How guards and prosecutors retaliate against solitary confinement prisoners who blow the whistle

The Dallas Six is a group of prisoners who were beaten, shocked and gassed by prison guards who had previously beaten them in retaliation for complaints about abuse in solitary confinement.

The letters of grievance the men sent were intercepted by guards who violently retaliated against them, sparking a nonviolent protest (the men covered the windows of their cells). This, in turn, was used as a pretense for "cell extractions" during which the non-violent prisoners were beaten, shocked, gassed and left in their underwear, covered in gas residue, shackled in stress positions.

Prosectors collaborated with the guards who attacked the men, bringing trumped up assault charges against the men for allegedly resisting the guards, though the videos don't support the charge (the prosectors have argued against introducing the videos into evidence).

The story of the Dallas 6 is a microcosm for the everyday torture in the American penal system, which imprisons more people than any other country in the world's history. It's not a coincidence that the Dallas 6 are black, nor that they began their journey into the penal system with zero-tolerance busts for petty crap like shouting at their elementary school teachers.

Molly Crabapple's reporting on the Dallas 6 is a must-read, and her accompanying illustrations are beautiful and haunting.

At SCI Dallas that morning, each cell-extraction team was composed of five guards, padded in riot gear, their faces hidden behind helmets and gas masks. They were all white. The prisoners were all black. Before the extraction, the officers tested their equipment. One man held an electrified riot shield, which delivered Taser-strength shocks. The second held a baton, the third a Taser, the fourth handcuffs, and the fifth leg irons. A guard followed each team with a camcorder.

The officers marched to Keys's cell. They demanded that he remove the orange jumpsuit that was blocking his window and submit to a strip search. He pulled the covering aside and peered out at them. He'd wrapped his face in a white T-shirt that he'd smeared with a brown substance that looked like feces. His eyes, in their hollow sockets, burned with both defiance and fear. Behind him was the small box that was his world.

The guards began to pry open the door, pulling out fabric that Keys had wedged in its sill. As soon as the door opened an inch, they sprayed tear gas. According to an earlier briefing where the officers had discussed the day's cell-extraction procedure, further tear gas was being poured in through the cell's vents. Keys began to cough.

Clouds of tear gas filled the lens of the camcorder behind the guards, and they poured into the cell, armed with their baton and electric shield and shackles and Taser. They fell upon the skeletal Keys, and he disappeared beneath them. "Stop resisting!" they shouted, as if resistance were possible. Then they pulled him from the cell and through the corridor, to another room where they pushed him to the floor.

There, the guards cut off Keys's jumpsuit and ran their hands over his naked body to search him. They forced a hood over his head. Leaving him only in his underwear, they put him in a cage, re-cuffing his hands.

Keys screamed: "They want to break my wrists! They know I'm not resisting!" They attached his tightly cuffed wrists to a restraint belt. (Five years later, his hands still go numb occasionally.)

What Happens When Inmates in Solitary Confinement Blow the Whistle on Their Abuse?
[Molly Crabapple/Vice]