Darrell Cannons’s Speech

I am honestly in awe of his strength and eloquence.  The speech was beautiful.  I actually saw him speak the Saturday before at an event at the University of Chicago against the death penalty and it was the same day he attended his sisters funeral.  I remember him saying that even though relatives were still at his house, he felt obligated to come to the event to speak out and never misses an opportunity as it is important to him that people are aware and active.  I cannot start to imagine how it must feel to lose loved ones while incarcerated, and it is so inspiring to see how strong he is these days.  His story helped put everything in perspective for me and gave me a chance to try to imagine what he must have gone through.

As he was describing the torture scene with the officers, I felt his helplessness and anger.  For those who were not present, he explained how the police showed up at his house, arrested him and took him to an isolated forested area in which they continued to torture him into confessions.  They used methods such as using electric cattle shockers to his testicles, hanging him by his handcuffs, russian roulette with a shotgun in his mouth, and verbal humiliation.  By the end, he had endured so much pain that he said if they asked Continue reading

Darrell Cannon discussion

The discussion that the class had with Darrell Cannon last week was amazing.  Darrell was able to tell us so much information that we would not be able to get anywhere else.  I’m sure bits and pieces of his story are around, but the best information always comes from the main source.  The thing that made me think the most was when Darrell talked about being in Tamms.  He said that Tamms was made to mentally and even physically break the prisoners. I found this to be very disappointing.  The prison system should break people; it should help them.  It was reassuring to know that some of the guards were nice though.  It was nice to hear that some people were understanding and that they knew that the prisoners were people too.  I’m sure not all prisoners go to prison wanting to change and become different people, but they should have the chance if they want to.  If DOC officials and guards treat the prisoners badly and don’t give them a chance for rehabilitation then what is the point of the prison?….to keep them locked up for the rest of their lives without a chance to become a better person?

Darrell Cannon’s Story

Darrell Cannon brought up some heart wrenching topics, yet the one that really interested me was his story of Tamms.  A supermax prison located in the southern most part of Illinois has gone from temporary punishment to long term dehumanization.  Many times when Darrell was talking he mentioned the fact that, “Tamms was made to break you mentally, physically and spiritually.  This really made me upset with the criminal justice system because conditions in prison should foster growth and change, not take the spirit and life out of a person.  Darrell told the class that the staff would sometimes provoke or at least try to get a rise from the prisoners.  One can barely begin to comprehend the mental stress one must endure every day in solitary confinement and recieving abuse from staff members.  Darrell mentioned that Tamms is all about the commodity a.k.a. the prisoner, and getting money.  The supermax is no longer concerned with crime and punishment but helping their economy.

Darrell Cannon, Rip Van Winkle and Questions of Accountability

After spending 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Darrell Cannon became a free man, only to find his world completely changed. Despite being tortured and wrongfully imprisoned, Cannon was most upset about having lost many of his loved ones. “I lost everything,” he said, choking back on his tears. He had just recently put his sister to rest. It was as if Darrell Cannon had slept through a nightmare and woke up to find himself living through an actual nightmare. How would one react in this situation? With sadness? With anger? Cannon expressed both. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I expected him to forgive his torturers. But thinking back on his experiences now, I realize I was in the wrong in expecting him to be forgiving. He wasn’t in a deep slumber. He was beaten; severely enough to confess to something he did not do. And for taking the fall for someone else, he was imprisoned for 24 years, 9 of them served in a place where he felt insanity was imminent. Cannon lost everything; the people he loved are gone, and he can’t ever get them back.

What really struck me during Darrell’s lecture was the issue of accountability. Here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster:

the quality or state of being accountable ; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions <public officials lacking accountability>

We talked about accountability when we discussed the death of Timothy Souders in a Michigan correctional facility. Who was accountable for his death? Nobody was held accountable, and nobody took the responsibility for his death.

It’s pretty clear who was mostly accountable for the torture Darrell and others like him experienced. Or is it? Continue reading

Response to Darrell Cannon’s Speech

Darrell was one of the best public speakers I have ever heard in my life.  Almost every part of his story was so extremely interesting from how he got to prison in the first place, to his life at Tamms, to his life now.  The one thing that really struck me was his attitude towards Burge and his “crew” that tortured him into confessing to a crime he really didn’t commit.  He said that he hates them every day of his life, and doesn’t expect his attitude to change ever.  I thought this was so interesting, since he seems like such a Christian man, one of moral character in principle, that he can’t seem to forgive these men for that they did to him.  Its understandable to me, they took away, what, 24 years of his life with his wife and children and family for something he never did.  If I were him and had some of the best years of my life taken from me, I’d couldn’t be angrier either.  What’s amazing about Darrell though, is that he doesn’t show how angry or mentally scarred he is from the whole experience.  He was so kind, and funny and happy and nice, if I ever met him on the street I would have never guessed he had been tortured and put in prison.  I really am awed at his Continue reading

Darrell Cannon Presentation/Tamms

First of all, having the opportunity to listen to Darrell Cannon’s first hand experience was very beneficial.  I really value his courage to reflect on such horrible memories and speak about them to a group of people.  This was/is clearly a tragedy. No doubt about it.  Not only did he lose 24 years of his life, but he was tortured and lost everything that had meaning to him. I can’t even begin to imagine what he is going through.

During his presentation I could not help but wonder how in the world a jury convicted him.  Since he confessed because of being tortured, why wasn’t the confession inadmissible?  His attorney could not have proved that he the confession was coerced?  I’m sure that the answers to these questions only emphasis the flaws in the system. Darrell mentioned that the prosecution did not have any witnesses again him, so did they base the conviction solely on the confession?

I also found the actions of the parole board very flawed.  They constantly refused to grant him parole, yet the state’s attorneys office worked out a deal with him.  Again, flaws in the system.  In my opinion, in order for the criminal justice system to work efficiently, all of its members must be on the same page. If they’re not, like in Darrell’s situation, it’ll be chaotic.

tamms-sign-small

Finally, I think that Darrell’s descriptions and thoughts of Tamms Correctional Center allowed me to realize how awful of a place it really is.  At one point Darrell said, “Tamms is not for humans.”  When he said this, I could not help but wonder how he survived and stayed sane for the nine years he was confined there.  He mentioned that people around him were going crazy and allowing the institution to “break” them.  But Darrell also told us that there were some positives to his experience.  For instance, some of the guards were friendly. Although this is a minor detail, I think that it shows Darrell’s credibility and honesty.

This really was an eye opening experience.  I can’t help but think about those who were wrongly convicted and are currently in prison, with no way out.