Solitary for 28 Years

Twenty-eight years.

I can't think of anything that I have done the same for 28 years in a row.

Kenny Whitmore can though.

Whatever your opinion of punishment for those convicted--whether you are "hard core retribution" for crimes committed or more "rehabilitation-oriented"--Kenny Whitmore's story is worth discussing.

Nicknamed "Zulu" and serving a life sentence for 2nd degree murder conviction from the 1970s, Whitmore is being held in the largest maximum security prison in the US: the Louisiana State Penitentiary--better known as "Angola" or "The Farm."

In this case, life means life and Whitmore will never be released unless something changed with his conviction.

Inside the prison, he is considered a security risk due to his affiliation with the historically violent Black Panther movement, and an attempted escape in 1986.

After the incident in '86, prison officials moved Whitmore to solitary confinement.

He has no contact with other inmates, and eats his meals in his cell.

Whitmore leaves his estimated 6 foot by 9 foot cell for only one hour per day--to go to just another place that he is alone.

That has been his routine.

For the last 28 years.

Wow, 28.

Sadly, there are lots of inmates who have committed violent crimes including murder.

Lots that have gang ties.

And, even a fair number have escaped or tried to escape during their incarceration.

But 28 years in solitary?

With the offense that got him there being 28 years ago?

It sounds like authorities will have to make their case to the public as to why this man is dangerous and needs to be secured in such a manner.

Warden Burl Cain said that he is debating an end to Whitmore's restrictive confinement, but still considers the inmate a safety risk, so he is hesitant.

In an interview for a published article, Warden Cain was not able to make a convincing case for his confinement choice of Whitmore.

I expected him to describe an inmate who is perpetually violent; one that threatens others throughout the day.

Painting a picture of an offender who needed to be kept away from everyone for the last 30 years.

But he did not.

Perhaps, he will later.

Or, maybe the first try was his best shot.

Sadly, I am not sure what expectations Cain should have for anyone locked in solitary for that long that is returned to general population at the prison.

I can't imagine many people retaining much of their sanity after losing all social contacts for almost three decades.


Jackie Harrison said...

Bery impressive and interesting.

Bijoux said...

I do not really know what happens in solitary.....does he have books, newspapers, etc. are there guards that talk to him?

joeh said...

I'll bet there is more to this story. Seems like cruel and inhuman punishment at this point.

Miranda Hardy said...

This is insane to think about. I can't imagine being trapped in that routine for so long.

Carol Kilgore said...

He could be at grave risk if thrust into general population without an adequate readjustment period. I don't know, but I imagine there's a lot to this story that is unavailable except on a need-to-know basis.

lisa said...

Definitely food for thought. I'd like to think there was a good reason for isolating him, but I'm not naive enough to think our prison/justice system is the be-all, end-all in common sense. It will be interesting to follow the story.

Pat Hatt said...

That would be soooo boring, I'd go insane indeed. But then again I'd probably rather be locked away safe and sound by myself then have all the other psychopaths around me. Not that i ever want to be locked away lol

Momma Fargo said...

If he wasn't crazy and dangerous before, being in there for 28 years would surely make you nuts.

Momma Fargo said...

If he wasn't crazy and dangerous before, being in there for 28 years would surely make you nuts.

Chrys Fey said...

28 years in solitary? I woudl certainly go crazy from boredom. Plus, not being able to have a pen would be a nightmare. I'd want to write!

M Pax said...

Wow, I don't even want to imagine dealing with such monotony. How can you stay sane? I like my alone time, but that would drive me nutty.

messymimi said...

My husband knows Burl Cain, grew up dating his niece, spent a lot of time with the family. He will tell you that if Warden Cain is concerned about someone, he probably has a reason.

That said, i hope he lets the man out soon, and in a way that makes his readjustment as easy as possible.

Abigail said...

I cannot imagine that. Oftentimes, in solitary, there is not real human interaction. That is cruel. Even if someone needs to be kept from the rest of the population, that does not mean they should not have visitors and interaction of some kind...even if with bars between them.

Brian Miller said...

wow i can barely imagine being in solitary for that would drive one a bit crazy i imagine...

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comments all.

@Bijoux: Solitary would impose strict limitations on everything. It is typically used for short term punishments to correct inmate behaviors. Prisoners do not want solitary as it removes almost all privileges. When it is in place for 28 years, that would be unusual.

I can't speak specifically for that LA facility, but usually includes no interactions with other inmates, no educational or training opportunities, meals in cells (often just pushed through a slot in the door), 23 hour lock down, and guard interactions would be restricted to professional for the most part. Some access to reading and writing materials are provided, but again it would be less than for those in general population.

@Messymimi: Thanks for the personal insight. I saw that Time magazine released a story on the inmate yesterday. I am sure the pressure is building on the warden, and I look forward to hearing more about his position.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Most of us can't survive long without our social media sites. I couldn't imagine surviving in confinement like that and then being released into general population.

Mary Kirkland said...

I've always been of the mind that most if not all prisoners should be locked up in this way while they are in prison. There wouldn't be any rapes, murders, riots, gang activity, fights ect.

Stephanie Faris said...

I can't imagine the impact this will have...there will definitely be issues if they try to suddenly put him around people again. And they'll blame those issues on him and throw him back in confinement, probably.

Gail Dixon said...

Wow. He's certainly had a lot of time for reflection. I can't imagine how miserable it is to be alone for so many hours a day and for that many years.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Talk about a harsh sentence.

Gloria Baker said...

I think is terrible! Omy 28 years Really a hard sentence Im impressed!

terri said...

The whole thing is just sad. Sad that his life turned out the way it did. Sad that because of it, he's had to spend 28 years without human contact. Makes you wonder how things might have been different, better for him.