“Where Punishment Becomes Torture”: Testimony of Dorsey Nunn on Solitary Confinement

“Where Punishment Becomes Torture”: Testimony of Dorsey Nunn on Solitary Confinement

Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and member of All of Us or None, has been visiting inmates in the California prison system for over 50 years in both professional and personal capacities. Nunn speaks about the experience of PJ, a friend who has been in solitary confinement for over two decades at Pelican Bay State Prison and questions the practices of long-term solitary confinement and gang validation.

A Word Document of this testimony can be downloaded here: http://solitarywatch.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/dorsey-nunn-testimony.doc

Statement of  Dorsey Nunn at Hearing of California Assembly Public Safety Committee, August 23, 2011.

My name is Dorsey Nunn and I am the Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, we are a public interest law office. I am also a proud member of All of Us or None that is a project of LSPC. All of Us or None is dedicated to the full restoration of the civil and human rights of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.  I have been visiting people within the California Department of Corrections for approximately 51 years, 22 years as personal visits and 29 years professionally as a paralegal.

My office had been contacted consistently since the opening of Pelican Bay where  prisoners’ human rights were being violated. On June 28, 2011, with a hunger strike looming I decided to visit Pelican Bay for the first time.  It was too hard to ignore people clearly stating that they were willing to risk their lives to change how they were being treated.  I interviewed people with standard questions assessing their medical history, emergency contact information and the potential depth of the strike efforts.

There must be line if crossed where punishment becomes torture.  It may not be torture to isolate human beings for a few days, a few weeks, a few months but it could be something totally different to isolate them a few years or a few decades. One of the people that I visited was PJ. I knew him when I was a fellow prisoner. When I asked PJ how long he had been in segregation he informed me that they put him Administrative Segregation in 1988. Often when I visit someone who knows me they ask me to work on their individual case. PJ didn’t, we spent time talking about torture. He knew about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. He couldn’t understand what would make something torture at Guantanamo Bay and not at Pelican Bay.

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