On April 28, 2010, in the Restricted Housing Unit of Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution at Dallas, Carrington Keys heard his friend Isaac Sanchez scream. Like Sanchez, Keys had spent years locked in the "hole." It had been years since he'd hugged his mom. Years confined to a filthy box, drinking rust-brown water, enduring beatings by guards. Years beneath a fluorescent light that never went off, freezing in winter, smothering in summer's heat, the sole window to a bare hallway covered with Plexiglas. Years in which each day dragged the same as the last, their monotony punctuated only by explosions of violence.
Sanchez's scream didn't come as a surprise. Abuse in the prison had become so routine that a group of RHU inmates had recently banded together to document it for a local prisoners' rights advocacy nonprofit called the Human Rights Coalition (HRC). Sanchez and Keys were key contributors, as were three other prisoners—Andre Jacobs, Anthony Kelly, and Duane Peters. HRC, which is primarily made up of prisoners' family members and ex-prisoners, compiled the inmates' statements into a 93-page report detailing the systematic verbal and physical abuse by guards. There was medical neglect, starvation, racial slurs, denial of water, abject filth, and even a prisoner who had been driven to suicide. Prisoners who dared file grievances over these conditions were subject to constant intimidation and retaliation by guards. Worse, the grievances themselves did no good. Between January 2008 and May 2009, inmates won fewer than 2 percent of disputes filed against correctional officers.
After HRC published its report, the organization mailed Jacobs a copy to his cell at SCI Dallas. Correctional officers intercepted the document and read through its allegations. Then they used the names of contributing prisoners as a checklist. Within days, the threats began. "This time, we'll break your teeth," a guard allegedly warned Kelly. On April 25, according to the inmates, guards began denying Kelly food.
The group stuck together, and Sanchez demanded guards give Kelly his meal tray. Instead, they allegedly began to starve him too. On April 28, guards pepper-sprayed Sanchez, stripped him naked, and put him in a restraint chair, cinching the straps so tightly that he remembered his extremities turning blue. Sanchez later said they left him there for at least 12 hours. (Officials at both SCI Dallas and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)
As Keys and his fellow whistle-blowers heard Sanchez's screams of pain, they knew they had to get in contact with the outside world. But filing grievances had proved to be a rigged game. According to James E. Robertson, a professor of corrections at Minnesota State University, "Retaliation is deeply engrained in the correctional office subculture; it may well be in the normative response when an inmate files a grievance." The inmates and their lawyers said guards punished those who filed grievances by slapping them with misconduct charges. In Pennsylvania, a prison has 15 business days to respond to a grievance, but a misconduct charge against an inmate nets an immediate punishment—often a stay in the hole.
In fact, calling attention to the abuse had been taken as an invitation for more of it.
In solitary at SCI Dallas, successful protest meant a few things: hunger strikes, refusing to return food trays, refusing to return from the yard, and, most of all, covering cell windows. It was one of the few ways of drawing the attention of a superior. Guards would bring down a lieutenant, and an inmate could register his complaint. The morning of April 29, Jacobs, Kelly, Keys, Peters, and three other prisoners, Anthony Locke, Brian Scott, and Derrick Stanley, covered their cell windows.
"I was really scared because I figured, is this the time that they really fuck me up?" Keys later said. "But I also figured that I had to do something."
Shortly after the inmates began their protest, guards alerted Lieutenant David Mosier that the men were participating in an "unauthorized group activity." Mosier identified Jacobs as the leader. At 7:40 AM, a sergeant walked down the gallery with a camcorder in hand, banging on the men's cell doors and ordering them to take down the coverings. None complied. He made a second pass, and Armando Lago, an inmate who had joined the protest just after the guards had been made aware of it, agreed to remove the robe covering his window. All the others held firm. Then the prison psychologist, Robert Wienckoski, tried his luck, asking in a tone of professional concern. This time, Peters answered.
"We want to talk to the Luzerne County public defender's office. We want to talk to our attorneys," he said.
"You want to talk to your attorneys?" Wienckoski replied, sounding incredulous.
"These men are abusing their power and retaliating against us for paperwork that has been filed... Until you all do that, we have nothing to say. We want to talk to our attorneys."
After a little more back-and-forth, Wienckoski gave up.
At around 10:00 AM, the prison ordered cell extractions on six of the inmates: Jacobs, Kelly, Keys, Locke, Peters, and Stanley.
A cell extraction is a procedure commonly practiced in the solitary confinement units of prisons across the country. They are meant for cases in which a prisoner will not leave his cell or is a risk to his own safety. During a cell extraction, guards wielding Tasers, batons, tear gas, and riot shields subdue and shackle a prisoner, then drag him to another cell.
At SCI Dallas that morning, each cell-extraction team was composed of five guards, padded in riot gear, their faces hidden behind helmets and gas masks. They were all white. The prisoners were all black. Before the extraction, the officers tested their equipment. One man held an electrified riot shield, which delivered Taser-strength shocks. The second held a baton, the third a Taser, the fourth handcuffs, and the fifth leg irons. A guard followed each team with a camcorder.
The officers marched to Keys's cell. They demanded that he remove the orange jumpsuit that was blocking his window and submit to a strip search. He pulled the covering aside and peered out at them. He'd wrapped his face in a white T-shirt that he'd smeared with a brown substance that looked like feces. His eyes, in their hollow sockets, burned with both defiance and fear. Behind him was the small box that was his world.
The guards began to pry open the door, pulling out fabric that Keys had wedged in its sill. As soon as the door opened an inch, they sprayed tear gas. According to an earlier briefing where the officers had discussed the day's cell-extraction procedure, further tear gas was being poured in through the cell's vents. Keys began to cough.
Clouds of tear gas filled the lens of the camcorder behind the guards, and they poured into the cell, armed with their baton and electric shield and shackles and Taser. They fell upon the skeletal Keys, and he disappeared beneath them. "Stop resisting!" they shouted, as if resistance were possible. Then they pulled him from the cell and through the corridor, to another room where they pushed him to the floor.
There, the guards cut off Keys's jumpsuit and ran their hands over his naked body to search him. They forced a hood over his head. Leaving him only in his underwear, they put him in a cage, re-cuffing his hands.
Keys screamed: "They want to break my wrists! They know I'm not resisting!" They attached his tightly cuffed wrists to a restraint belt. (Five years later, his hands still go numb occasionally.)
Video of Carrington Key's cell extraction
In his new empty, waterless cell, Keys was still soaked in tear gas, hooded, shackled, and clad only in his underwear. Eight hours later, the prison evacuated him to SCI Frackville, a facility about 50 miles to the south. SCI Dallas's shaky handheld cameras captured the cell extractions of the five other protesting inmates as well. When the process was complete, authorities also evacuated Jacobs and Stanley to prisons across the state.
During a debriefing following the extractions, the guards reported that they had sustained no injuries. The inmates were another story. Jacobs later said that he was left with a black eye, and during video of his cell extraction, Locke can be heard crying in agony that guards had broken his arm. At one point, footage of Kelly's extraction cuts out for several minutes while correctional officers apparently replace the camcorder's batteries. When the video flickers back on, he screams, "They got a few punches in there!"
After the men were dispersed to separate prisons, their case remained an internal, disciplinary affair, with some of them being sentenced to additional time in the hole as punishment. At SCI Frackville, Keys hoped to make a new start, but the incident followed him. In letters to his mother, Shandre Delaney, Keys wrote that guards denied him food, and the prison slapped him with seven misconducts for "assaulting" the riot-gear-clad officers during the extraction. "The games do not stop," he wrote on May 12. "But where there is a will there is a way and they certainly can't break my will or the will of those who are on my side."
Two days earlier, HRC had filed a formal criminal complaint with the Luzerne County district attorney about the events of April 29 and the targeting of Jacobs and Keys. Deputy district attorney David Pedri quickly rejected the complaint, saying it lacked "prosecutorial merit" and witness corroboration.
Keys later told me, "My pen is my main defense." He had long used it to file grievances and lawsuits objecting to the abusive conditions of his imprisonment. In June 2010, frustrated by his inability to reach the higher-ups in his SCI Dallas protest, Keys filed a lawsuit, stating that he was the subject of many incidents of "cruel and unusual punishment" at the hands of guards. But this time he didn't just target those officers. His lawsuit also named state corrections secretary Jeffrey Beard, deputy secretary Michael Klopotoski, and the district attorney herself, Jackie Musto Carroll. All of them had failed to protect him from abuse, he said, despite his countless letters and grievances. In fact, calling attention to the abuse had been taken as an invitation for more of it.
A few months later, the very district attorney's office that Keys had sued responded with allegations of its own. The DA charged Keys and the five other men forcibly removed from their solitary cells on April 29 with felony rioting. The charges carried a potential sentence of seven more years in prison. The DA slapped Keys with six extra felony charges of aggravated harassment by a prisoner, which, together, carry a theoretical maximum sentence of 49 years. The DA's office claimed that he'd thrown feces on the guards as they dragged him out of his cell. (The video footage of the cell extraction doesn't show this.) Rioting, of course, is generally understood to be a group activity. The complaint does not explain how a man can riot if he is locked alone in his cell.
The men immediately regarded the charges against them as retaliatory. The only way to make sense of them was that the inmates were being punished for blowing the whistle on the abuse of Isaac Sanchez. "It is surprising to me that a district attorney would find it a priority to prosecute a nonviolent protest conducted in the privacy of one's solitary confinement cell," said Carol Strickman, a staff attorney at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. "In California, to my knowledge, there were no criminal prosecutions related to the 2011 and 2013 mass hunger strikes that had over 30,000 people participating." The six inmates were facing serious prison time for what they had intended to be a peaceful protest, and for the next five years they would be caught in a legal limbo of trials, appeals and delays, plea bargains, denied parole, and tested principles. The men, who called themselves the Dallas Six, would try to remain committed to bringing their prison's abusive conditions to light, even in the face of being confined there longer.
"He was always a little activist," Keys's mother, Shandre Delaney, told me this August. At 56, Delaney is a slight, delicately pretty woman, her graying hair gathered in two braids. When she spotted me in the lobby of my hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, she walked over hesitantly—a fall had messed up her back some years ago. Despite this, she'd spent the previous day protesting against the Fraternal Order of Police's centennial celebration, which had been scheduled to take place on the first anniversary of the day that Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Delaney raised Keys and his brother as a single mother, on a secretary's salary, in West End, Pittsburgh. Over coffee, she painted a picture of her son as a child: a short boy who devoured history books, loved to draw, and always looked out for others. But when he was in fourth grade, he yelled at a teacher. What might have earned a white child detention threw a black boy straight into what Delaney called the "school-to-prison pipeline." Keys, she said, was hauled before a court and accused of making "terroristic threats." This began a cycle of reform programs, each stricter than the last. According to Delaney, when he was still a pre-teen, a counselor punched him in the stomach. Others used racist slurs. "By the time he got bigger, he was mean and mad. People call you a nigger, tell you you're nothing," she told me. "I feel so bad whenever I think about it."
In 1999, when Keys was 18, he walked into the Cliffhanger Saloon, a Pittsburgh dive bar with a racist reputation, and pulled out a gun. What happened next is subject to dispute. Delaney told me her son tried to fire into the ceiling, but the gun didn't go off. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said he was attempting to rob the place. Whatever Keys did, it failed. Patrons beat him so badly that he landed in the hospital with a concussion. Then he was charged with robbery.
Keys spent the next two years waiting for his trial in jail. While there, he claimed a guard attacked him during mealtime, and he fought back. As a result, Keys received an additional assault charge, which put him in a position where he felt he had to take a plea on the robbery charge. In 2001, Keys was sentenced to five to 20 years in prison and sent to SCI Mahanoy, 250 miles from home.
Delaney was determined not to lose contact with her son. "For years I wrote him every day, and sent him books every week," she told me. "It cost so much money. I did it just to let him know I was there—to keep him strong." Eager to give him some intellectual structure, she began sending him works on African history, critiques of American imperialism, and copies of the Final Call, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam. Guards saw any interest in Islam as tantamount to terrorism, and after the September 11 attacks, in 2001, they began seizing Keys's copies of the Final Call. He filed his first grievances to get them back. From then on, Keys documented the targeting and abuse he witnessed in prison and helped his fellow inmates do the same.
He also participated in more direct action. During his court cases, Keys was held at SCI Camp Hill, a facility that inmates nicknamed "Camp Hell." There, he organized a protest of the meager rations by having inmates refuse to return their meal trays until they got more food. "Writing a letter to any branch of government is just not a reasonable alternative when a prisoner has not eaten in weeks," he later wrote about the incident.
In 2003, guards locked Keys in the hole of SCI Mahanoy, apparently for getting into a fight with another prisoner. Once there, they piled on misconducts for minor infractions like covering the light in his cell. With a few brief respites, Keys would remain in solitary for the next nine years.
In 2008, Keys was transferred to SCI Dallas, and shortly thereafter he got to know Andre Jacobs. By that time, Jacobs was already infamous among prison guards for being one in a handful of inmates who had successfully represented themselves in court. Earlier that year, the 27-year-old Jacobs won a $115,000 settlement against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for the destruction of his legal papers. His meticulous courtroom performance helped inspire HRC's Bret Grote to become a lawyer.
Jacobs's achievement was even more remarkable given his history. He spent his youth in and out of institutions, and was first locked up in adult prison at 15, after he was convicted of drug possession. Still a child who could barely read or write, he embarked on a dizzying course of self-education. He drank up the world from books, learning everything from how to knot one's tie to philosophy and science. He wrote feverishly, finishing five volumes of poetry and autobiography. He got his GED and then took courses to become a paralegal.
"My method has been to draw on any source that would help me grow, because what grows continuously can never die," Jacobs wrote to me. "This principle can be applied to prison, relationships, oneself, or nature. They can pour poison on my rose petals or cut my stem. But my roots are hidden in a place just for me."
The men, who called themselves the Dallas Six, would try to remain committed to bringing their prison's abusive conditions to light, even in the face of being confined there longer.
Jacobs had become an accomplished jailhouse litigator despite barriers put in place by the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act, which forces prisoners to exhaust the grievance system before bringing charges and to pay a $350 fee just for filing lawsuits. In addition to suing over their own abuse, he and Keys were also unafraid to provide testimony in the cases of their fellow inmates, even though they faced retaliation for it themselves. After Matthew Bullock, an inmate in the RHU at SCI Dallas, was found hanging from a noose in his cell in August 2009, they made sworn statements to HRC identifying the six officers who, they said, had goaded Bullock to kill himself. Bullock was a mentally ill man convicted of murdering his pregnant girlfriend, and he had attempted suicide at least 20 times before being incarcerated. The inmates said that the correctional officers had kicked in his door, taunted him, and cut off his psychiatric medication. According to their testimony, when Bullock threatened to kill himself, guards moved him to a cell with no camera. In the criminal complaint filed by HRC, Keys testified that he heard a correctional officer brag about making Bullock commit suicide and say that "he would like to see other inmates kill themselves."
The retaliation for the testimony was swift. Within days, guards allegedly dragged Keys to the strip cage, demanding to see his "sweet black ass." In October, Jacobs said they ransacked his cell, destroying more of his legal documents. Though HRC's complaint was soon rejected, Bullock's family used affidavits from the inmates to sue the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. They eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. By the time the HRC report addressed to Jacobs arrived at the prison in April 2010, guards had already been incensed at the whistle-blowers for months. Not only had the men embarrassed the officers, they had cost the prison money. Jacobs maintained a strong resolve. "The DOC can... continue persecuting me for exercising my rights," he had written shortly after his legal victory in 2008. "But I will never stop resisting because I live and die by principles. It is who I am."
Jacobs says he has spent the last 14 years in solitary confinement, and he is allegedly on Pennsylvania's Restricted Release List, which is kept secret from the public. The roughly 100 prisoners on the list have been accused of assault, escape, or "a threat to the orderly operation of a facility," though Jacobs claims it is also used as retaliation against whistle-blowers. (In 2006, after an inmate in a neighboring cell fell to his death while trying to flee, Jacobs was convicted of conspiracy to escape.) Once on the Restriced Release List, an inmate can only be released from solitary if the state's top brass says so. According to Jules Lobel, the president of the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the procedure for release from solitary for these inmates is arbitrary and lacking standards. "For many of these guys, there is no clear way out," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2012. "What that creates is a lack of hope, despair."
"Even though they have our bodies here, we have our minds," Keys told me when I visited him this August at SCI Forest, where he is currently incarcerated. A lanky, handsome man, he had shaved his signature dreadlocks in order to be perceived as less "aggressive" in court when the trial on the trumped-up rioting charges began later in the month. For the past five years, hearings about the case have dragged at a glacial pace. The defendants made many motions to dismiss. All were denied. Prosecutors fought to keep the six from showing videos of their cell extractions in court, claiming they were "inadmissible because they were irrelevant." In July 2013, Jacobs petitioned to have the trial rescheduled because files were not available to the inmates in court. Around the same time, Keys's 2010 lawsuit against SCI Dallas officials and the district attorney was dismissed. All the while, the local press ran articles laced with contempt, treating the riot convictions as a foregone conclusion.
During this time, the men tried to maintain a united front. In The Price Men Pay, a booklet Keys compiled about the incident, he wrote: "In 2010 when six Black men covered cell doors, the New Jim Crow summoned a Riot Squad to pepper spray, electro-shock and bloodily beat us. This happens not because there is an actual 'Riot,' but because of the fear of 'Black unity.'" But as the years passed the inmates began to drift apart, yearning to get out from under the threat of more prison time. Kelly pleaded out first. In 2011, he had maxed out of his sentence but was still being held at a local jail, awaiting trial on the new rioting charge. Eventually, he broke and accepted a plea bargain. No one from the Dallas Six has heard from him since. Next, in March of this year, Stanley negotiated a plea deal after completing his original sentence. The following month, Locke had his rioting charges dismissed in exchange for a misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction. Only Jacobs, Keys, and Peters were continuing to fight the charges. (In 2013, Peters, who claims he is a citizen of the Moorish Empire being held as a prisoner of war, had his mental competency evaluated and was ruled fit to stand trial.) The three men were finally scheduled to face a jury on August 24 of this year.
SCI Forest is about two hours away from Pittsburgh, the closest major city. Its visiting room resembles a school gym, and one corner is decorated with cartoon characters to indicate where inmates can play with their children. There was a vending machine where visitors could purchase food for inmates. The incarcerated were forbidden from coming near it, and a guard barked at us when Keys leaned over to look at his choices. I bought him microwave popcorn and cranberry juice. (In his nearly 17 years in prison, he claims to have seldom seen a vegetable.) He walked gingerly, as if from an unhealed injury.
According to Keys, the cell extraction on April 29, 2010, was not even the worst one he'd endured. Cell extractions were part of the routine in most RHUs, seen by some as a way of beating prisoners under the guise of standard operating procedure. In 2007, during his first cell extraction, he said guards slammed his head against the metal bed. During another, he claimed they stomped on his face and broke his nose. Two faint scars remained. Other times, guards used their Tasers on his groin or, during the strip search that followed an extraction, kept their Tasers continually pressed against his skin. He learned to hold up his mattress as a small bit of protection against guards' electric shields, and to wrap his head in a T-shirt to prevent them from tearing out his dreadlocks.
Cell extractions are a standard, barely questioned part of mass incarceration that take place many thousands of times a year. Though an old tradition, they started to happen more frequently during the rise of super-maximum-security prisons in the 1980s and 90s. Guards became warriors—armed, armored, briefed in military jargon. Few rules regulate their use, and according to Jeffrey Schwartz, a corrections consultant, only about 20 percent of those carried out are necessary. Though common, injuries sustained by inmates during cell extractions aren't tracked by any government agency. In 2010, an inmate at a maximum-security prison in Tennessee suffocated to death from the force applied by restraints during an extraction. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide, but no criminal or disciplinary charges were brought against the correctional officers.
That incident was recorded on video just as the cell extractions at SCI Dallas were, but it didn't make much of a difference. While video evidence is ostensibly kept to maintain accountability, the recordings in the Dallas Six case contradict the most serious charge faced by the group—the felony aggravated harassment charges against Keys for allegedly throwing feces. Not only is the event not seen on video, but the guards made no mention of it during their debriefing. Keys said that when he asked for DNA tests on the correctional officers' riot suits, the prison stalled, then claimed to have lost them.
Over the years, Keys has remained committed to fighting the charges to bring attention to the conditions inside Pennsylvania prisons. "Our trial is important because it expresses a dark side of America that the general public thinks only happens in military detainee camps," he wrote in The Price Men Pay. But the lingering rioting and aggravated harassment charges hung over his head. Keys said that they were constantly used to justify denying him parole. Though he believed fiercely in his innocence and the justice of what the Dallas Six had done, he longed for freedom. He'd spent 16 years incarcerated. He yearned to eat real food, to check out the internet he had never seen, to start his life again.
Earlier this year, the district attorney offered him a plea bargain: If he accepted the assault charge, he might avoid additional prison time. But it would also mean confessing to a crime he didn't commit. He was dedicated to blowing the whistle on the abuse he and others suffered in solitary, but was he willing to face years more in hell to uphold that principle?
Jacobs still hasn't gotten out of solitary confinement. Because of this, when I went to visit him a week before the trial, we were not allowed a contact visit. We spoke over telephones, a pane of glass between us. At 33, Jacobs is bald, with a small mustache. He wore a red prison jumpsuit, with his legs chained and his cuffed hands short-shackled to his chest. In the visiting room at Luzerne County Correctional Facility, where he was being held ahead of the trial, they cut the phones cords deliberately too short, and Jacobs spent our 45-minute visit in a painful-looking contortion trying to hold the phone to his ear.
"Guards need to know that prisoners in solitary have value," Jacobs told me when I asked him about what ought to be done for those in his situation. He described those locked in the hole as powerless subjects, targets for consequence-free abuse. To break the pattern, prisoners needed to take a public stand and declare their value—and to have people on the outside advocate for them. Still, Jacobs looked askance at activist groups, which he claimed used prisoners' misery to advance their own organizations while leaving the inmates themselves to face retaliation. He was skeptical of HRC, and of Keys for considering taking a plea. He told me that he would fight the charges to the end, because standing up for something meant sacrifice.
"Do you play chess?" Jacobs asked me through the glass. He explained that in chess, when one is in a weaker position, the best tactic is to postpone. To wait, to force your enemy to exhaust himself on pointless maneuvers, and then, to attack the moment he makes the smallest slip. To Jacobs, the state was like the weaker party in a chess game, waiting indefinitely for the inmates to cede their righteous positions. He wasn't going to let them win.
On the morning of August 24, I drove to Luzerne County to see the trial for the last three members of the Dallas Six. On the courthouse steps, supporters had organized a press conference. Quakers, crust-punk environmentalists, several representatives from Jewish congregations, and black activists from Decarcerate PA and HRC stood alongside the women who had loved and cared for the Dallas Six while they remained in prison. Delaney stood particularly tall. For the past ten years, she had dedicated her life to making sure her son and men like him were not forgotten. She held a banner that said "DEFEND PRISON WHISTLE-BLOWERS. DEFEND THE DALLAS SIX." Peters's ex-wife gave a statement in a soft French accent. They were proud of their loved ones for taking a stand against the prison, but deeply wounded by all that the men had endured.
They did not know what would happen in the court. While the jurors were being selected, the Dallas Six supporters sat in the hallway and waited. Press and family weren't allowed in the courtroom during the process. The courthouse in Wilkes-Barre was lovely, sunlight pouring over its pink stone dome, which was adorned with allegorical women representing civil, criminal, and common law. Men in leg irons shuffled through.
After a few hours, the inmates' standby counsel, Michael Wiseman, came out, and the supporters gathered around him. Inside, Keys had finally seen video of his extraction taken from cameras mounted outside his cell—footage whose existence the prison had previously denied. In them, he saw yet more confirmation of what he had always known: He hadn't thrown anything. The aggravated harassment charges were lies.
Prosecutors had again pressured the men to take a plea, but they refused, instead insisting on a further postponement so they could integrate the new evidence into their defense. The trial date was rescheduled for February 1, 2016.
A few weeks later, Keys called me in a hopeful mood. "I don't know how to describe the feeling [of watching the tapes]," he said. "It's like a reenactment of the whole thing, but it's a relief." Later that day, his mother sent me a photo of the three remaining members of the Dallas Six leaving the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre. In the photo, they stood together, their handcuffs concealed by suits their loved ones had ironed for the occasion. They looked like free men, the guards behind them merely shadows.