Time for law to end torture

Letters to the Portland Editor, September 18, 2009
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  September 16, 2009


In a collaborative effort between human-rights activists and incarcerated Mainers, a bill to end the use and abuse of solitary confinement has been drafted and will be submitted to legislators soon.

After years of scathing investigative journalism, grassroots activism, and organized resistance from the men housed in this unit we have an opportunity to end the systematic pattern of abuse and set a precedent for the humane treatment of prisoners.

We urge those who have been following this struggle for basic human rights to become actively involved, contact your legislators, and join us in demanding an end to practices that can only be defined in one word — torture.

David Bidler

Southern Regional Coordinator

Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition


I want to thank Ken Greenleaf for his well written (as always) review of the Cutler-Thon exhibit (see "Building Up," August 21). As well as being interesting to read his reviews are, without exception, instructive. Even when we know the work well we learn something new from his insight and knowledge and his perspective. It was a happy day when his returned to writing about art. Thank you for what he (and the Phoenix) contribute to the art community.

June Fitzpatrick

June Fitzpatrick Galleries



In response to Jamie Bissonette's letter of September 11 regarding the Maine State Prison Board of Visitors (see "Prison Activist: Board Chairman Wrong"), allow me to reiterate and clarify a few matters. The annual reports put together earlier this year on prison issues were created by the Board of Visitors in order to provide substantive and sufficient background to the presentation that the board had been asked to make in July to the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee for Criminal Justice and Public Safety. As I explained in my letter to the Phoenix (see "Prison Board Chairman Responds," August 21). the need for the reports was made suddenly apparent by the focus of this previously scheduled presentation. The board's reports were not provoked by anything Lance Tapley did, regardless of any credit he may long to assume.

I disagree and take issue with Jamie Bissonette's conclusions about the role and work of the Board of Visitors, but she is obviously entitled to her views. And I did not say that there is little a prison administration can do to protect prisoners from each other. I said that, if one inmate really wants to hurt another, such an attack can happen in seconds, well before officers can come to the aid of the victim and especially when correctional staffing is down in number and that I did not think prisons could be responsible for such attacks. They can, of course, be responsible for reducing the risk of such attacks, to the extent possible, and one way to do that is to ensure that our facilities are properly staffed.

I absolutely stand by my statement that most inmates come to prison because of the choices they made. I agree that those offenders who have the resources to engage skilled attorneys sometimes go unpunished for the choices they made, and that this is an outrage. And I agree that drug and other substance addiction and abuse and their effects contribute to most criminal activity. But most inmates I have talked with or worked with acknowledge that they were the ones who made the choices they did.

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Related: A mysterious new inmate death, A ‘moral victory’ against supermax torture, Screams from solitary, More more >
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