WILKES-BARRE — A small group of human rights supporters Friday invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s method of peaceful protest in a demonstration against the alleged abuse of prison inmates.
Demonstrators who held posters and signs from the base of the Luzerne County Courthouse steps said their protest was in support of a group of prisoners who they claim was abused by guards after enacting a nonviolent protest at the State Correctional Institute in Dallas in April 2010.
The demonstrators urged for an immediate dismissal of all charges against members of “the Dallas 6,” a group of six prisoners who covered their cell windows with bed sheets in an attempt to get outside intervention and bring attention to their alleged abuse.
Members of the group were later beaten and charged with rioting as retaliation, the group asserts.
Demonstrators said they chose to protest Friday, which would have been King’s 87th birthday, because the late social activist had himself witnessed and spoken out against mistreatment of prisoners during the civil rights era.
Theresa Shoatz supported Friday’s demonstration because, she said, inmates need to have a voice on the outside of their prison walls.
“Not only are they our eyes and ears on the inside; we’re their eyes and ears on the outside,” Shoatz said.
Shandre Delaney, a member of the Human Rights Coalition and mother of one of the Dallas 6, said she made the trip from Pittsburgh to Wilkes-Barre Friday to battle the injustices carried out against all prison inmates including her son, Carrington Keys.
Keys, 35, is charged with six felony counts of aggravated harassment by a prisoner and one felony charge of rioting, court records show. Delaney said her son was sent to prison on a robbery charge when he was 18 years old.
“In this courthouse, there’s a lot of corruption,” Delaney said, speaking into a microphone as traffic zipped past the half dozen protesters on North River Street.
“There’s no accountability,” she continued. “There’s no accountability from the district attorney. There’s no accountability from the Department of Corrections. There’s no accountability from anyone involved with this case.”
Delaney, 56, said instead of wasting taxpayers’ money pursuing a vendetta against the inmates, District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis should investigate the circumstances that led to the inmates’ protest.
“They need to do what is right by actually investigating what really happened instead of helping the (Department of Corrections) to push these false charges through the court,” she said.
Delaney said there are records that document the alleged abuse against the Dallas 6 that Salavantis’ office refuses to acknowledge. She said the group hopes to bring the alleged injustices faced by the prisoners to light.
A petition with over 500 signatures was delivered to Salavantis’ office, she said.
A member of the district attorney’s office declined to comment on the protest Friday as he said he did not witness it and is involved in the the Dallas 6’s pending trial.
Court documents filed Friday show the trial, originally scheduled for Feb. 1, has been continued to April.