[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 
Committee [3])

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," [4] 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 
nationwide. [5]

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 [6]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.  [7]

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 [8] 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 
supermax prison 
revealed. [9]

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 [10]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. [11]

For more information about the film can be found
<http://www.windchasesthesun.com>here [8].
Creative Commons License

This work by Truthout is licensed under a 
<http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/>Creative Commons 
Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License [12].
Randolph and Dan Battaglia [14]
    * <http://www.truth-out.org/category/choose-type/opinion>Opinion

Source URL: 

[1] http://www.truth-out.org/print/4959
[2] http://www.truth-out.org/printmail/4959
[3] http://www.leonardpeltier.net/theman.htm
[4] http://www.prisoncommission.org/pdfs/Confronting_Confinement.pdf
[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/opinion/18dayan.html
[6] http://nativenewsonline.org/~ishgooda/peltier/trial.htm
[8] http://www.windchasesthesun.com
[9] http://lpdoc.blogspot.com/2011/07/proof-bop-railroads-leonard-peltier.html
[10] http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/sourcebook_02.pdf
[11] http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info
[12] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
[13] http://www.truth-out.org/printmail
[14] http://www.truth-out.org/preston-randolph-and-dan-battaglia/1312917307
[16] https://members.truth-out.org/donate

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