by Chad Landrum*
The CDC’s shameless attempt to suppress the tragic loss of life of three recent hunger strikers has inevitably failed in the whole, despite the fact that it still refuses to knowledge its own complicity with regards to the particular details surrounding these deaths. The essential facts are widely known among the prison masses.
This comes as no surprise for those of us familiar with the practices of the CDC. Yet for those naïve to the CDC’s duplicity, there are valuable lesson to be learned from all of this. With respect to the three men who needlessly lost their lives, it is significant that we not pass judgment on them prematurely.
The taking of one’s own life is a conscious decision, and such a decision is as relevant as the surrounding conditions that gave rise to the decision itself. This inseparability between our consciousness and our environmental conditions is summed up well in Karl Marx’s simple, yet revealing, statement:
“…the ‘ideal’ is nothing more that the material world reflected in the human brain and translated into forms of thought….”
To speak of these avoidable deaths in the context of “suicides” is to legitimize the state’s role in creating the oppressive conditions that resulted in these deaths, and thus, exonerates it of responsibility.
To judge the suicides based solely upon the “possible” decisions of these three individuals alone is to allow ourselves to be divided and conquered. We should not pass judgment upon the alleged decisions alone, but also upon the state and the conditions that gave rise to such contemplations.
The state apparatus of various governments, including the US government, have a long history of eliminating opposition to the status quo, and in particular, “suiciding” that opposition when they are confined. We must ask, did these three human beings commit suicide? Or were they “suicided” by inconspicuous means? All three of these deaths have been quite conveniently classified as suicides. Yet by all indications these classifications do not correspond with the actual circumstances.
How do we know that these men intended suicide? We don’t. But of greater significance, we do know that there were repeated attempts to call “Man Down”, kicking on cell doors, etc., which was willfully ignored and neglected by guards. In parallel circumstances, were not state employees involved, anyone else would be charged with either murder or at the very least manslaughter.
If this concept comes across as unorthodox, this is only a demonstration of how effectively we have been conditioned to think, but the objective reality is, these three men were “suicide” even though it was by inconspicuous means—intentional neglect. It requires no great feat of intellect to understand that the state will rarely prosecute its own. But to ensure that the deaths of the three men were for naught, we must do all that we can to publicize and transform this tragedy into an educational opportunity.
We call on Amnesty International to assist us and demand a United Nations investigation into these deaths and the deplorable conditions of solitary confinement throughout the US penal system. We likewise call upon the UN to appoint an independent and unbiased autopsy of these men and any others who may be subjected to a similar fate.
There is no such thing as prisoner rights, only power struggles.
*Chad Landrum has consistently and courageously written about the hunger strikes and shared his analysis condemning the CDCR’s torturous use of isolation, which you can find along with other writing and statements from prisoners on our Voices from Inside page. Chad is currently locked up at Corcoran State Prison.