Revolution#109, November 18, 2007

Prison Nightmare for Jena 6 Youth

In a Democracy Now interview in September 2007, two of the Jena 6 exposed the degrading and life-endangering treatment they endured behind bars. (The interview can be found at and on

Robert Bailey and Theo Shaw describe how they were repeatedly maced—and the authorities knew Shaw had asthma. Bailey talks about trying to get someone to do something when Shaw was maced and couldn’t breathe. Bailey says, “It took them forever to come back there. I had to holler like 30 times. You know, you bang on the wall if they’re spraying, so I’m banging on walls. ‘He can’t breathe! He can’t breathe!’ So I’m like kicking, I’m kicking. I’m kicking the wall and jumping in front of the camera. ‘Hey, what you want?’ They gonna spray me, so I’m running like, you know (covering his face). ‘He’s having an asthma attack, he’s got an asthma attack.’ ”

Theo Shaw was taken to the emergency room and two other times had to see a doctor after being maced by prison guards—who would mace inmates for being noisy or for no reason at all. Bailey and Shaw also said that authorities tried to separate them, that they didn’t want them together.

The Jena 6 were unjustly arrested. They were unjustly thrown into jail. According to the system’s own rules, you are supposed to be innocent until found guilty. But they were punished and brutalized in prison. This is yet another outrage in the case of the Jena 6.

This kind of criminalization and brutalization is the norm for Black youth in this country—millions who are abused, attacked, and even outright murdered by the police and the so-called “justice” system. None of the Jena 6 had ever been to prison prior to their arrest in December 2006. Even though they hadn’t been found guilty of anything, they were kept behind bars, abused, and treated as less than human. This must be exposed and opposed as part of continuing to bring to light the truth about the case of the Jena 6 and why the people must demand that ALL the charges be dropped and that the Jena 6 be FREE.

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