As an officer of the Council for the past two years, I have had the opportunity to be exposed to a number of different issues affecting our state. The most recent of them, is the issue surrounding the recent hunger strike protest put on by inmates at Red Onion supermax prison in Wise County, VA. Last Tuesday, about four dozen prisoners began protesting the use of solitary confinement and other egregious conditions in which they’ve endured while imprisoned in our state’s justice system. As of today, a week later, State officials are saying that the hunger strike has ended, but the question yet remains, “when will the torture stop?”For years the use of solitary confinement has been used to isolate prisoners from the general population within the prison, but it is being used at the expense of denying those inmates their basic human rights, causing them to suffer both mentally and physically. Often time, those who are being sent to isolation are sent to keep from harming other inmates. On the other hand, there are many who have been kept in isolation (or 23/7 lockdown) for months, even years. And, as a result, many of them suffer from depression, paranoia, and some of them even attempt suicide as a means to escape the reality of an unhealthy and inhumane form of punishment that simply diminishes who they are as men and women of God.
It is our responsibility, as the Church, to ensure that this form of torture does not go on in our state or anywhere else. Where some have responded for those in confinement to simply be killed-off through execution, I believe God would see the Church do its part to be the voice for mercy for those whose voices are being silenced by the extended use of solitary confinement in Virginia. Let your state officials know that you want to see an end to solitary confinement today!