Way back in that long-gone decade called the 1990’s a whole bunch of us around the country were organizing and agitating against the U.S. prison system – its massive population of prisoners, its draconian sentencing rules, its horrific treatment of prisoners. We even felt like we were getting somewhere – there began to be national bi-yearly gatherings called Critical Resistance which specifically addressed what people began to call the Prison Industrial Complex, although that term even became a point of argument.
As importantly as the Critical resistance gatherings in New Orleans and Oakland was the fact that in January 2000 the governor of Illinois abolished that state’s death penalty. The advent of DNA testing had proven too many people to be innocent while they awaited execution .
And then came George W. Bush, the World Trade Center attack, and two full-dress wars, raging full-on. The prisons of the U.S. remained an invisible (to most folks) gulag but people forgot about them as the news filled with I.E.D.’s and air strikes.
But the prisons and the prisoners within remained a reality, and now it seems that folks are remembering again. This is a recent video about the thousands of people who live in solitary confinement every day. Among the interviewees is my old friend Robert “King” Wilkerson, who spent 27 years in solitary in Louisiana’s notorious Angola Prison as part of the Angola Three, before walking out of jail in 2001 a free man.