In a new interview, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges delves into the U.S. prison system and the abuse of inmates with Ojore Lutalo, a former prisoner at the New Jersey State Prison, and prison rights advocate Bonnie Kerness.

The three discuss solitary confinement, which Kerness, coordinator of American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Project, argues is torture. She goes on to explain that her investigation into Lutalo’s case, after he reached out to her in 1986, led her to realize that isolation is often used not just as punishment but as a “personal dungeon.”

Lutalo spent 22 years of his 28-year sentence in the prison’s “Management Control Unit,” which Kerness describes as “a cage.” Imprisoned after an armed robbery conviction, he argues that his ties to the Anarchist Black Cross Federation and Black Liberation Army prompted prison officials to subject him to unnecessary solitary confinement.

“He was allowed out for two hours every other day,” Kerness explains. “Other than that, there is no relief from the solitary confinement.”

“But you didn’t commit any infractions in the prison,” Hedges says to Lutalo. “Why’d they put you there?

“For my political thought,” he responds. “They were afraid of me being allowed to roam among the general population of prisoners and share my different ideas.”

He goes on to describe the brutal conditions he faced while in the management control unit, and Kerness elaborates on the symptoms she sees in inmates across the country who are forced to live in isolation. Watch the full interview in the player above.

–Posted by Emma Niles


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