INDIANAPOLIS -- Lokmar Abdul-Wadood had a mean reputation. So when guards went to shake down his cell one winter day a year ago, they armed themselves with tear gas and nightsticks.
By the time the tear gas cleared, Abdul-Wadood was semi-conscious and bleeding. He was taken to an Indianapolis hospital with severe cuts and head injuries.
Abdul-Wadood, who goes by his Muslim name but is listed in prison records as Lincoln Love, said in a telephone interview the incident underscores what is wrong with American's prisons.
Guards use unnecessary force to subdue inmates and inmates use violence to protect themselves, he said.
'The single worst problem in prison is the basic relationship between staff and inmates,' said Abdul-Wadood, who is serving a life term for murder.
'Human nature being what it is, the prison guard recognizes intimidation can be helpful to him,' he continued. 'Rule by fear is the cheapest system. They (the guards) don't have the benefits formal knowledge would give them. So they operate by less sophisticated means.'
Racism permeates the prison, Abdul-Wadood said, and is made worse by the fact that, for many white guards from rural Indiana, 'the urban black is a very new thing.'
The circumstances surrounding the February 1, 1985, beating of Lokmar Abdul-Wadood at the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton are hazy, since the inmate and the guards tell different versions of the story. A federal grand jury is investigating to determine if the guards intentionally attacked Abdul-Wadood in violation of his civil rights.
However, in an unrelated lawsuit filed by prison guards, the beating is recounted in great detail. The lawsuit alleges that a riot broke out after Abdul-Wadood's beating because of the state's failure adequately to protect prison workers. It also claims that use of excessive force by guards is 'a common occurrence and accepted policy.'
According to court documents, the guards sprayed Abdul-Wadood's cell with tear gas and then handcuffed him. Then, two officers 'maliciously held him down and unmercifully stomped and kicked the inmate all over his body and hit the inmate upon and about his upper body and head with nightsticks.'
Abdul-Wadood, 34, said prison officers would not have to resort to force if they received better pay, were better trained and treated inmates with respect.
'Even though my record probably won't reflect this statement, I am not a violent person,' Abdul-Wadood said. 'I don't want people to fear me. I want a person to be afraid to mess over me.'
'When you tell me I can't have a pencil, that's irrational. Then I have no other choice to resort to things that produce results. Violence produces results. That is the thing they understand.'
Since he was sentenced to life in 1975, more than 80 years have been added to Abdul-Wadood's sentence for the kidnaping of one guard and the attempted murder of another.
'What they want from me now is to conform,' Abdul-Wadood said. 'They tell me I'm anti-authority. But it's the gross abuse of authority that I'm opposed to.'