federal prison

President Obama Should Visit Solitary Confinement Cell to See True Suffering

Image via  UzFoto/Shutterstock

Image via  /Shutterstock

The critique President Obama articulated of solitary confinement in this week’s speech to the NAACP on criminal justice is truly remarkable. Never before has this president, or any president, spoken about the mistreatment of people in U.S. prisons with such clarity and compassion.

When he spoke, the president echoed what people of faith across the country have advocated for years: Solitary confinement is an affront to our deeply held moral convictions.

Directing the attorney general to review solitary confinement is exactly what is needed to begin the process of ending this immoral practice. Faith leaders hope that with Obama’s scheduled visit to the Federal Correctional Institution El Reno in Oklahoma on July 16, he will ask to see the solitary confinement section. If the president misses a chance to see such a unit, he, and thus the nation, will develop an inaccurate picture of the true suffering and neglect that lie deep inside our U.S. prison system.

When the president named solitary confinement as one of those prison conditions "that have no place in any civilized country," he made a statement of values loud and clear — that the inherent human dignity of people does not end at the prison gates.

Confederate Flags Greet Obama in Oklahoma

Image via zefart/Shutterstock

Image via /Shutterstock

A crowd greeted the president in Oklahoma City, Okla., Wednesday night by waving Confederate flags, POLITICO reports

Confederate flags are a rare sight in Oklahoma, which was not a member of the confederacy. 

According to POLITICO: 

Across the street from [President Obama's] hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, as many as 10 people waved the flags as his motorcade arrived. The group stood among a larger group of demonstrators, many of them there to support the president, who is in town ahead of a visit to a federal prison on Thursday as part of his weeklong push on criminal justice issues.

According to local news organizations, a man named Andrew Duncomb, who calls himself the “black rebel,” organized the Confederate flag demonstration. He also put together a similar protest on Saturday at the Oklahoma State Capitol — just a day after South Carolina removed its contested flag from the State Capitol grounds. His Facebook page features photos from that rally.

The president is scheduled to visit a federal prison today, the first acting president to do so. Read the full story here.

Possibility of Escape

'Freedom beyond the window,' Giggietto / Shutterstock.com

'Freedom beyond the window,' Giggietto / Shutterstock.com

That is also us, the possibility of us, if the wonderful accident of our birth had taken place elsewhere: you could be the refugee, I could be the torturer. To face that truth is also our burden. After all, each of us has been the bystander, the reasonable person who just happens not to hear, not to speak, not to see those people, the invisible ones, those who live on the other side of the border. - Karen Connelly, The Lizard Cage

It was a little over two weeks ago that Marlo entered Atwood Hall here in Lexington federal prison. Nearly all the women here are nonviolent offenders. When I first saw Marlo, her eyes seemed glued to the tiled floors as she shuffled along hallways. I guessed her age to be 25 or so. A few days later, she came to a choir rehearsal. She was still shy, but she looked up and offered a quiet smile when she joined the soprano section. The next time our choir gathered, Marlo raised her hand before we ended our rehearsal. "I got something to say," she said, as she stood. "When I first came here, I can tell all of you now, I was terrified. Just plain terrified. I have 70 months, and I felt so scared." The intake process for this, her introduction to the prison system, had badly frightened her, but before sundown that same day, a second intake process had occurred, with several inmates finding her, reassuring her, and getting her beyond that first panic.

During my four stints in U.S. federal prisons, I've witnessed long-term inmates' unconquerably humane response when a newcomer arrives. An unscripted choreography occurs, and the new prisoner finds that other women will help her through the trauma of adjustment to being locked up for many months or years. Halfway through a 3-month sentence myself, I'm saddened to realize that I'll very likely adapt to an outside world for which these women, and prisoners throughout the U.S. prison system, are often completely invisible.

Afternoon News Bytes: March 2, 2012

'We Wish Like Hell We Had Never Bought': Voices From The Housing Crisis; One Nation Under Gods; Mass Appeal To Governors: Don't Privatize Prisons; “Green On Blue”; Obama To Iran And Israel: 'As President Of The United States, I Don't Bluff'; For America's Least Fortunate, The Grip Of Poverty Spans Generations; Inequality, Poverty, And Why We're Definitely Not Broke (OPINION); Jacksonville Lawmaker Says No 'Extreme Poverty' In N.C.