Frank Splendora recently objected, in a letter to the Optic, to Amnesty International’s position regarding prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, a practice which too frequently descends into a form of torture. Mr. Splendora seems to feel that AI’s position leads to coddling prisoners.
There have been numerous articles and a recent Senate hearing investigating the overuse and abusiveness of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. Mr. Anthony Graves, who was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 18 years in a Texas prison, endured 10 of those years in solitary confinement. In his testimony before the Senate hearing, Mr. Graves testified to the extreme levels of insane desperation that people in extended solitary confinement often experience, including an instance in which a prisoner ripped out his own eye and ate it.
Mr. Splendora states that he “couldn’t care less” about prisoner abuse, justifying his attitude by the example of James Holmes, the killer in the recent Colorado theater atrocity.
There are valid reasons for solitary confinement. I believe that James Holmes is currently in solitary confinement to protect both him and the rest of the prison population — not to abuse him. Amnesty International’s purpose is not to eliminate solitary confinement used for valid and necessary reasons but to prevent it from degenerating into a form of extreme human neglect and abuse, which has happened in thousands of instances.
Mr. Splendora’s “couldn’t care less” attitude regarding barbaric methods of “controlling” prisoners, even prisoners who have committed barbaric acts, condones the violence that permeates our society. In the process of condemning and reducing violence, we should avoid becoming that which we hate.
We need less, not more, violence in our world. Therefore, I greatly appreciate the work of Amnesty International, a worldwide organization that for 50 years has sought to expose and alleviate human rights abuses around the world. Organizations such as this can help us overcome Mr. Splendora’s “I couldn’t care less” attitude by providing information and tools so that we can more effectively care about our fellow human beings.