[Ppnews] Torture in the US Prison System: The Endless Punishment of Leonard Peltier
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Aug 13 10:36:28 EDT 2011
Published on Truthout (<http://www.truth-out.org>http://www.truth-out.org)
Torture in the US Prison System: The Endless Punishment of Leonard Peltier
Saturday 13 August 2011
by: Preston Randolph and Dan Battaglia, Truthout | Op-Ed
Leonard Peltier, a great-grandfather, artist, writer, and indigenous
rights activist, is a citizen of the Anishinabe and Dakota/Lakota
Nations and has been imprisoned since 1976. (Photo:
<http://www.leonardpeltier.net/theman.htm>Leonard Peltier Defense
Your visit to one of America's prisons may last only a few hours, but
once you pass the first steel threshold, your perception of humanity
is altered. The slammed doors, metal detectors and body frisks
introduce you to life on the inside, but the glaring hatred from the
guards and officials make it a reality. When you creep back into your
own world afterward, you wonder what is really happening to the
people who permanently languish behind bars.
In June 2006, the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons
"Confronting Confinement,"  a 126-page report summarizing its
12-month inquiry into the prison systems. The commission follows up
the analysis based on its findings with a list of recommendations.
Topping the list of needed improvements is better enforcement of
inmates' right to proper health care and limitations on solitary
confinement. Five years after the report's release and despite its
detailed and well-researched studies, inmate abuse continues. More
recently, news reports from California's Pelican Bay Prison amplified
the need for change, but after the three-week inmate hunger strike
ended, the torture of solitary confinement
More than 20,000 inmates are caged in isolation in the United States
at any one time. Originally designed as a temporary disciplinary
action, solitary confinement has drifted into use as a long-term
punishment. This act of inhumanity is a clear contradiction of the
Eighth Amendment. During the Pelican Bay hunger strike that rippled
into prisons across the country, a 66-year-old man with extreme
medical needs, Leonard Peltier, was forced into "the hole" at
Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.
Nightmarish as it is, what follows is fact.
In 1977, American Indian activist Leonard Peltier was convicted of
murdering two FBI agents during a shootout on the Pine Ridge
Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier has now served more than 35
years in federal prison. His trial remains one of the
controversial in the history of the American judicial system.
Since Peltier's conviction, overwhelming information has been
released confirming extreme misconduct by the FBI and the government
prosecution's withholding of evidence and use of coerced testimonies.
It is obvious that Peltier, despite overwhelming reasonable doubt,
was considered guilty before the trial began. It is now well known
that during the time of Peltier's involvement with the American
Indian Movement (AIM), the FBI's Cointelpro programs were running
secret, illegal tactics to eliminate political organizations of
dissent, including the strategic assassination and imprisonment of
activists. Cointelpro was officially abolished in 1971, but the
illegal tactics it used continue. The political agenda formulated
against Peltier did not end with his trial, but persists as he serves
his prison sentence. In 1992, Amnesty International deemed Peltier a
political prisoner and stated that, "FBI misconduct prejudiced the
fairness of his trial."
Former Bureau of Prisons (BOP) official Bruce Smith served nearly 20
years at Leavenworth State Penitentiary in Kansas. Smith experienced
firsthand the wrongdoings and mistreatment toward Peltier during the
decades Peltier spent at Leavenworth.
"It's obvious they [the FBI and the BOP] have an agenda out against
Leonard. What has happened to him is wrong. See, they have the
tendency to know where they want to go in a case, and then build
their evidence to that point, and that's exactly what happened to
Leonard," said Smith.
The FBI's "blood for blood" agenda to railroad Peltier has merged its
way into the prison system, where, it is noted, he has received
inadequate and abusive treatment. Since his incarceration, Peltier
has endured several hardships at the hands of the BOP, some of which
have been labeled
and immoral. 
Currently Peltier is facing serious health issues, including
diabetes, hypertension and, recently, symptoms of cancer. Many of
these issues have been directly caused by lack of medical treatment
and poor nutrition during his imprisonment. But this does not appear
to have prevented the BOP from mistreating - or, more specifically,
torturing - Peltier.
Since 2009, we have been producing a documentary
<http://www.windchasesthesun.com>film  exposing the Peltier case.
As filmmakers, we are personally committed to exposing the truth and
having an impact in serving real justice. We have accessed archives
across the country pertaining to this case and have been in
communication with key players on both sides of the story. Our
intention is to tell the truth, much of which will be shocking to
audiences. The more information we uncover, the more obvious it is
that Peltier is an innocent activist, placed in hell because of
extreme and illegal FBI actions. What is really shocking is how the
mistreatment of Peltier behind prison walls continues even into his
old age and as his health declines.
On June 27, the day after the 36th anniversary of the FBI agents'
deaths on Pine Ridge, Peltier was abruptly moved from a cell among
the general prison population into solitary confinement. The
reasoning for the move was hidden from his legal team and supporters
for days, and concern for his well-being grew. Nearly a week after,
the entire fiasco as to why the prison guards at Lewisburg decided
that a 66-year-old man was a major risk to the security of the
The BOP incident reports linked immediately above do not tell the whole story.
The first charge indicated Peltier received a letter the previous day
from a supporter in Scotland that contained a 20-pound note. Peltier
had asked the mailroom to send back the enclosed money, but this
request was not followed up. He then addressed a letter, including
the 20-pound note, to a friend, with the intent to send it out of the
prison, knowing that possession of unauthorized money was a violation
of prison rules. This violation can only bring up the question: why
did the BOP allow the 20-pound note into the prison in the first
place, and why did the mailroom not take action when Peltier brought
it to their attention?
The second charge relates to dangling wires found within Peltier's
cell. The incident report claims that an officer was inspecting the
cell when he observed two exposed wires above the top bunk. The guard
then pulled on the wires and was shocked with a jolt of electricity.
(Who in his right mind would pull on exposed electrical wires?) Even
though Peltier was not in the cell at the time, the BOP classified
the incident as an "assault." The report concludes by saying that
Peltier was the only occupant in the cell. The BOP did not explain
that a cellmate was recently transferred out of Peltier's cell. This
inmate was occupying the top bunk, which Peltier cannot access.
Nonetheless, he was the one punished.
These miniscule infractions are excuses to punish Peltier, who is now
set to serve six months of solitary confinement in a small cement
hellhole for 23 to 24 hours a day. The conditions to which he is
subjected are horrific. Lewisburg Prison is a notoriously old
penitentiary, and the solitary confinement cells are not properly
ventilated or air-conditioned. This raises further concerns about
Peltier's health as a major heat wave passes through the Eastern
United States. Recently, another inmate was moved into the small,
isolated cell that Peltier inhabits. The inmates who are forced into
solitary confinement are not allowed personal visits or personal
items of any kind. In the scorching heat, Peltier has sweated
profusely, has been unable to sleep and has lost his appetite.
It<http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/sourcebook_02.pdf> has been
acknowledged that solitary confinement creates new health
problems in inmates and can exacerbate pre-existing conditions.
This is torture, especially when used as punishment for such minor
and questionable infractions.
According to Smith: "What's happening is wrong. Their goal is to make
Leonard miserable. They are out for blood because of the deaths of
the agents, and they will not be satisfied until they get it."
It seems that, since Smith's retirement in the 2000's, this agenda
has not changed. Peltier continues to be harassed, mistreated and
denied proper health care and living conditions. Once the facts are
presented, it's quite obvious that from the government's perspective,
Peltier is meant to die in prison.
In the United States, where our Constitution opposes "cruel and
unusual punishment," we must ask ourselves what has happened. The
imprisonment and harassment of an activist whose guilt is still in
question is an outrage to our justice system. Everything pointing to
Peltier's guilt has been debunked, to the point that the prosecutors
themselves have admitted that they couldn't prove who killed the
agents. Now, after 35 years of a wrongful imprisonment, Peltier, an
ailing, 66-year-old man, continues to be harassed and tortured in
prison. A six month-sentence to solitary confinement could very well
be a death sentence. Immediate action is needed before it is too
late. This case is contrary to everything America claims to stand
for, and until Peltier is freed, this atrocity stains the hands of
all of us who stand by and watch it happen.
More information on the Peltier case, his current situation and how
to take action can be found <http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info>here. 
For more information about the film can be found
Creative Commons License
This work by Truthout is licensed under a
Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License .
Randolph and Dan Battaglia 
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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