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

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Darrell Cannon-“You can be anything you wanna be”

The presentation of Darrell Cannon was astonishing. Sitting there and listening to him, it was almost unimaginable to most of us how a person can go through so much and still remain sane. But not only he persevered though days of unthinkable torture (cattle-rods, fake shotgun shots, humiliation) and nine years of solitude in Tamms, he is stronger now than he was before, as his rage and anger at what was done to him push  him forward.

One has to admire the  courage of all victims that are willing to relive the pain of their suffering, only so they can teach others and raise awareness about the realities they lived through. What struck me most about Mr. Cannon, was his manners (which he explained by the strong family ties and ethic that he was raised with). Having been in Tamms for 9 years for a crime he was tortured to confessed to, it is striking that he managed to raise above those that were trying tirelessly to bring him down and not for once utter an ugly jargon word at an officer.

His presentation made me wonder about a lot of things though… Continue reading

Timothy Souders; punished to the point of death?

I just read the article about the death of 21-year-old Timothy Souders while he was incarcerated in a segregation cell at Southern Michigan Correctional.  The article horrified me because of the multiple injustices involved in the case.  First of all, TS shouldn’t have been in solitary confinement when his conditions of bipolar disorder, hyperactivity and depression (which had caused him to attempt suicide several times) were known to the staff. Also, he had a couple of physical conditions such as bedsores and urine burns, but they were not properly treated. Second of all, I really don’t understand the point of “top of the bed restraints” even if they are supposed to only be used for an hour or two when an inmate is severely acting up.  Don’t inmates have any freedom of movement?  Nevertheless, the “top of the bed restraint” went on far longer than it ever should have- 17 hours, with no breaks.  TS urinated on himself, was kept in a room that was over 100 degrees and had trouble eating, drinking and even sitting up and walking.  Once they let him up to shower, he could barely walk and ended up passing out/falling while in the shower.  After he was wheelchaired back to his cell, he was yet again put on “top of the bed restraints,” even though it seems pretty obvious he was in no condition to be any kind of a threat to anyone or anything.  A couple hours later, he was taken off restraint and fell off of the cement block.  They helped him back up and a little while later he fell off of the toilet and was not helped for 46 minutes.  What are the personnel doing at this prison? Why wouldn’t they be watching in inmate that they knew was in such weak condition? A little while later, he was found dead in his cell.  This treatment is just intolerable to me, and Timothy Souders isn’t a special case of severe mistreatment.  In 2006, the prison system in California lost one inmate a week to malpractice or neglect.  I can’t figure out what the problem is- is there not enough staff to check up on all of the inmates at least once every half hour?  Or is it that many of them just disregard the inmates’ human rights, like those soldiers at Abu Ghraib? Whatever the case, this problem needs to be fixed. It is simply inhumane and unconstitutional for the system to let such instances happen.

REMEMBERING-Is torture of mentally ill ever justified?

I don’t know if any of you had a chance to read the article from last class regarding the case and death of Timothy Soulders,but I though it was completely appalling. It literally made me physically sick to read about the conditions he was subjected to,hours before the died.

I’m not going to go into detail about what they did to him (leaving him with bed restrains for 17 hours at a time, at a heat index of 100,ignoring pleas for help,and urine burns),it is obvious to me that the extent of his punishment was severely exaggerated and not because prisoners are also humans and deserve common decency,but because Timothy Soulders was – mentally ill.

This brings everything into a different perspective.I know the answer to the title question is obvious, it is obvious to you and me,but judging from the atrocities that have and continue to take place,perhaps it is still worth discussing it.

It is beyond my imagination why you would subject someone  who is “exhibiting signs of psychotic behavior” to perhaps mundane punishment (i.e bed restrains) when the circumstances call for an exclusive treatment and rehabilitation of the inmate,before he can even appreciate the meaning of his punishment.

Again,that’s just my opinion,call it liberal,call it “not touch on crime”,but it would be hard to convince me that mentally ill individuals deserve such “touch punishments”.