The Dallas 6 case and solitary confinement

The case of the Dallas 6 goes to court in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Dec. 9. The six men will not only fight new charges brought against them but will use their time in court to expose the brutal treatment they and other prisoners suffer in the solitary confinement unit at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas in Luzerne County, Pa.

Speaking in Philadelphia last year at a Sept. 17 rally to abolish solitary confinement in Pennsylvania prisons called by the Human Rights Coalition, Shandre Delaney, mother of Dallas 6 member Carrington Keys, described the systematic abuse her son experienced.

On April 10, 2010, illegal and barbaric conditions at the hands of prison guards at SCI Dallas had led six prisoners held in solitary confinement to stage a protest.

For over a year they had suffered food deprivation, destruction of mail, beatings, neglect of medical conditions, the use of a torture chair and the deaths of some other prisoners. After guards kept prisoner Isaac Sanchez confined in a torture chair overnight, inmates Andre Jacobs, Carrington Keys, Duane Peter, Derrick Stanley, Anthony Locke and Anthony Kelly covered their cell door windows with bedding to demand the abuse stop. Their demands included access to counselors, state police, the county district attorney and the public defender’s office.

Without access to telephones or computers and with their mail being destroyed by guards, they had no other recourse to bring the corruption and abuse they suffered to the attention of prison authorities. Prison guards responded with an armed assault against the unarmed men locked inside individual cells. They attacked the six men with electroshock shields, tasers, fists and pepper spray.

Retaliation by the state

The guards involved suffered no injuries and initially no charges were filed against the Dallas 6, who were left bloodied, naked, burnt and in pain. Although some of the men were transferred to other prisons, they were able to file complaints and initiate civil actions against the prison guards and officials involved.

Prison officials, state police and the Luzerne County DA retaliated four months later by charging the Dallas 6 with riot.

The violent, racist environment and his resistance led Keys to become a lawyer and an activist inside the prison walls. Delaney reported that the countless lawsuits her son filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Correction caused him to be denied parole hearings and to be held longer in solitary.

Delaney stated: “The DOC tolerates abuse. It is standard operating procedure. They are nothing but a corrupt system of government-funded racist abuse and torture. I believe that the Klan took off their hoods and put on the robes of judges, the uniforms of law enforcement and the suits of administrators. Why hide when you can get paid to torture others for their differences and because they dare question your unethical behavior?

“Prisoners who complain or file lawsuits are retaliated against by receiving more misconduct and more time. The grievance system is a joke. A blind eye has been turned too many times by judges, law enforcement and government officials who have been presented with substantial evidence for years. When the prisoners seek help from these officials, the complaint is sent back to the prison, allowing the DOC to investigate itself. What do you think the outcome will be?”

Delaney called for ending solitary confinement altogether.

After a press conference held on the steps of the Luzerne County Courthouse on Dec. 2, 2012, Delaney and other advocates for the Dallas 6 delivered signed petitions to officials calling on DA Stefanie J. Salavantis to drop the riot charges against the six men.

A Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Dallas 6 Support Team has developed to educate Luzerne County residents about the misuse of their tax dollars to persecute and abuse people in their name. Nearly half a million dollars has been spent to keep helicopters hovering over the prison and pay for attorney hours, court staffing and travel by officials over the course of a three-year period — all to prosecute men who took a stand to save their lives and the lives of people around them.