An Ugly Prison Record

An Ugly Prison Record
Posted by CN Staff on May 12, 2004 at 20:25:58 PT
By Christopher Reed
Source: Toronto Star 
For a nation founded on slavery and genocide, Americans retain an astonishingly enduring faith in their continuing righteousness. They are sounding this note again as the prison torture scandal continues in Iraq.In a column in the New York Times last week, Middle East analyst Thomas Friedman warned that the revelations created the "danger of losing America as an instrument of moral authority and inspiration in the world."
Does he not read the world's newspapers? Uncle Sam as moral authority?Other U.S. pundits similarly harrumphed about America's endangered integrity and leadership. President George W. Bush himself said the prison mistreatments were not the American way. But they were, and they are. Friedman's column was headlined, "Restoring our honour," but the abuse of prisoners surprises nobody who reads newspapers or scans the Internet. Americans have been mistreating and torturing their fellow Americans in their own lock-ups for decades. What honour is there to restore?In "liberal" California, horror stories have appeared for years from hellholes such as Pelican Bay prison, where they house "the worst of the worst" — and also inflict the worst brutalities. A prisoner dumped in scalding water so his skin peeled off like old varnish; prisoners left naked outside in rainy and bitter weather for days; multiple beatings and rapes; several unexplained deaths.In Corcoran prison, California, guards held their own Roman gladiator games with prisoners pitted against each other in fights to the near death. A disliked and defenceless prisoner was placed in the same cell as the biggest and baddest sex criminal — known as the Booty Bandit — to be duly raped to the amusement of the prisoner's supposed guardians.Pelican Bay is such a fearful place, with prisoners kept under perpetual scrutiny while unable to see any other human being, a psychiatrist told a court that many were going insane. A federal judge finally ordered reforms, as did another over Corcoran, but there is little evidence that either have become proper places even to house the worst.Similar reports surface across America. Texas is especially bad. Significantly, private, for-profit prisons have some of the worst records.They often have such poor medical facilities that prisoners die from curable conditions, as Harper's magazine revealed in an exhaustive inquiry last year.California holds more prisoners than Britain, France, Germany, and Canada combined, yet jails are still grossly overcrowded. Conditions in many southern U.S. prisons resemble some of the worst of the developing world, with prisoners sleeping on filthy floors overrun by rats.In 1999, it was reported that 13 women at California's state-run Chowchilla female detention centre had died the previous year from negligent, or non-existent, medical care. Amnesty International reported in 1999 that male guards in several U.S. states routinely raped female prisoners.In a book published in 2001, Going Up The River, former Wall Street Journal reporter Joseph Hallinan told of visiting a prison in Alabama where chained inmates still broke boulders with sledgehammers.The sheriff of Phoenix, Ariz. was re-elected by loyal voters after bringing in female convict chain gangs. All this has been going on since Saddam Hussein was a young man.It has worsened in recent years, despite a massive prison-building program that now incarcerates 2 million, the world's largest prison population.Yet Americans have mostly ignored the disgrace of their penal system.They became so fearful of crime, they lost consideration for the lives of criminals. Any idea of rehabilitation has been abandoned. Even when scandals over mistreatment do emerge, many say the inmates deserve it.This does not excuse commentators such as Friedman, or the shocked, shocked, demeanour of U.S. news anchors and commentators. Yet the details from Iraq itself support the view that prisoner abuse in Iraq was inevitable.At Abu Ghraib prison, the alleged main perpetrator is staff sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick, 37, the senior of six non-officers charged with cruelty and other mistreatment. He is a part-time military policeman called up last year for service in Baghdad — and was a prison guard for six years in Virginia.Another reflection on the role of private enterprise in U.S. incarceration is the background of Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, also a military police reservist in Iraq. When she was put in command of Abu Ghraib and its thousands of Iraqi inmates last year, she had never done penal work before. In the army she was an intelligence officer and in private life, a business consultant.Shortly before her suspension from duty she told a Florida newspaper that her prisoners were living so well, she was worried they wouldn't want to return home. Another American living in dreamland.Christopher Reed is a Los Angeles-based reporter who has written extensively on prison conditions in the United States.Note: Given the way it treats its own inmates, America shouldn't be shocked at the abuse of Iraqis, by Christopher Reed.Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)Author: Christopher ReedPublished: May 10, 2004Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star Contact: lettertoed Website: Related Articles:The America We Know of Prisoners Is Called Routine in US the Costs of the Drug War Prison State, If Not a Police State 
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Comment #18 posted by breeze on May 13, 2004 at 21:42:17 PT
I know that FSTV on dish network has had expose type reporting about the prison system- but not every one gets that channel, nor does everyone watch that channel. Could it be possible that the prison industry is so massive and so corporate that it is a buisness that profits from the misguidance of a failed and corrupt judicial system? You know, once people start making money at something, its really hard for them to stop- ie. the judicial system. There are millions of lawyers, millions of others who profit from having so many laws- and we aren't talking pocket change here. Examine the cost of defending ones self - even when wrongfully accused. You can expect to pay AT LEAST $3000 for a BAD attorney- double that if you want a good one, and triple that if you actually commited a crime such as selling MJ or possesion thereof.Then enter in the people who make money off of the people behind bars, they offer their services to telemarketers in some states, do other minial jobs in others. Plus, someone has to sell the food that feeds the prisoners to the prisons, as well as pay the electric bills, plus the ammenities, and dont forget the guards.It turns out that locking people away is just good buisness, though it destroys others livlihood- this is nothing new- look at all the jobs that are done in other countries, that should have stayed right here at home. Look at all of the jobs that involve child labor- and we IMPORT that product- just go to the mall. The entire system is broken, not just a single sector and it truly needs to be fixed, but people just aren't willing to take a stand anymore- and that includes common everyday people as well as our elected officials.Jose, do you think that the local news cast would say it like this? Mine certainly doesn't- and that is the only news cast most people watch in my area, they usually only watch these stations because they believe that they are only affected on a local basis, not a national, so they tend to watch only that which they think effects them. You can forget about them watching PBS, or any other SERIOUS news program- their ignorant minds refuse to go there, they only want to see the weather report, who got robbed and who had an accident- little or nothing else effects them as they see it.And people in my community think I'M strange because I see the big picture, and I tell 'em about it. Most of the time it "bores" them. They would rather chat about something silly, such as American Idol, or survivor island or whatever. 
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Comment #17 posted by ekim on May 13, 2004 at 20:21:11 PT
ah oh Thomas has really done it this time
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------May 13, 2004
Dancing Alone
t is time to ask this question: Do we have any chance of succeeding at regime change in Iraq without regime change here at home?
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Comment #16 posted by observer on May 13, 2004 at 13:00:05 PT
stop prison rape torture
Stop Prisoner Rape Deplores Abuse and Sexual Degradation of Iraqi Prisoners, Notes That it Constitutes Torture (May 3, 2004)
breaking drug news topics -
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on May 13, 2004 at 10:34:42 PT
The link you posted reminds me of a show I saw on TV the other night on The Discovery Channel. It was about the children of North Korea. If you get caught with a camera in North Korea or go out of certain areas you can be arrested and killed. The more they try to keep information from us the more of a time bomb it becomes. The truth will out. It always does.
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Comment #14 posted by kaptinemo on May 13, 2004 at 10:31:57 PT:
But, then again
With their perverse minds, they would probably devise an instant testing unit that would begin to shout "Pothead! Pothead!" after you've 'taken care of business'.
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Comment #13 posted by kaptinemo on May 13, 2004 at 10:27:41 PT:
I figured folks here would get a charge out of it
It's just so well suited to anti thinking. Their policies already reside in the intellectual toilet; why not the urinal as well?
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Comment #12 posted by mayan on May 13, 2004 at 09:42:33 PT
That's crazy, Kap'n! I hope the ONDCP places one of their ads in the urinal so I can piss on it too!JAIL... Why does Uncle Sam get off throwing human beings into cages? Just imagine being in one of Uncle's secret jails... Secret US jails hold 10,000: only way out...9/11 PANEL PUTS UP FIRE WALL: Palast - Muzzling Michael: Flight School Cover-Up: Thompson's Complete 9/11 Timeline: For the Truth - Mariani vs. Bush:
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Comment #11 posted by goneposthole on May 13, 2004 at 09:39:01 PT
what goes around comes around
The Iraqis detained by coalition forces were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Iraq while coalition forces were maintaining 'control', I.e. brutalizing inmates whether they deserved to be or not. Just like prisons here in America, a 'weirdness' has set in.The militant Muslims involved with exposing the hypocrisy and the error of the ways of an 'inerrant' US government controlled by xenophobic neocons aren't yielding to compassion and humane treatment. Call it an Islamic 'faith-based initiative'. Right or wrong, it's being done. All is fair in love and war.Now, the US gov is paying the price, thanks to Madeline Albright, for 'when you do unto to others what you wouldn't want done to you, you'd have to be a fool'. It all has become very weird. There is a 'weirdness' to all of this. When wrongs are committed, you get whupped upside the head.From the overzealous prosecutions of cannabists in the US to a 'swift justice' in Iraq, this 'weirdness' has somehow highlighted the error of our ways. The 'weirdness' of it all has the US government dumbfounded. The neocons are dazed and confused by the 'unintended consequences'. Really, they aren't up to the task anymore for more of the war. The coalition forces are clearly going to wiithdraw, for there is no other way to handle the out of control situation.From the war on drugs to the war on terror, there is a hard lesson to be learned by the powers that be. The 'road map' will lead them to the place where that lesson is to be taught. A 'cake walk' on a path laden with roses it's not.'Oh, what needless pain we bear'
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Comment #10 posted by Jose Melendez on May 13, 2004 at 08:43:08 PT
prohibitions increase demand'm thinking of offering boot camps for stoners who want to infiltrate the other side and become professional whistleblowers.
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Comment #9 posted by kaptinemo on May 13, 2004 at 07:55:17 PT:
This is hilarious, but a little crude
Just think: when will the DrugWarriors, with their idiotic propaganda already eliciting yawns, desperately decide to adopt this particular marketing approach? I can hardly wait to demonstrate my personal opinion of its' effectiveness...HIGHTOWER: Making a Splash
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Comment #8 posted by potpal on May 13, 2004 at 07:31:43 PT
prohibition of digital cams...
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Comment #7 posted by Jose Melendez on May 13, 2004 at 07:06:27 PT
I'm not sure about T.V. newscasts, but National Public Radio, the Voice of America and BBC have broadcast in depth stories pointing out the hypocrisy of America's profitable prison industry.http://kcrw.comAlso, NPR just announced John Ashcroft is speaking before a law enforcement industry candle light ceremony. I think we have ONDCP running so many ads because they know they are about to get in trouble for political advertising.The best part will be when the studies come out showing they INCREASED interest in cannabis with all their pop up and embedded ads wherever prison rape and war stories were published online.I think we can start a candle light vigil against the drug war, and a very slow, long automobile procession to celebrate the death of the drug war. also, Lockyer is back pedaling:, FoM, please ignore or delete my previous duplication . . . 
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Comment #6 posted by Jose Melendez on May 13, 2004 at 07:02:24 PT
I'm not sure about T.V. newscasts, but National Public Radio, the voice of America and BBC have broadcast in depth stories pointing out the hypocrisy of America's profitable prison industry.http://kcrw.comAlso, NPR just announce John Ashcroft is speking before a law enforcement industry candle light ceremony.I think we can start a candle light vigil against the drug war, and a very slow, long automobile procession to celebrate the death of the drug war. also, Lockyer is back pedaling:
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Comment #5 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on May 13, 2004 at 05:11:31 PT
Face Of The Enemy
The Dallas Morning News is running a picture of the Al Qaeda terrorist holding up the head... the head is behind a blackened square. The headline is "This Is The Enemy". Gruesome and all, but it got me thinking. I'd like to see a response to this - a picture of someone smoking cannabis, with the headline "This Is NOT The Enemy"! Ideally it'd be a MPP or Libertarian full-page ad in the Dallas paper, but I think if a few of us emailed them at letterstoeditor with a picture attached and "This Is Not The Enemy" as the subject line it might raise a few eyebrows...
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Comment #4 posted by billos on May 13, 2004 at 05:01:06 PT:
Only in Amerika...............................
can one go to bed a harmless pot smoker who never hurt anyone, and wake up a miserably depressed felon.
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Comment #3 posted by The GCW on May 13, 2004 at 04:17:11 PT
That's not love.
1 John 3:23, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” 1 John 3:17, But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”420JohnThe prison industry is not a tool of loving.Caging humans for using what God said was good on the 1st page of the Bible is not loving.Sending people to go to foreign lands to kill other people is not loving. 420ChristGodOurFatherWe are to love; that is the simplist common denominator.Love.Only those who obey and love are able to obtain the additional spiritual blessings of the tree of life which is cannabis. The spirit of truth is available to those who use cannabis with thanksgiving. That spirit of truth helps expose the spirit of error.Cannabis prohibitionists are exposed as evil in Biblical terms according to the spirit of truth.Love, love, love.The Green Collar Worker 
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Comment #2 posted by billos on May 13, 2004 at 03:54:39 PT:
Pink Floyd had it right.....
"The lunatics are in the Halls."The halls of the White HousePentagonCIAFBIDEAEtc.
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Comment #1 posted by breeze on May 12, 2004 at 22:15:56 PT
Will they ever get it right?
A LOT of handwringing is happening because prisoners were abuse in Iraq, and yet not a single news cast in the USA is showing any concern for what happens here in this countries prisons. This, accompanied by the laws that brand people who use marijuana as immoral plainly shows what direction our nation has been heading for the last thirty years PLUS. Consider this- the fcc says that a couple having a sensual moment is obscene, but its okay if "that right moment turns into a special moment" when advertising a drug that gives mr johnson a woody. Its NOT okay to say a four letter word on television, but it IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE to show a group of men lying on top of one another in prison- if they are being tortured or not is not the question here, they even went as far as showing the young man whose head was cut off- not once, but a few times. The irony is appauling- some terrorists get the same treatment as most American prisoners do every single day for years, and INSTANTLY a damn congressional hearing is set forth. Yet, no mention of how american prisoners are treated. Another thing that bothers me is that in this nation of ours, with more laws than ever before- there are more prisoners than ever before. Our country has more people in prison THAN ANY OTHER NATION IN THE WORLD.Why? Harmful drug laws. Instead of what divides a people being on the front burner of American leaders, and the people who support them- a greivance of HOW embarrassed they are on the world front of how prisoners are treated abroad AND at home. Today a community close to my home decided that drug testing of students was a found and solid policy. People in that community were told the price tag of doing the drug tests would be worth the money- an ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold, and the cost will be passed along to tax payers- but no one gave argument against the new policy- many applauded its provision. The parents of the kids didn't stand up for their own childrens right to privacy. The ones who did say something about the tests being invasive were assured that if tests came back as a sutdent being positive for drug use, no criminal charges would be filed, nor would there be any discipline measures other than having the child expelled from extra-curicular activities, translate that into excluding the drug fiend from the morally superior.And so, now that we live in a society where children don't have a right to privacy, and tax payers aren't even concerned over the waste of their tax dollars, hypocritic actions are flying left and right- not only in the courts,congress, military, communities, etc.- why SHOULD the rest of the world see the USA as the leader of the "free" world? No- the people are too concerned that two gay people want to make a commitment before god- oops- the word god is a dirty word to some folk. News stations broadcast the atrocities of war while the fcc bitches about a man and woman making out- nothing seems to be wrong with showing a young man getting his head hacked off. The images of prisoners lying naked in a pile, while a dog stands nearby with his muzzle off full screen does nothing less than enfuriate senators from South Carolina- but that same senator has done nothing to address the abuse that happens in a prison just a few miles from where he and his wife raise their children. This same senator does nothing to reduce the element of harm that drug laws cause, but instead promises to make tougher laws on drug users and distributors. And so, its an example of where societies principles lay. I don't usually like to write long rants- but this day has even more to be angry about. Kerry is NO different than bush- he made it apparent this morning during a phone call to that idiot "Imus in the morning" (CSNBC). He said it three times, he likes bush. Okay- a presidential nominee likes his opponent. Then why in the hell is he running for office? He is essentially the same as bush- just a different name. I have been wondering why there haven't been an distinct lines drawn in the sand, now I know. Kerry luvs bush- he just wants to be in the spot light. Same policy, different name.Do NOT vote for kerry- he is NO different than bush. He has made this apparent by ignoring his very own internet town meeting concerning the issue of marijuana legalization, aside from this mornings comments. He is a carbon copy of bush- just as all of the other democratic nominees were, with the exception of Kucinich. So I don't leave you all with a bitter taste in your mouth, I have to alert you all that a DEA agent in Mexico put his camera to good use by filming a group of UFO's. I have known about the reality of UFO's for a long time, and I was accused of being on drugs because of my knowledge. Well, I dont care how much pot a person inhales, your not just gonna start seeing things that aren't there. The DEA agent got the things on film- I guess thats the only thing that hasn't cost him his job, but then again- all initial reports said it was a DEA agent, now its been changed to say Mexican Air Force. Read about it here -
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