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02.16 What the pesticides in our urine tell us about organic food [What does inaction tell us about capitalism and our government?]
02.14 Exposure to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Meta-Analysis and Supporting Evidence [If its killing us, make it illegal]
02.14 To avoid environmental catastrophe, everything must change [Consider why this headline is laughable or confusing to many, if not most, Americans...]02.13 Study Shows Toxic Pesticide Levels in Families Dropped by 60% After One-Week Organic Diet [2:10 video; Produce and canned vegetables laced with toxic chemicals—from fertilizers and herbicides, too—must be quickly phased out to use safe organic alternatives]
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02.21 John Oliver Compares Brexit ‘Disaster’ to Will Smith’s Genie in Live-Action ‘Aladdin’ (Video) [21:26 video; we’re approaching an Idiocracy-type of society, where stupidity is “normal”]
02.20 House report lays bare White House feud over Saudi nuclear push [Its hard to keep up with all the criminal crap going on...]
02.18 Hate-Fest in Warsaw
Torture in US Prisons
Torture is a growing national problem, as military personnel trained in torture enter careers in the criminal justice system.
Sunday, 14 November 2010
The Sentencing Project says America's criminal justice system "fall(s) short of meeting its international human rights obligations," in accordance with established international law. Systemic prison torture is the clearest example.
In March 2005, a UK Deborah Davis Channel 4 report titled, "Torture, Inc., America's Brutal Prisons" highlighted the horrors, including prisoners savaged by dogs, brutally shocked with cattle prods, burned by toxic chemicals, harmed by stun guns, beaten, stripped naked and abused in various other ways. Sound familiar? Welcome to mainland Guantanamo.
"It's terrible to watch some of the videos," witnessing torture, at times resulting in death. Routinely, guards yell at and abuse prisoners, "ordering them to lie on the ground and crawl." If they don't "drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stomps on his back." Another man screams when a dog bit his lower leg.
One other has a broken ankle, can't crawl fast enough so gets jabbed with a stun gun on his buttocks. Hours later his whole body still shakes. Men line up across the cellblock, guards standing over them shouting, prodding, kicking, and beating, their humiliation captured on video. The images are horrifyingly brutal, reminders of Guantanamo and Baghdad's Abu Ghraib. They're as commonplace in America, but unreported except by Channel 4 UK, calling it "wholesale torture taking place inside the US prison system," uncovered by a four-month investigation, not based on rumor or suspicion. Throughout America, videos and other solid evidence confirm it, what US major media reports won't reveal.
In most states, prison regulations mandate that guards videotape "use of force operations" like cell searches, in theory to show proper procedures were used. Most often, they reveal otherwise, clear evidence of inmate abuses - "a shocking insight into the reality of life inside" US prisons. Even the best of them are harsh, the worst hellish, Davis explaining that videos are "terrible" to watch, saying:
He's being punished for having a pillowcase on his head in his cell and refusing to remove it. Why? He has a long history of schizophrenia, yet he's restrained for 16 hours. Two hours later, "he dies from a blood clot resulting from his barbaric treatment....We found 20 (other cases of) prisoners who've died in the past few years" after being brutally restrained, what American media won't report.
Two deaths were in Phoenix, AR county jail, run by "America's Toughest Sheriff," Joe Arpaio. "You don't want to be fettered in one of Sheriff Joe's jails." His toughness often ends tragically.
In one tape, nine deputies manhandle Charles Agster, a tiny man, a mentally disturbed drug user, arrested for disturbing the peace. Restrained in a chair, one deputy kneeled on his stomach, "pushing his head forward on to his knees and pulling his arms back to strap his wrists to the chair. Bending someone double for any length of time" can cause "positional asphyxia."
After 15 minutes, he's unconscious. He's already brain dead. Hospitalized, he expired three days later.
Another tape showed guards severely beating a man, Scott Norberg, including Tasering him 19 times and forcing him into a restraint chair. He suffocated.
Other inmates suffered similar abuse, including beatings causing broken bones, a broken neck, and internal injuries. One man died from septicaemia (blood poisoning) after a month in a coma.
In some tapes, sounds are as "unbearable" as images, a Florida prison one showing an inmate lying on a hospital examination table, guards ordering him to get into a wheelchair. "I can't, I can't," he shouts. "It hurts," after which he's Tasered on both hips, screams, but still can't get into the wheelchair.
Guards force him into it, bend his legs painfully, the man shrieking in agony. His lawyer said he's mentally impaired, has a back injury, can't walk, or bend his legs without intense pain. Yet guards try to make him stand and hold a walker. "He falls on the floor, crying in agony." He's Tasered again, lying there out of breath and energy, just moaning.
Other tapes show prisoners handcuffed, brutally beaten, kicked in the head, Tasered, while other guards "just stand around and watch." Photographs collected were also horrific, showing prisoners doused with pepper spray, "then left to cook in the burning fog of chemicals." one image revealed a man with "a huge patch of raw skin over his hip." Another is covered in an angry rash across his neck, back and arms. A third has deep burns on his buttocks.
"Fire extinguisher" sized pepper spray canisters are used, at times inflicting second degree burns all over prisoners' bodies. For those targeted, "The tell-tale sign is they turn off the ventilation fans in the unit," and shove cardboard in door cracks to make units air-tight.
On man on death row for killing a prison guard was brutally beaten to death. He began writing to Florida newspapers about prison brutality and corruption. "So a gang of guards stormed into his cell to shut him up. They broke almost every one of his ribs, punctured his lung, smashed his spleen and left him to die."
Several guards later tried for murder were acquitted. The warden was promoted to head of all Florida prisons. The few guards willing to discuss what goes on have a "siege mentality. They see themselves outnumbered, surrounded by dangerous, violent criminals, so they back each other up, no matter what....it solidifies into a general climate of acceptance among the many." Even decent staff do their best under hard circumstances. Ratting means getting themselves in trouble, maybe abused or fired.
As for inmates, "the notion of rehabilitation has been almost lost. The focus is entirely on punishment," the harsher the better based on examples like the above. They're not the exception. They're more the rule in federal, state and local prisons.
Davis said contact was maintained with families and prisoner rights groups. As a result, "Every single day come more emails full of fresh horror stories," showing inmate treatment domestically like at Guantanamo and other torture prisons, guards brutalizing them with impunity.
"Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo - or even Texas. The prisoners and all guards may vary, but the abuse is still too familiar," one of many of America's dirty secrets.
America's Gulag - The World's Largest Prison Population
On December 8, 2009, US Justice Department Bureau of Justice Statistics reported over 2.4 million imprisoned Americans at yearend 2008. They include inmates in federal and state facilities, local jails, Indian, juvenile, and military ones, US territories, and numbers held by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In addition, another 7.3 million are under correctional supervision, and 13 million pass through US prisons and jails annually. Half are for non-violent offenses. Half of those are drug-related. In 1980, 40,000 drug offenders were imprisoned. Today, it's over 500,000 because of the "war on drugs," that's part of the war on civil liberties.
Since 1970, America's prison population grew eightfold, not for more crime, for getting "tough" on it against more people getting longer sentences under extremely harsh conditions. Recent Center for Economic Policy Research figures compare America's incarceration rate per 100,000 population with other OECD countries in 2008/2009, showing the following:
Worse still, America's incarceration rate from 1880 through 1980 held steady for over 100 years. It then skyrocketed over the past 30 while crime rates stabilized or fell - a shocking indictment of a criminally unjust system, filling beds for the prison-industrial complex, around 8% in prisons-for-profit, the population comprised of two-thirds Blacks and Latinos.
They're victimized by get tough on crime policies, racist drug laws, mandatory minimums, one size fits all, three strikes and you're out, a guilty unless proved innocent mentality, being in America undocumented, and Muslims for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, or charity to the wrong recipients, those unjustly called terrorists.
Sexual Abuse and Treatment of Women
About 200,000 women are incarcerated in US federal, state, local and immigrant detention prisons, nearly 10% of America's prison population. In its Fact Sheet - Sexual Assault and Misconduct Against Women in Prison, Amnesty International (AI) explained that:
Daily they're affected by:
Male Rape in Prison
Against women or men, rape inflicts pain and suffering. As a result, human rights and humanitarian groups as well as international courts now recognize it as torture. Most US states define it as forced, nonconsensual sex. California's law mirrors others saying:
It's sexual intercourse carried out "against a person's will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another." It's also when "the perpetrator threatens to use public authority to imprison, arrest, (otherwise punish), or deport the victim or another, and the victim reasonably believes the perpetrator is a public official."
This article focuses on torture against men and women, inflicted by prison guards and officials. Male rape is generally inmate-on-inmate. As a result, the topic is covered briefly, very much deserving detailed discussion in a separate article.
In April 2001, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report titled, "No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons," citing studies showing about one in five men raped at least once during confinement. Documenting it with dozens of first-and accounts, HRW explained its long-lasting effects, including depression, PTSD, and HIV-AIDS, one victim saying:
"I remained in shock and paralyzed in thought for two days until I was able to muster the courage to report it. This is the most dreadful and horrifying experience of my life."
According to HRW, "Rape is not an inevitable consequence of prison life, but it certainly is a predictable one if little is done to prevent it and punish it." Indifference to prisoner rights perpetuates it against vulnerable men, women and children.
Prolonged Isolated Confinement
A previous article addressed it. In Supermax and other prisons, inmates compare long-term isolation to being buried alive. It also contributes to anti-social behavior and mental illness, experts saying punitive sensory deprivation changes behavior for the worst by crushing the human spirit, mind and body. Yet 80,000 or more Americans languish in isolation in US federal, state and local prisons. Over time, living in windowless cells with no human contact for 23 hours a day causes:
A Final Comment
An earlier article discussed "Torture As Official US Policy." It addressed post-9/11 Bush administration policies in prisons like Guantanamo and others abroad, explaining the systemic use of prohibited interrogation practices, excluding only those causing organ failure.
Legalized restraints remain ignored, permitting cruel and unusual punishment. Yet it routinely occurs domestically, out of sight and mind behind bars, many nonviolent and innocent inmates brutalized and forever affected.
The Sentencing Project.org says America's criminal justice system "fall(s) short of meeting its international human rights obligations," in accordance with established international law. Systemic prison torture is the clearest example.
Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on November 14, 2010.
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