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Dime Down

By Bill Dunne

The lockdown at the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, is now a decade old. The magnitude of the decades in human experience is obvious in the marking of cultural epochs--the sixties, the fifties, the eighties. It even emerges in popular music as the definition of a long time--"ten years has got behind you" and "ten years burnin' down the road." And if ten years is a long time in the real world, imagine what it is in a repressive sarcophagus such as the control unit prison Marion has become.

For seven years I was a shadow in the dark concrete corners of dungeon Marion, from February of 1985 to March of 1992. I learned the prison was and is an experiment in social manipulation and control that was and is carried out with zero concern for the welfare of the experimental subjects or the communities into which all but a very few of them will eventually be released. I was shown there is not even a pretense that the regimen is intended to be constructive for prisoners, though swine petulantly insist they are not guards but correctional professionals. I found that to the extent anyone accomplishes anything positive at Marion, it is despite rather than because of the conditions and can be only a shadow of what is possible. I saw that people survive Marion, but they carry from it psycho scars and other baggage they may never transcend.

This tenth year may be the last full year of lockdown at Marion, but the lockdown is to be passed on, reputedly in the spring. The federal government has built a 484 cell lockdown mausoleum at Florence, Colorado, to which it will transfer the "mission" of Marion--for $122,000 per cell, exclusive of exorbitant operating costs. Already transferred has been the decade long habit of official lies about control units, as evidenced by repetition of the same old, tired, discredited disinformation about who is consigned to Marion that has appeared in Southern Illinois media and in Colorado papers with respect to Flor-ence. The new dungeon promised to be even more repressive than Marion, with virtually total isolation and for longer periods than at Marion. Public wealth was squandered on this instrument of oppression even though no evidence says Marion has fulfilled its alleged purpose and much says it has been counter-productive. And the deeper and darker the concrete corner, the looser the reign on official brutality, both active and passive.

Ten years ago, Marion was the only control unit prison in the country. Since then, at least 36 states have joined the trend to increasing repression, and the federal government has reaffirmed its commitment to perpetual lockdown with the construction of Florence ADX (Administrative Detention Lockdown Facility). Ten years of official dishonesty--and the failure of lockdown repression to correct--show that lockdown dungeons like Marion are a threat to everyone, regardless of how remote prison may seem to anyone's place in the struggle. Humanity should commit us to struggle against it for as much of the next ten years as may be required.

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