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Heather Ann Thompson exposes what how a South Carolina prison riot really went down

Historians in the News
tags: South Carolina, Incarceration, Heather Ann Thompson, prison riot



Heather Ann Thompson is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and the author of “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.”

... Punitive sentencing laws have taken away prisoners’ hope for the future. One in 10 prisoners in South Carolina are serving a life sentence, and inmates serving long sentences are required to serve 85 percent of their time, no matter how well they have done on the inside.

Daily degradations grind away at men’s souls. As one prisoner explained, the Corrections Department has reduced visits from family members, limited their ability to send food and there are now only “two meals a day on weekends.”

“These men and women are incarcerated for a reason,” the man conceded, “but they are still human.”

The pictures that have been sent to me from prison cellphones make it abundantly clear, however, that the department does not see these men as human beings. One man in McCormick Correctional Institution sent pictures of the metal plates that prison officials put over the windows, meaning too little light and fresh air gets into this sweltering and filthy prison. Others have sent photos of the food they are served, which in contrast to the menu that the Department of Corrections posts publicly, looks barely nutritional. The men say it is sometimes moldy, and for those on lockdown, it is served erratically and cold.

Then there was the video a prisoner sent me of the putrid watercoming out of the sink of his cell — water, another man told me, that it “smells like feces.”

“We used have so much more to do in the penal system but slowly and surely they have taken it from us,” one young man explained. He said the riot could have been avoided if there was “incentive to do better.” But, he continued, with no rehabilitation programs or relief, inmates “get fed up about it and lash out after a while.” ...

Read entire article at NYT

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