In Memory of Clinton “Boo” Gilkie, A Premature Death

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In Memory of Clinton “Boo” Gilkie, A Premature Death

Clinton “Boo” Gilkie was held in the Monroe County Jail since he was 16 after a failed robbery using a toy gun. He was set to be released from jail in late June. After sitting for 22 months, he was finally being offered a plea deal for time served. He qualified for bail – just $1,000 – the entire time he was imprisoned, but was too poor to get out. On June 7th, 2016, less than two weeks before his release date, Boo died inside the Monroe County Jail. His incarceration was absurd, his death, murder.

Even though Boo’s death was quieter than that of the Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge or Philando Castile outside St. Paul, who were both cut down by cops, it follows the same pattern – the premature death coldly dealt out to those who are poor and/or black in this society, whether by bullet, coercion or neglect.

Because Boo’s family was poor he was considered “indigent” which means the state would be forced to pay for his medication as long as he had no money on his books. When his family was able to put $10 a month on it was immediately taken by the jail to cover the cost of his medication. The only way Boo had enough money on his commissary to pay for necessary food that met his dietary restrictions and calorie needs was to refuse his medication. This means he was given the choice between access to food or access to medication.

The immediate cause of death was an aortic aneurysm, the result of the jail’s failure to treat a pre-existing heart condition called Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder. The jail was aware of Boo’s diagnosis and family medical history. Medicine and routine tests can manage the condition but the jail denied Boo access to these basic resources. When he died, the guards tried to claim it was an overdose and immediately isolated all of his blockmates, interrogating them and ransacking their dorm. Ex-prisoners who were released shortly after his death and other recent deaths reported that they were blamed, mistreated, and had no substantial support for trauma and loss. Counseling for survivors wasn’t made available, even at their request. While jail staff targeted and attempted to incriminate Boo’s blockmates, we know who the real killers are: the jail medical staff, the jail administration, and an institution that criminalizes race and poverty.

Boo’s premature death comes close on the heels of two suicides and countless suicide attempts in the jail over the last year and a half. These deaths have been under a new administration and jail-appointed medical provider. A suicide had not taken place in the jail for more than 30 years before this. A rise in jail overcrowding, minors tried and held as adults, incarceration for illness and poverty, and an increasing disregard for human life also mark an escalation beyond the last three, already miserable, decades of incarceration.

The system assumes it can keep failing our communities. This assumption relies on our hopelessness and complacency. The people in charge know that many of us get angry when teenagers are left to rot and die inside wretched cells, but they think we’ll stay quiet or take it out on each other. The rebels in Ferguson have demonstrated, though, that the only practical response is to find each other, combine our rage, and fight back against the enemy that cages or kills our friends, family, and loved ones. The legal system offers no protection to the poor, let alone to black teenagers. Our only protection, our best weapon is solidarity – what limits their violence and neglect is fear of our collective power.

If you miss Boo or are angry about his loss:

*Spread the word about Boo’s death. Fight against the media’s effort to sanitize the murder – they are simply acting as the mouthpiece of the jail and the cops.

*Revolt against his murder, against the next murder by law enforcement, and against the daily oppression across this society that mirrors and exceeds that of the prison. Remember that the Ferguson cop who murdered Michael Brown would not have faced any repercussions at all if a rebellion hadn’t broken out.

*Organize now in our communities to solve problems for ourselves and be prepared to address harm instead of calling cops. Stop snitching. If you’ve ever considered testifying against someone, remember that you might not just be sending them to jail but to their death.

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