I was deeply moved by Lacino Hamilton’s essay “I Am Buried Alive in a Michigan Prison.” Mr. Hamilton has been in solitary for several years now and I’ll leave it to my readers to read his short essay. It is a powerful description of this torture and the despair it evokes. What a powerful indictment of the prison system and its high-tech dungeons. What a historical stain on the USA. Do we need any further evidence that we are barbarians?
Of course, this torture would be unacceptable even if Mr. Hamilton were guilty but there are serious doubts about that. ( For more see: “Ring of Snitches: How Detroit Police Slapped False Murder Convictions on Young Black Men.”)
What I can say after reading his essay is that Mr. Hamilton is a much braver and better man than me, and better than most. Can you imagine our Dear President living a single day without his fine sheets and gold toilet? He’d be weeping. And I am too … at the injustice of the world. Surely we can do better than this.
Mr. Hamilton can be reached at: Lacino Hamilton 247310, Marquette Branch Prison, 1960 US Highway 41 S, Marquette, MI, 49855, or www.jpay.com. He has been incarcerated since July 1994. (For more information about his case, see “Ring of Snitches: How Detroit Police Slapped False Murder Convictions on Young Black Men.”)
Here’s a different look at how we might treat prisoners:
Prisoners’ Families Organize to Resist Incarceration and Its Costs
Solitary Confinement Is Used to Break People — I Know Because I Endured It
5 thoughts on “Solitary Confinement: “I Am Buried Alive in a Michigan Prison” – Lacino Hamilton”
I do not wish to challenge the conclusions of this piece, but I do have some questions. My understanding is that solitary confinement is the only means available to prison officials to maintain discipline over a population of inherently troublesome men. It certainly seems reasonable to believe that some form of punishment must be available to maintain order in the prison population.
Nor do I think it necessary to apply the rigorous standards of justice for the application of this punishment. I would be satisfied with a one-page document specifying the behavior for which the punishment is applied, the sources of the information on that behavior, and the duration of time in solitary confinement. I suspect that even this minimal requirement is not met — that committing a prisoner to solitary confinement is at the whim of prison officials. This in turn certainly creates huge opportunities for abuse of the method.
My suspicions were triggered by the failure of Mr. Hamilton to mention the actions that led to his solitary confinement. I can stipulate the likelihood of his innocence of the crime for which he is incarcerated while retaining suspicions regarding his behavior in prison. Plenty of innocent convicts avoid solitary confinement — what differentiated Mr. Hamilton’s situation from theirs?
There’s no question in my mind that solitary confinement has gone too long when prisoners commit suicide or engage in other behaviors indicative of mental injury. There are much less vicious ways to maintain order in a prison population. From Mr. Hamilton’s description, the use of solitary confinement in his prison comprises cruel punishment.
I really disagree with you on this one Chris. I believe that SC is torture and torture is morally reprehensible. There is nothing you can do for which torture is the just response. Thus torture is always unjust.
My views on this were formed by my study of ethics and specifically by reading “The Crime of Punishment” by the great psychiatrist Karl Menninger and study of ethics.
Solitary confinement exists for those who won’t play nice with fellow prisoners and their minders. It wouldn’t be considered necessary if prisons weren’t so crowded that inmates spend sizable parts of their day within “striking distance” of each other.
We have the tracking technology to monitor the merely selfish while allowing them to continue being productive in the outside world. Prisons should be reserved for those who can’t be trusted to refrain from opportunistically harming people and property.
I imagine a ring of single-occupant cells with windows and doors opening onto a wedge of an interior courtyard, each wedge separated by a double wall of cyclone fencing. Every inmate has the freedom to “go outside” and talk with others, or retreat into their cell if they need alone time.
Biggest obstacles to realizing my vision: a retributive instinct in American culture that has no interest in the “comfort” of those found guilty, and so has no stomach for tax dollars spent on redesigning prison infrastructure. And prison guard unions wouldn’t like the lack of employment opportunities, and would express their displeasure in campaign donations.
The opportunity to address this subject is quite serendipitous, since I *just* watched the episode of Michael Stevens’ Mind Field (on YouTube) about the effects of isolation on the mind.
You might want to take a look at that, Mr. Crawford.
Agree with everything you say here Len. Thanks, JGM