Most (if not all) prisons have a "Special Housing Unit" (SHU). Previously known as "the Hole," or, in cases where occupancy is one, by the good old standby "solitary confinement."
The use of SHUs is controversial, with many organizations claiming (and research backs them up) that it constitutes psychological torture.
You may remember climate activist and political prisoner Tim DeChristopher. I certainly do.
I've written about Tim before ( here , here and here ), but a quick recap may be in order.
In 2008, Tim DeChristopher attended an oil and gas lease auction held in the hideous, radioactive sunset years of the Bush Administration, when public lands were being ruthlessly auctioned off in an extremely legally questionable last-minute fire sale.
DeChristopher "posed" as Bidder 70 (actually, he was mistaken for a bidder by staff and just went along with it), and purchased 14 parcels of land for a cool $1.8 million, with no intent to or means to pay.
For this, he was hit with a two-count felony indictment, and in one of the worst travesties of justice I have had the misfortune to see happen to someone I know and respect, Tim was sentenced to two years in prison by Judge Dee Benson, who actually had the balls to admit in court that he handed down a harsh sentence precisely because Tim refused to stop speaking out on climate change and environmental issues during his trial:
Tim DeChristopher's mouth - and not just his 2008 disruption of a federal oil and gas lease auction - landed him behind bars Tuesday, a judge said as he slapped the activist with a two-year prison term.
The incarceration of the burgeoning folk hero among climate activists set off anger inside the courtroom and a concerted protest outside that ended in two dozen arrests.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson pointed to DeChristopher's continued defiance and frequent assertions to reporters that civil disobedience is justified in fighting climate change. He mentioned DeChristopher's speech after his March conviction, in which the activist implored others to buck the system.
If not for that "continuing trail of statements," Benson said, DeChristopher might not have faced prosecution, let alone prison. [Ed. - emphasis mine]What a guy, Judge Dee Benson!
Gee, coincidentally, Dee Benson was Chief of Staff to longtime friend of the Earth Orrin Hatch from 1986 to 1988, and, well...
The jury of Tim's peers did not hear the fact that there have been 28 other individuals who falsely bid at BLM auctions with no intent to pay the several hundred thousand dollars they had illegally bid. None of them was punished. Why? Because, according to Judge Benson, Tim had a "different attitude" than those other false bidders.
Earlier we mention Senator Hatch. This is because [Senator Orrin Hatch] called Judge Benson after Tim's trial was over, but before he was sentenced, and suggested the length of time Tim should serve in federal prison. Given the sensitivity of the independence of the federal judiciary and the importance of the constitutional Doctrine of Separation of Powers, [emphasis mine] we would hope that [conservative columnist and Hatch and Benson crony Hal] Christensen, as an officer of the court, would ask his friends, Jude Benson and Senator Hatch, if they ever discussed the Tim DeChristopher case by telephone or in person.
Justice keeps on chewing Tim up in its corrupt, moneyed teeth to this day. The most recent, and extremely disturbing, development in Tim's political imprisonment broke recently.
Henia Belalia, Community Organizer with Peaceful Uprising, the organization that Tim co-founded, had this to say yesterday:
On the evening of Friday March 9th, Tim was summarily removed from the Minimum Security Camp where he has been held since September 2011, and moved into the FCI Herlong's Special Housing Unit (SHU). Tim was informed by Lieutenant Weirich that he was being moved to the SHU (also referred to as "the hole") because an unidentified Congressman had called from Washington DC, complaining of an email that Tim had sent to a friend. Tim was inquiring about the reported business practices of one of his contributors, threatening to return their money if their values no longer aligned with his own. [Editor's Note: Pure hearsay at this point, but it does sound like Tim.] ...Tim will be held in isolated confinement until the investigation is concluded.
Why are people put into solitary confinement? wiseGEEK says that "[Prisoners] are usually placed into solitary confinement for some act of violence that was committed within the prison."
More from Henia:
In the past two weeks, Tim has been allowed out of his 8 X 10 cell (which he shares with another inmate*) four times, each time for less than an hour...Tim is allowed one book in his cell, and four in his property locker. His writing means are restricted to a thin ink cartridge which makes correspondence extremely difficult. He can receive mail from the outside, but has no other means of communication other than 15 minutes of phone calls per month.When Americans think of "political prisoners," if they do at all, they probably envision regimes in China or North Korea or similar far-away places where the Uncivilized live.
Tim DeChristopher is a political prisoner, and he is being treated punitively for his beliefs, as he has been from the moment that Orrin Hatch's well-groomed little stooge Dee Benson got a crack at him.
PeaceUP's report on the travesty can be found here . There will be a press conference with Tim's legal defense team tomorrow, Thursday, 3/29/12, from 1:30 to 2:30 PM MST at the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse (350 S. Main, Salt City).