[Ppnews] The Guantánamos Next Door

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 11 14:12:58 EST 2012

The Guantánamos Next Door

January 11, 2012
Casella and James Ridgeway

The U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay turns 
10 today, and activists are marking the 
anniversary with 
A decade after its founding, Guantánamo remains a 
dark stain on the national soul.

Even today, while the worst 
of torture may have ceased under the Obama 
Administration, prisoners are still subjected to 
solitary confinement and other forms of 
deprivation and abuse. According to a February 
2009 report from the 
of Constitutional Rights: “The descriptions of 
ongoing, severe solitary confinement, other forms 
of psychological abuse, incidents of violence and 
the threat of violence from guards, religious 
abuse, and widespread forced tube-feeding of 
hunger strikers indicate that the inhumane 
practices of the Bush Administration persist today at Guantánamo.”

Then there’s the fact that the prisoners at 
Guantánamo have been deprived of their liberty 
without any semblance of due process. Over the 
last decade, 779 prisoners have been held at 
Gitmo; 171 remain. Only six have ever been convicted of a crime.

When it comes to depriving people of their human 
and civil rights, Guantánamo stands as an 
unprecedented extreme. But it is far from the 
only place where these things happen. Today, in 
our cities and towns, in every state in America, 
there are places where individuals are 
incarcerated without trial, and where they suffer 
deprivation and abuse. They are our local jails.

Take the issue of pre-trial detention. According 
to the 
Justice Institute, a full 61% of U.S. jail 
inmates–nearly half a million in all–have not yet 
been convicted of any crime. Many have not even 
been accused of a violent crime. The majority of 
them are in jail because they cannot afford the 
modest bail required for their release. A 
study by Human Rights Watch looked at defendants 
in New York City arrested on nonfelony charges. 
”Most were accused of nonviolent minor crimes 
such as shoplifting, turnstile jumping, smoking 
marijuana in public, drug possession, 
trespassing, and prostitution.” It found that “87 
percent were incarcerated because they were 
unable to post the bail amount at their 
arraignment,” even though bail had been set at 
$1,000. These defendants faced weeks, months, or 
years in pre-trial confinement for no reason other than poverty.

While awaiting trial, these individuals face 
food–and far worse. On New York City’s 
Island, nearly one in twelve prisoners is held in 
solitary confinement at any given time; the jail 
maintains two isolation units specifically for 
inmates with mental illness, and another for 
juveniles. Pre-trial solitary is routinely used 
on underaged inmates, to separate from the adult 
jail population; 
report out of Texas found juveniles in the Harris 
County Jail spending a year or more in complete 
isolation. In the most extreme cases–such as that 
Fahad Hashmi, pre-trial detainees are held under 
“Special Administrative Measures” that constitute acute sensory deprivation.

Solitary confinement is not the only form of 
torment that detainees face in local jails. A 
report by the ACLU’s National Prison Project 
showed a pattern of brutal abuse, carried out by 
sheriff’s deputies, in the Los Angeles County 
jail system: “In the past year, deputies have 
assaulted scores of non-resisting 
Deputies have attacked inmates for 
complaining about property missing from their 
cells. They have beaten inmates for asking for 
medical treatment, for the nature of their 
alleged offenses,and for the color of their skin. 
They have beaten inmates in wheelchairs. They 
have beaten an inmate, paraded him naked down a 
jail module, and placed him in a cell to be 
sexually assaulted. Many attacks are unprovoked. 
Nearly all go unpunished: these acts of violence 
are covered up by a department that refuses to 
acknowledge the pervasiveness of deputy violence in the jail system.”

“America’s criminal justice system has 
deteriorated to the point that it is a national 
disgrace,” said Senator Jim Webb, using a phrase 
that has often been applied to Guantánamo Bay. 
But just as it has thwarted any attempts to close 
Gitmo, the U.S. Congress has 
all of Webb’s attempts to propel the kinds of 
domestic criminal justice reforms that might have 
kept local jails from remaining Gitmos in our own backyards.

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