February 16, 2007
Gulag or Wisconsin prison?
A frightening picture of Canyon Thixton appeared in yesterday's Capital Times. He was 17 when the picture was taken. He was being held in Supermax prison in Boscobel. For 58 days he was in the Behavior Modification Program (BMP). He was isolated, naked, without soap or toothpaste. He slept on concrete without a pillow or blanket. His meals consisted of the infamous seg loaf.
Fast forward to Nathan Gillis, also placed in the so-called Behavior Modification Program, a misnomer to say the least. He was held in similar conditions but for 13 days. When attorney Pam McGillivray took the Gillis case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, most lawyers thought the chances of a ruling that these conditions were "cruel and unusual" in violation of the 8th Amendment were slim. But Judge Terrence Evans wrote that it would be hard to distinguish between the conditions in the BMP and "a Soviet gulag in the 1930s." Gillis won.
The Gillis victory cleared the path for Thixton to finally receive compensation and it led to the termination of BMP. I doubt that Thixton will ever meet Nathan Gillis, but both have been instrumental in eliminating the infamous BMP for good. Thanks to Pam McGillivray and Thixton's attorney, both have been compensated.
Thixton received about $8,000 for every day he was in the BMP, Gillis settled for over $25,000 for every day he was kept in the cruel conditions in BMP at Supermax.
Thanks to another settlement in the class action approved by Federal Judge Barbara Crabb last week, a panel of three psychiatrists will supervise face-to-face interviews to make sure no mentally ill prisoners will be sent to Boscobel. And BMP is a thing of the past. We are getting there!
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