of evidence implies that what the officers did was wrong. The officers get a gentle slap on the wrist—guilty, essentially, of disturbing the neighbors—while a Black woman is dead.


We are not evolving. In an age where the social injustices are increasing, we are seeing more of a paradox of guilt, rather than the necessity of mankind to clearly see what is wrong and summon the courage to fix it. The nation is searching for answers to a pattern that we have made complicated.

A Black woman was shot multiple times by police. She was killed by them. No officer is held accountable, regardless of all the evidence. Her life, apparently, didn’t matter. The nation wonders if there is hope; if we have the ability to truly make change. It’s not enough for one group to demand change if there is opposition. Protests, while important, only encourage and stimulate a temporary surge of sympathy.

But the barometer for change isn’t on the streets, nor in the nation’s capital. Our nation is a reflection of a collective belief, a majority collective belief. It is measured in how we treat the “least of the brethren.” We must find the ability to have compassion for one another.

It starts in the prisons.


The nation knows well about the injustice to Breonna Taylor, but few know of the four inmates at Doggett County Jail, in Utah, who were tortured from 2015-2017. Officers forced them to be shocked and bitten by attack dogs.

Americans know well about George Floyd, but few know about Kevin Younger, who was beaten by guards at Maryland Classification Center in September 2013. They cuffed him, then beat him, and slammed his head on the toilet, leaving him bloody and with permanent injuries. They beat him because they thought he assaulted an officer. He was actually helping the officer. The prison covered it up for seven years.

Black and white Americans have learned of Eric Gardner, but few know of Dante Taylor, who, after being hog-tied, beaten, thrown face-first down the steps at a New York prison, took his own life, having suffered from a history of depression, attempted suicides and frequent suicidal ideation. Prison guards knew all this but refused to help him.

Prison guards and staff hold positions of authority, no different than police officers. If we ignore the sufferings and mistreatment of America’s inmates, leaving them to the dark corners of society, to be persecuted, beaten and tortured, we then give permission to those abusive men (and women) to leave those dark corners, to walk back into society’s streets, with those same bloody hands and hatred in their hearts.

What will we pay—attention or lip service?


Making slaves of prisoners

Trion, Ga.—When the Dept. of Justice came to investigate Georgia’s Forest Hays Jr. State Prison, it was mind-boggling and precautionary for the administration of this neo-slave plantation. What is interesting about the whole ordeal was that inmates in administrative segregation—Tier 1 being deprived of “basic human needs” such as recreation outside their cells—finally got the opportunity to be on the yard only because the Civil Rights Division of the Dept. of Justice came to town! This deprivation of recreation has been going on for 12 months straight! And it will continue thereafter.


Solitary confinement still exists in Georgia.

Another inmate committed suicide because the mental health dept. is a joke. Plus, the officers neglect the policy requiring prisoner checks every 30 minutes. Most of the time an officer will gather all the charts and go off somewhere and sign all of them instead of making rounds in the unit.

Administration here allows the prisoners who are orderlies into Administrative Segregation to fill our documentation, which only an officer is supposed to be doing. The officers let orderlies pass out the food trays. That is against policy. When this happens, prisoners on Tier 1 are deprived of fruits, beverages, and sometimes their entire meal! Sometimes the officers put a lock on the tray flap and deprive prisoners of their meals for several days.

I’m still being held in segregation without procedural due process and no penological reason. The struggle for justice, equality and dignity is still an everyday battle. But I will continue being an active radical reformist fighting for change, because Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“All of us or none!”

—Major A. Clark, Freedom Rider

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