Latandra Ellington, a 36-year old mother of four children, died in a Florida prison last week. Ellington had just seven months left to serve of her twenty-two month sentence for grand theft when she was found dead in her cell.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a long and colorful history of retaliating against inmates for the exercise of their legal rights. Over the years, I have learned to expect the worst when dealing with these officials. This desensitization occurs, in the literal as well as the figurative sense.
American prisons foster a culture of violence, hatred, bigotry and dominance. They take the criminally inclined, and not so inclined, and turn them into hardened convicts who, after a period of years, become dangerous men.
This willful disregard for Miller has spread from the legislatures to courtrooms. In too many re-sentencing hearings, it is simply business as usual; the offense overshadows the defendant's individual attributes.
It's difficult to think of this girl's last minutes, attacked by the man she called daddy, staring, scared and uncomprehending, as she bled to death. But it's her killer who's on my mind. I don't understand how he could have taken a life. But he's a friend now and his terror has become mine.
Jeri was traveling light because she understood that carrying grudges from the past was non-productive, even self-destructive. It is, as the saying goes, like swallowing poison and expecting it to kill someone else.
I felt like a prisoner last night at San Francisco's Hyatt Regency Hotel. That's because the hotel's Eclipse Restaurant is now serving meals based on those that were served to Al Capone, the Birdman and other inmates at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.