Protesting that nothing had been done by prison authorities to relieve the torture of prolonged solitary confinement, on August 17 inmates of the Maine State Prison’s 100-man Special Management Unit or “Supermax” reprised a hunger strike that had been abandoned last May after officials made promises, according to the inmates, to “work with” them to meet demands for radios or televisions.
Michel D’Angelo, a striker, wrote the Phoenix that the latest protest involved nine prisoners. “We are quite literally going crazy” from solitary confinement, he said. (Many Supermax inmates have mental illnesses to begin with. They often are put there as punishment for breaking the Warren prison’s rules.)
D’Angelo said Supermax prisoners are not allowed to participate in educational, social, or religious programs. He will be released soon, he said: “I’m scared. I know if I don’t clear my mind and get some help I will be a very real liability to society.”
Another Supermax inmate, Jesse Baum, who was not striking himself but acting as the strikers’ spokesman, echoed D’Angelo’s comments in another letter. When he’s let out of prison in November, he said, “I will have spent 17 months in solitary confinement,” and he feared being released “with no readjustment period.”
After conditions failed to improve following the May strike, Baum said, “Many inmates made suicide attempts.” He told of one prisoner who “started writing Bible scriptures in blood” on his cell walls.
Deputy state Corrections commissioner Denise Lord said on September 1 that the newest strike was “on again, off again.” She said “no more than four” prisoners skip a meal on any given day. She also said the prison had no “current intention” to provide radios or TVs to Supermax prisoners.