Black Prisoners’ Lives Matter: The Dallas 6 Blow the Whistle on the Inside

Monday, 24 August 2015 00:00By Shandre Delaney, Truthout | Op-Ed

There is a common thread that connects human rights struggles today. Take a look around the world and what do you see? You see militarized police officers committing violence against the poor and oppressed, being given a pat on the back by the court system. Under tyranny, it is all too common that whenever an officer of the law commits unwarranted acts of violence against civilians, it seems the justice system covers up the officer’s criminal acts and even justifies those acts. In the streets of America, people who protest government corruption and police brutality are met with violence by pepper spray, baton beatings or false charges of riot and disorderly conduct. Behind the walls of prison cells, we are subject to the same network of tyranny, that whenever prisoners come together to protest official abuse, we are also met with the same violence and false charges by court officials. If you have the audacity to speak out against brutality, tyrants will do anything to silence you.  – Carrington Keys (Dallas 6)

On April 29, 2010, six prisoners in solitary confinement at SCI Dallas in Dallas, Pennsylvania, decided that enough was enough. Collectively, they are known as theDallas 6. One of them is my son.

The Dallas 6 are jailhouse lawyers who fight injustice within prison walls and share information with the outside. They came to be seen as political prisoners through their actions as jailhouse lawyers, activists and whistleblowers. This caused them to be held in solitary indefinitely, where they were starved, beaten and outright tortured. Between the six, they served from 10 to 20 years in solitary, and one of them is still in solitary.

After being subjected to starvation, brutal beatings, food tampering, witnessing beatings, the guard-assisted suicide of one prisoner and the torture of another, they covered their solitary cell windows and politely requested outside intervention. They wanted access to public officials and media. They wanted the public to know that human rights were being violated on a critical level. They wanted the public to know that their lives were in danger for being whistleblowers. I started advocating on behalf of my son but became more involved as I found that his abuse was not isolated. So many other prisoners in solitary were being abused.

These men submitted affidavits detailing abuses in the report “Institutionalized Cruelty” by the Human Rights Coalition and were featured in “Resistance and Retaliation.” When guards discovered the report, they carried out a weeklong rampage of brutality and promised the Dallas 6 they were next. Immediately after the incident, the men were separated and transferred. My son, Carrington Keys, filed a lawsuit in Luzerne County court against then-District Attorney Jackie Musto Carrol for ignoring the abuses happening at SCI Dallas. He had written her about them, and she neither responded nor investigated. The state police also were aware of complaints; they neither responded nor investigated.

Months later, in an effort to cover up officers’ crimes and in retaliation, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Jackie Musto Carrol and the state police worked together to file riot charges against the Dallas 6. These charges were clearly bogus because it is impossible for men in solitary confinement to riot, given the legal definition of riot:

A person is guilty of riot, a felony of the third degree, if he participates with two or more others in a course of disorderly conduct:

(1) with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of a felony or misdemeanor;

(2) with intent to prevent or coerce official action; or

(3) when the actor or any other participant to the knowledge of the actor uses or plans to use a firearm or other deadly weapon.

The Dallas 6 are being charged with riot under subcategory 2 of the definition above. The charges were filed following a news article detailing the lawsuit against the district attorney.

It confuses many how peaceful men, in individual cells – unable to substantially interact with each other – can be charged with riot. There was no disorderly conduct, there was no violence and there was no assembling. Disorderly actions and violence were carried out by guards assembled in riot gear, who entered the cells of the six unarmed men one by one. They were brutally attacked with shock shields, batons, teargas and pepper spray. The case was pushed through the courts on the basis that covering up your cell windows coerces official action. Therefore, even though the guards were the perpetrators of violence, the state charges that the Dallas 6 brought about this official action of brutality themselves.

Read the rest here.

The case of the Dallas 6: Torture and retaliation against prisoner whistleblowers

by Shandre Delaney
SF Bay View, November 13th, 2014

Imagine sitting in a windowless 6-foot-by-9-foot room the size of a bathroom for 23 hours a day, unable to communicate with family or anyone on the outside. The lights are on 24/7. The only drinking water you have is brown from rust. You constantly hear mentally ill people screaming and harming themselves.

Within days of this torturous isolation you may begin to feel mental breakdown. Is this Guantánamo? Abu Ghraib? A torture chamber in some distant land? A torture chamber, yes, but a homegrown one.

This is solitary confinement in a state prison near you. The United States has many like the one in Dallas, Pennsylvania, a modern day dungeon, which imprisons people for years to face abuse and violence out of public view by guards paid with our tax dollars. But men inside also defend themselves and, even locked within their cells, try to fight back. One of those men was my son Carrington Keys.

The United States has many like the one in Dallas, Pennsylvania, a modern day dungeon, which imprisons people for years to face abuse and violence out of public view by guards paid with our tax dollars.

 

Six Black men – Andre Jacobs, Anthony Kelly, Anthony Locke, Duane Peters, Derrick Stanley and Carrington, now known as the Dallas 6 – blew the whistle and took nonviolent action to stop the abuse. It started when the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), a grassroots group of prisoners, ex-prisoners, activists and family members like myself, began receiving letters from prisoners alleging abuse.

We built abuse logs with information about beatings; mental abuse; glass, metal, feces, spit, semen and urine in the food; mail tampering; deprivation of human contact; withholding medication; and starvation. Particularly upsetting to the men was the coerced suicide by guards of a mentally ill white man. “Seeing that body bag come out really shook me,” said Derrick Stanley, now free.

The men went through all the complaint channels. Carrington wrote to then District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll informing her of the abuses and asking for help. She never replied. He filed a lawsuit against her for turning a blind eye. He informed the family of the man coerced into suicide and they sued and won an undisclosed sum.

HRC compiled the abuse logs into the Institutionalized Cruelty report. But instead of ceasing, the abuse escalated. On April 29, 2010, after young Isaac Sanchez was bound, naked and bloody, to a restraint chair for at least 16 hours (two hours is the legal limit), the men peacefully covered their cell windows to ask for outside intervention.

Covering a cell window is a signal in Pennsylvania prisons to summon a captain, who is required to come down, so that the prisoner can make complaints directly to him about a guard or circumstance that they have exhausted all other means to resolve. Instead, guards in riot gear pepper-sprayed, tasered and beat the unarmed men.

The six were originally charged with refusing to obey an order, a misconduct charge handled within prison. Four months later, however, after the assaults became public when HRC filed a criminal complaint against the Department of Corrections (DOC), Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, the DOC and the state police conspired to charge these men with riot, a felony.

Although former Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan now sit in prison for incarcerating youth for kickbacks (the “kids for cash” scandal), the corruption that enabled their outrageous crimes continues to flourish, as demonstrated by this malicious frame-up and cover-up.

Covering a cell window is a signal in Pennsylvania prisons to summon a captain, who is required to come down, so that the prisoner can make complaints directly to him about a guard or circumstance that they have exhausted all other means to resolve.

 

A common wish of prisoners is to be treated like human beings. They expect to do their time and come out. While guards are not expected to be courteous or sociable, they are expected not to harass, threaten, shout racial slurs, provoke suicide or retaliate because you use your right to complain about their lack of professionalism and ethics.

Whatever a person’s sentence, it does not include torture, abuse or murder. The law should be upheld. The guards and those covering up for them should be on trial, not the Dallas 6.

A common wish of prisoners is to be treated like human beings.

 

The Dallas 6 are part of a movement of prisoners, such as the California and Georgia prisoner hunger and work strikers, who use peaceful resistance to counter rampant abuses in solitary, crossing racial divides and ending hostilities among themselves to do so.

The Dallas 6 trial started Nov. 10, is scheduled to continue Nov. 17-20 and may resume in February. This is a landmark case for all who believe in justice, anti-racism and human rights. The public needs to know, and the decent guards need to be supported rather than letting their brutish colleagues dominate the DOC with their illegal sadism in prisons and courtrooms. We demand accountability.

Shandre Delaney, coordinator of the Justice for the Dallas 6 Support Campaign and mother of Carrington Keys, one of the Dallas 6, has been an advocate for human and civil rights for 15 years at Human Rights Coalition and Abolitionist Law Center in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at sd4hrc@gmail.com. This story first appeared on Truthout. Visit scidallas6.blogspot.com and the Facebook page for the latest information.