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The Prison Complex

Monday, Jan 20, 2014, 9:00 am

After protesting solitary confinement—from solitary confinement—prisoners back in court

By Matt Stroud

One of the strangest -- and longest running -- legal cases to emerge from Pennsylvania's use of solitary confinement is the Dallas 6 case out of the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, about 30 miles southwest of Scranton, Pa. In this case, six prisoners are charged with inciting a riot after covering their solitary confinement cell windows. The prisoners claim that they were mounting an act of protest in the wake of an advocacy group's report about harsh conditions and treatment at the prison.

Tomorrow, the Dallas 6 case is back in court. An informative press release has the details.

The Dallas 6 Case: Solitary Confinement on Trial in a United States Courtroom.

The trial of the Dallas 6 is set to resume on January 21, 2014 in the Luzerne County Courthouse. This trial pertains to an April 29, 2010 peaceful protest against illegal and barbaric conditions created by the Department of Corrections’ prison guards in the “hole” at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas (SCI Dallas), including food starvation, mail destruction, beatings, medical neglect, use of a “torture chair” and deaths of various prisoners.

After guards tortured fellow prisoner Isaac Sanchez in a “torture chair” overnight and threatened several Dallas 6 members with death, inmates Andre Jacobs, Carrington Keys, Duane Peter, Derrick Stanley, Anthony Locke and Anthony Kelly decided that they didn’t want to suffer anymore. Covering their cell door windows with bedding, the prisoners demanded that the abuse stop, and requested access to their counselors, state police, the District Attorney and the Public Defenders’ Office. They had no access to telephones or computers and their incoming and out-going mail were being destroyed to undermine their ability to expose the corruption.

Rather than investigate or attempt to resolve the issues which occurred for over a year prior to April 29, 2010, prison officials staged an armed assault against the unarmed men, who were all locked inside of their individual cells, viciously attacking them with electro-shock shields, tazers, fists, and pepper-spray. While all of the guards involved in the incident admitted that they did not suffer any injuries, members of the Dallas 6 were left bloody, naked, with burnt skin, and in pain.

Following the assaults, several Dallas 6 members were transferred to other prisons. Hundreds of documents were generated, including specific claims of misconduct alleged against the Dallas 6. Not once was the word “riot” mentioned. After civil actions and other complaints were filed against prison guards and officials regarding the events, the prison, state police, and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office formed an alliance to bring criminal charges against the Dallas 6–now calling the incident a “riot,” four months later.

In pursuing this case, Pennsylvania tax dollars are being misused to prop up a prison culture that results in the abuse prisoners. From transporting the Dallas 6 to court with helicopters hovering above, attorney hours, housing, court staffing, and travel over the course of a 3-year period, the state has spent between $250,000 and half a million dollars to prosecute these men who took a stand to save their lives and the lives of people around them.

The trial of the Dallas 6 will represent a moment of truth and exposure. We call on all who believe in justice and equality to promote awareness of this case.

For more information, check out thedallas6.org

Matt Stroud is a former Innocence Network investigator who now covers the U.S. legal system, in all its glory and ugliness, as a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter @ssttrroouudd. Email him at stroudjournalismgmail.com.

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