The policy of retaliation: continuing the story of Courtney Clark

When Courtney Clark was told on July 9, 2012, that he had a telephone call coming in from a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he had no idea the level of pain this interview would cause him.

The Star Tribune was interviewing Mr. Clark about the abuse he had been subjected to since 2005 by the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Whatever the combination of causes, he eventually had a stroke, a heart attack, and wound up in a wheelchair, as his overall health dangerously deteriorated.

The key concern that justifies our writing about Mr. Clark is expressed in the title of last week’s column: “‘Justice for all’ means justice for everyone — no exceptions.”

Yes, Mr. Clark had been convicted of a homicide. His victim was White. Black Americans understand the consequences of that criminal offense. That he was no angel doesn’t excuse the system for being devils. What the system can do to anyone they can do to the rest of us. That is the lesson of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, “…until they came for me.”

Mr. Clark, a bright and intelligent 39-year-old African American, was first sent to the reformatory at St. Cloud where he began to learn about experimental medical practices as he became a target of such practices, leading to serious medical problems by 2008. Nonetheless, on that fateful afternoon of July 9, he stood up for right over wrong, for transparency over cover-up, in his 45-minute telephone interview with Paul McEnroe of the Star Tribune.

Besides his story, Mr. Clark also told the story of Robert Mims, a 69-year-old African American, also in a wheelchair, who died the previous evening, July 8. Mr. Mims had been transferred from Pennsylvania to Minnesota (also discussed in last week’s column), as he was considered a troublemaker they couldn’t handle in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Clark reported that during his last three weeks, 69-year-old Mr. Mims was denied medication and medical assistance, dying in severe pain. Mr. Clark reported that this is not unusual in Minnesota. Mr. McEnroe had earlier written a chilling story of a young African American who was denied medical assistance at the reformatory at Rush City, MN (Star Tribune, July 9, 2012, ”Prisoner dies after denial of care”).

For a number of years, people in the know were aware of this policy and practice of medical experimentation that can only be called a form of genocide. Tuskegee is more than just a memory. And so, within hours of the interview with the Star Tribune’s Mr. McEnroe, Mr. Clark felt the full fury of the State’s anger. His cell was tossed and papers and documents accumulated since 2005 by Mr. Clark were destroyed, documents about his case and which attested to his abuse suffered while in the custody of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, both before and after being transferred to California and back.

California found he was not getting his full compliment of medicines and medical care and that the cost of his care was too high. He suffered a stroke and California sent him back.

During the course of the search of his cell and the confiscation of his property, Mr. Clark was roughed up and then put in the “hole,” a small cell with nothing in it but a small toilet. Since these latest events, July 9, 10, and 11, his family has attempted to make inquiry regarding his current status and condition. His privileges have been revoked, and what medical attention he had been receiving has been considerably reduced. As in the case with Mr. Mims, and other African Americans in Faribault denied medical assistance, he is in constant pain.

Mr. Clark told his parents and loved ones during the previous week that authorities have told him that he won’t survive in Minnesota’s version of what I am saying is similar to the legendary Dachau concentration camp of medical experimentation. The Minnesota Corrections System has become an example of those institutions that scarred the humanity of Germany, and, in this case, Minnesota, for, as one corrections official is reported to have said, “Blacks will become an endangered species if we have anything to say about it.”

Courtney Clark and far too many other African Americans represent a clear illustration of the fact that in some circles, African Americans are an endangered species, and that there are no rights that the Minnesota Corrections System has any obligation to honor. Welcome to Dachau 2012, Minnesota version.

Stay tuned.


Columns referenced in this commentary are  archived at Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at