The following statement was issued in coordination with Philly Anti-Repression on June 1, 2021 by members of the Vaughn 17 and other incarcerated community members subjected to abuse, neglect, and solitary confinement at SCI-Phoenix.
For those who are new to the Vaughn 17’s struggle for self-liberation, here is some context: On February 1, 2017, incarcerated community members confined in Delaware’s largest prison, the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, staged an uprising and took over Building C. Prisoners took guards hostage and called the media, bringing international attention to the prison’s overuse of solitary confinement and demanded humane living conditions, rehabilitation, and education programs. Phone negotiations lasted 18 hours between prisoners and prison officials.
One correctional officer died during the uprising and 18 prisoners were charged with multiple counts of murder, rioting, conspiracy and kidnapping. One of the original eighteen suspects in the rebellion turned and became the State’s star witness; another committed suicide.
Since 2017, participants of the Building C takeover, now known as “the Vaughn 17”, have endured ongoing retaliation by the State. This has included transfers across state lines to Pennsylvania and long-term solitary confinement under the euphemistic measures of “Intensive Management Units” and “Restricted Release”. Prolonged solitary confinement (more than 15 days) is considered torture by the United Nations.
June 1, 2021
“This message is on behalf of the Vaughn 17 and others held in solitary confinement under the PA DOC. We are all already at or are about to be transferred to SCI Phoenix or SCI Greene, where the PA DOC has dedicated a building at each facility solely to warehouse people in long term solitary confinement (and has labeled it the Intensive Management Unit, or the IMU).
Here, we are housed in our cells with only 5 hours of recreation per week, no programs, no schooling, no jobs, or anything else involving rehabilitation. We have been housed in this way (some completely misconduct-free) with no way out.
Restricted Release is the label the PA DOC gives a person when they want to warehouse them in long term solitary confinement. The way Restricted Release is designed is meant to break a person down on all levels.
First it destroys you mentally, then physically, then emotionally, leaving most of the affected individuals hallucinating, contemplating self-harm or suicide, or actually carrying it out.
There is nothing productive or humane about locking up a human being in a box and letting them out for 5 hours a week. If PA DOC chooses to go into rehabilitating people and help them to become better human beings, then long term solitary confinement has to go.”
– The Vaughn 17