On June 30, with the stroke of the governor’s pen Connecticut democracy took a hit. The people’s voice was nullified. At a time when human decency called for a limit to be placed on solitary confinement, another group demanded the governor ignore the people’s voice and the will of our legislators because torturing people is “a necessary tool” to maintain safety behind bars.
“A necessary tool.” I cringe whenever I hear that phrase. It triggers the recalling of America’s long history of establishing “necessary tools” to control the lives of African people from the time they were brought here in chains to establish the institution of slavery to provide a free labor force from the brilliance of Africa.
It triggers so many scenarios of “necessary tools” sanctioned by a twisted and sadistic people. Among the first “necessary tools” to come to mind was the leather whip used to beat people until they renounced their names, their religion, their language, their values and any other cultural attachments to the motherland. It also brings up gut-wrenching scenes of mothers and fathers begging their master to not sell their children off to another master. It conjures up the commonly held practice of raping African women and girls, as a tool against resistance, the nooses that held the bodies of African people as they hung from trees across the land.
It conjures up more subtle and commonly used “necessary tools” such as redlining, segregation, miseducation, the 50-year-old war on drugs, felony disenfranchisement, and the most sadistic and current, placing anyone who resisted oppression in tiny, dark, filthy spaces isolated from human contact and tortured until their will to resist was broken and their minds shattered.
Correctional staff, legislators and the governor supportive of solitary confinement should be deeply ashamed of sanctioning what any decent human being defines as nothing less than human torture. The silence of the “good people” during public debates, hearings, legislative votes and even now after the governor vetoed the bill is most deafening. Convincing the public torturing people is a “necessary tool” is an indicator of just how sadistic and inhumane we have become as a society. I have to wonder if those suffering weren’t 90% African Americans would it be such a monumental task to get legislation passed to end the use of this “tool.”
Will there ever be a time when America will no longer have a need for “tools” to control African people? Each year my ability to breathe in Connecticut is becoming more difficult.
Lamont’s veto of SB1059 and attached executive order is equivalent to granting African Americans a Juneteenth holiday to soften the blow of denying reparations centuries overdue. It is a meaningless gesture propped up to be a meaningful alternative to what the people demanded. Attached was a statement filled with misleading information. Obviously someone didn’t do their research.
We need courageous leadership in the House and Senate to now deliver on what the people asked for instead of caving into the demands of those who prefer people caged 22 hours a day so they don’t have to work. We the people look to our legislators to have the integrity to override this veto and allow the people’s voice to reign. The Department of Corrections shamelessly justifies mental and physical suffering as a “necessary tool” to maintain safety in the prison environment? One must ask whose safety are we talking about. It is certainly not the broken men, women and children who suffer daily caged 22 hours a day or chained in cells in torturous positions for days at the will of officers. It’s certainly not safe for the communities they return nor for the wellbeing of officers or others who come in to provide professionalized services and uplift to some of the most vulnerable in this state.
Barbara Fair is Lead organizer for Stop Solitary.