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Worst of the Worst?

Prison officials have attempted to justify the cruel and inhumane conditions of confinement in control units by claiming that only the "worst of the worst" are confined in them. PLN editor Paul Wright has made the rounds of Washington state's control units. At the Intensive Management Unit in Shelton, Washington, the "worst of the worst" often consisted of prisoners going to the dining hall without their identification cards or the cards being worn backwards, taking too long in the shower and similar acts of criminal depravity.

Florida's X-Wing is no different. Florida DOC spokesperson Debbie Buchanan claims X-Wing is used only for "inmates we can't keep under control in any other way." Who are the X-Wing desperados? According to the Miami Herald they include:

Thomas Woodel, infracted for possessing contraband. The contraband consisted of a Popsicle stick, a latex glove, 69 33¢ stamps and 14 20¢ stamps.

Dallas Price, infracted for possessing contraband. The contraband consisted of 7 excess deodorants, an excess dental floss, a 1/8 pack of tobacco and 2 excess shampoos.

Alfredo Berrios, infracted for possession of contraband. The contraband consisted of "a laundry bag that is not an inmate type laundry bag."

Juan Vega, infracted for disorderly conduct. The conduct in question consisted of "yelling loudly at other inmates, interrupting normal operating procedures in H wing."

James Agan, infracted for destruction of state property. Agan was infracted for tearing a bed sheet on both sides and an end.

Mark DeFriest, infracted for destruction of state property. DeFriest tore the cover off of a Tom Clancy novel and tore some pages out of the book as well.

These are the "worst of the worst" that have to be controlled with the punitive environment of X-Wing. This pattern repeats itself across the country as increasingly larger numbers of prisoners are kept in long term segregation units. A standard control unit feature is no concrete criteria for placement or exit, this ensures the units, having been built at great expense, are always kept full. What is unusual about this story is that journalists actually examined what defined the "worst of the worst" necessitating X-Wing placement.

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