Anti-solitary campaign expands

Stopping Supermax Torture
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 3, 2010

As the February 17 State House public hearing approaches on the bill to restrict solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), which sparked national debate about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, has announced its support. The group is contacting church congregations statewide asking them to become involved in the LD 1611 campaign.

The Maine Civil Liberties Union organized a well-covered January 21 press conference in Augusta at which the bill’s sponsor, Representative James Schatz, D-Blue Hill, and other supporters discussed the importance of the effort, which has drawn backing from the American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, Maine Disability Rights Center, Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians, Maine Psychological Association, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Jeremiah Project (an evangelical political group), Maine People’s Alliance, National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAACP, National Association of Social Workers Maine chapter, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Bill cosponsors include House speaker Hannah Pingree.

Upcoming events related to the bill:

-Ex-solitary-confinement Massachusetts prisoner Bobby Dellelo speaks; movie on solitary confinement | February 9 @ 7 pm | Talbot Auditorium, Luther Bonney Hall, University of Southern Maine, Portland. Also February 11 @ 6:30 pm | REM Center, 93 Main St., Waterville; and February 12 @ 7 pm, Turrets Auditorium, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor.

-Robert King speaks about 29 years in solitary in Louisiana before being exonerated | February 10 @ 7 pm | First Parish Church, 425 Congress St., Portland.

-Criminal Justice Committee hearing on LD 1611 | February 17 @ 1 pm | Room 436, State House, Augusta.

-Ex-solitary-confinement prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur speaks; film on solitary confinement | February 17 @ 6 pm | Belfast Free Library, Belfast.

-“People of Conscience Day of Action,” talks, lobbying; Reverend Richard Killmer, NRCAT executive director, speaks | February 23 @ 9 am-noon | State House Welcome Center, Augusta.

The bill limits solitary to 45 days, bans prison officials from sending mentally ill prisoners to solitary, and establishes a review process for prisoners in solitary. The Warren prison has 100 solitary-confinement cells in its Special Management Unit or “supermax.” | | For articles in the Phoenix’s four-year series on torture in the Maine supermax, visit

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