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HomeLead StoryCarlos Alberto Torres' odyssey continues

Carlos Alberto Torres’ odyssey continues

February 2, 2009

In 1994, after having served 14 years in prison, Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres appeared before a hearing examiner of the United States Parole Commission, asking to be released on parole to serve the remainder of his 70 year sentence for seditious conspiracy. The commission told him to come back after serving an additional 15 years, and they would consider his case once again… with no obligation to grant parole.

In September of 1999, when most of his comrades left prison following a presidential commutation of sentence, Carlos Alberto, facing indefinite imprisonment, soon enrolled in an apprentice program in ceramics at FCI Oxford, Wisconsin, delighting in the freedom and creativity he found there. Producing vases, urns, plates, sculptures, plaques, and untold numbers of pieces, he experimented in styles, forms, glazes, and clays, ever learning and growing.

This creative space abruptly came to an end when the Bureau of Prisons, in a system-wide reorganization, transferred him to FCI Pekin, Illinois, where not only was there no ceramics program, but where an inept administration demonstrated its inability to control the prison population. Carlos Alberto and other prisoners were thus placed in danger, when the prison erupted into internecine warfare among gangs. After a record-breaking month-long lockdown—collective punishment meted out to the entire prison population—the BOP moved Carlos Alberto and others from their two man cells into a different unit, placing him in a ten man cell. The week before he was scheduled to appear before the Parole Commission, guards searched the ten man cell, and claimed to have found home-made knives hidden in the light fixture. Officials accused every one of the cell’s occupants, including Carlos Alberto, of possessing the knives. His plea of innocence fell on deaf ears. If the segregation unit had not already been filled with participants in the gang war, he would have been placed in segregation.

After a few days, the guilty party confessed, and the others—Carlos Alberto included— sighed with relief. Their relief was to be short-lived. In a departure from the norm, the disciplinary hearing officer found all ten guilty, in spite of the confession. The harsh result, seen in the light of recent violent events at the prison, seem to be part of efforts to make it appear that the administration is taking control of the prison.

Inexplicably, Carlos Alberto’s punishment was more severe than that imposed on some of the other ten, and includes two months of segregation, including no visits and no telephone, as well as loss of good time— which has the effect of extending the length of his imprisonment. This arbitrary and punitive event adversely affects his bid for parole. He will pursue the available administrative appeals, in order to clear his record of this false accusation and salvage the possibility of release on parole.

Supporters are encouraged to write to the prison in protest, and to continue to collect letters endorsing his parole, and mail them to his attorney, Jan Susler, People’s Law Office, 1180 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60642.

Sample letter of support (download)

Harley G. Lappin, Director
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW
Washington, DC 20534
Phone 202/307-3198
E-mail [email protected]

re: Carlos Alberto Torres, 88976-024
FCI Pekin

Dear Director Lappin:

We write to protest the arbitrary discipline recently imposed on Mr. Torres.

We understand that the week of January 12, staff at FCI Pekin found home-made knives hidden in the light fixture of the ten-man cell to which prison staff assigned him. We further understand that the guilty party accepted full responsibility for possessing and secreting the weapons. We are at a loss to understand why Mr. Torres (and the other occupants of the cell), who knew nothing about the weapon, was found guilty and sentenced to segregation and loss of visiting, telephone and good time.

We are particularly concerned, given that this arbitrary punishment came on the eve of Mr. Torres’ parole hearing, and that it would undoubtedly have a severe, adverse effect on his parole possibilities— no small consideration, given that he has served 29 years on a 70 year sentence, with a virtually spotless disciplinary record.

We therefore urge you to expunge all accusations from his record and restore all good time revoked as a result of this matter. May we please hear from you.

Very truly yours,

cc:  Warden
FCI Pekin
P.O. Box 7000
Pekin, IL  61555
Phone:  309-346-8588
Fax:  309-477-4685
E-mail address:  PEK/[email protected]

Michael K. Nalley, Regional Director
North Central Regional Office
Federal Bureau of Prisons
400 State Avenue, Suite 800
Kansas City, KS 66101
Phone: 913/621-3939
E-mail: NCRO/[email protected]

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