[Ppnews] Leonord Peltier “in the Hellhole” of Solitary Confinement

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 19 10:16:56 EDT 2011

Native American Activist Leonord Peltier “in the 
Hellhole” of Solitary Confinement

July 19, 2011
by Sal Rodriguez

American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier 
has been removed from general population and 
into solitary confinement at USP Lewisburg since 
June 27th. The 66-year old inmate has been 
ordered to spend 6 months in solitary stemming 
from various petty infractions, according to his attorney, Robert R. Bryan.

Peltier, in a letter to his attorney, described 
the cell as a “cement steel hotbox” with little 
ventilation (a 1.5 inch slot under the door is 
the primary source of cool air). Due to the lack 
of suitable ventilation coupled with the heat of 
the summer, he has been “drenched in hot sweat” 
and indicated he had to stop many times while 
writing the letter due to difficulty 
concentrating in the cell. “My client has been 
put in the hellhole,” said Bryan.

Allotted five one-hour periods of exercise, 
Peltier spends 23 hours in a cell five days a 
week. The exercise is “in a cage” where water 
isn’t allowed. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and 
Fridays, he is allowed to shower. For the other 
two days, he is in his cell 24 hours. He is not allowed any personal visits.

According to a note that Peltier had written at 
the time, he had been preparing to eat breakfast 
the morning of June 27th when guards entered his 
cell and began “disrespecting my religious items” 
and “threatened to lock me into solitary.”

According to the prison’s 
incident report, dated 06/27/2011:

  [T]his officer reviewed a letter being sent by 
inmate Peltier
In this letter, inmate Peltier has 
enclosed a bank note of 20 pounds, in Scottish 
currency. In the enclosed letter, inmate admits 
to receiving the bank note in the mail. It is 
obvious that inmate Peltier was in possession of money that was not authorized.

Peltier received a letter the previous day from a 
supporter in Scotland that contained a 20-pound 
note and had been inspected by the mailroom. 
Peltier had asked the mailroom to send back the 
enclosed money, but this request wasn’t followed 
up. He then addressed a letter to a friend and 
enclosed the note so as to send the money out of 
his cell and out of the prison, knowing that 
possession of unauthorized money was a violation 
of prison rules. This letter was intercepted at 
8:00 a.m., prompting guards to search his cell at 9:45 a.m.

According to a 
prison incident report, written the same day by a 
guard who searched Peltier’s cell:

[W]hile performing a search
I observed two wires 
protruding approximately 2 inches from the wall 
of the cell
.The wires were located on the wall 
above the corner post of the upper bunk.. I 
attempted to pull the wires out of the wall. 
I attempted to pull the wire out of the wall my 
grip failed, my fingers slipped on the wire and 
contacted the bare ends of the wire. At that time 
I received an electrical shock through my right hand and forearm.

Peltier was deemed guilty of “destroying, 
altering or damaging government property having a 
value in excess of $100.” Peltier, however, did 
not sleep on the top bunk and the wiring was 
manipulated by a former cellmate. In addition, 
because of the guard’s decision to attempt to 
pull the wires out of the wall, Peltier was found 
to have engaged in “conduct which disrupts or interferes with security or
orderly running of the institution (Most Like) 
assaulting any person.” “Most Like” is a 
provision in the Federal Bureau of Prisons 
Statement that reads: “This charge is to be used 
only when another charge of greatest severity is 
not accurate. The offending conduct must be 
charged as ‘most like’ one of the listed greatest severity prohibited acts.”

Prison officials deemed Peltier responsible for 
the shock the guard received while pulling out 
the exposed wires, and deemed it an act “most 
like” an act of assault committed by Peltier. 
This is a “greatest severity level” 
violation,  meaning an inmate can be placed into 
segregation for up to a year. The charge of 
destruction of property is a “high severity 
level” act which can result in up to six months 
in segregation, and the possession of 
unauthorized money is a “moderate severity level” 
violation and could result in up to three months in segregation.

Peltier’s punishment for possessing money he had 
refused and attempted to send away, for being 
deemed guilty for the actions of a prior 
cellmate, and for “assaulting” a guard who chose 
to touch live wires is only the latest of the 
injustices that Peltier has faced.

Peltier was convicted of the 1975 killing of two 
FBI agents during a shootout on the Pine Ridge 
Reservation in South Dakota, which took place at 
the height of the 
Indian Movement’s efforts to gain public 
attention regarding the plight of Native American 
tribes, the abuses of the United States 
government against Native Americans, and a wave 
of unsolved murders in tribal territories. The 
subject of a 
documentary and a European Parliament 
of support, Peltier has always maintained his 
innocence. Critics have raised serious questions 
about the fairness of his trial, and he is 
considered by many to be a 
<http://www.aimovement.org/peltier/index.html>political prisoner.

The United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg is 
the oldest prison in the federal system, and one 
of the most notorious. Since 2009, it has also 
been one of the most heavily locked-down. In the 
words of the 
of Prisons, Lewisburg is now being “run entirely 
as a Special Management Unit (SMU) institution to 
operate as a more controlled and restrictive environment for managing the most
aggressive and disruptive inmates from USP 
general population.” Peltier was sent there in 
2008 not for any disciplinary infractions, but
because he was the victim of a beating by younger 
prisoners at another federal  facility. “They’re 
hoping he’ll die there, that he’ll be forgotten 
there,” maintains his attorney.”

Peltier has been in poor health in recent years, 
suffering from hypertension, diabetes, and 
exhibiting symptoms of cancer. This is of 
particular concern given the vast literature 
pointing to 
detrimental effects of solitary confinement on 
both psychological and physical health, 
particularly when there are pre-existing conditions.

Peltier’s attorney has indicated that the 
placement into solitary confinement has slowed 
correspondence. A legal call has been delayed for 
several days and the prison has been slow to 
providing Peltier with the instruments necessary 
to write and send letters necessary for his legal proceedings.

Says attorney Bryan: “Prison officials are using 
this as an excuse to punish and torture my 
66-year-old client. His health is poor because of 
decades of imprisonment. He needs to be placed 
back into the general population.”

More information on Leonard Peltier can be found 
on the 
page run by Peltier attorney Robert R. Bryan.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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