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VIGIL AT STARKE

"Those of you who know the truth must tell it, and those of you who don't must learn it."

Sunday, August 22, 1999

Starke, Florida

I made the 600 mile trip to Starke all the way from Key West this week to speak to the people in this area about the terrible truth that is being ignored within their prisons; that the medical, psychological, emotional and physical abuses being levied upon American prisoners are reality. Many years of this abuse will send angry people back into a society that doesn't want them and one way or another, everyone will pay.

I had hoped the people of these prison towns could agree that money can be made on the back of the drug war's shame without the blood but I was sadly disappointed.

I found out the truth is not welcomed here in this little prison community.

Do the "people of God" in this town want to hear the truth? The largest church I found in Starke had a billboard sign out front declaring, "Correctional Officers, look up. God loves you and so do we." Forgetting that God loves the prisoners, too. No, the churches have taken up a code of silence that God would never condone.

Do the prison officials want to hear the truth? They have adopted the official stance that we are making more of Mr. Valdes' death than it really is. If it does not end in death, beaten prisoners lie in the hole to heal and the public never knows how much blood has been spilled. No...They are wrong....not enough is being made out of this episode.

Jeb Bush and Michael Moore certainly do not want to hear the truth. It is politically correct to be as hard on incarcerated people as possible, and damn the humanity. How can I rest assured that their efforts will be honest?

The first newspaper article I read in the Bradford Press called people like me 'ignorant.' The tone was 'our guards, right or wrong.'

No media showed up to help me tell the truth.

It was a lonely watch, marked by several encounters with prison staff who tried to move us along, but couldn't under the first amendment. Several cars drove past, one several times, gesturing obscenely, yelling "get out of here, go away," a sentiment that seems to be echoed throughout the small communities where families and friends make their living off the prisons.

And although a number of people gave thumbs up, no one came to stand with me.

A related truth is that well over 80% of our inmates are convicted of non-violent crimes. That number is so high mostly because of political pressure to prolong a 30 year old drug war.

If you want to lock up non-violent citizens, you will have to deal with this truth: One day it could be your son lying in the dark bowels of a prison, healing from wounds inflicted by his keeper, with no one to help him.

As the prisons are appointed keepers of more and more non-violent people, the circumstances of their confinement become more and more brutal. Is it in the hiring practices or the training?

I want good people to ask why, if a man is to be sentenced to death by beating, a judge does not pronounce the verdict instead of angry guards.

I'm a grandma trying to teach my grandchildren to do something about whatever injustice they see. What 'message' do you think you are sending them with your choice to ignore the truth?

Much evil will be done when good people do nothing. Now that you know, the blood is also on your hands.

Grandma Kay Lee

2316 Larry Court

Eau Gallie, Fl 32935

321-253-3673

Email: kaylee1@charter.net