[Pnews] With Gen. Inch in Charge, We Can Expect Further Militarization of the Prison System

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 3 19:19:43 EDT 2017


  With Gen. Inch in Charge, We Can Expect Further Militarization of the
  Prison System

Brian Dolinar - August 3, 2017

The appointment of retired Army General Mark S. Inch to head the Federal 
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is a major blow to those working for prison 
reform under Trump. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on August 
1, 2017 that Inch would be taking over the position. In the past, Inch 
has been responsible for detainee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, 
which have been plagued by accusations of torture and abuse. Looking at 
Inch's record, many prison activists and formerly incarcerated people 
expressed alarm that his appointment will likely lead to worsening 
conditions in the future.

This news comes just days after Trump gave a speech before police in 
Long Island, New York, joking that they should treat suspects "rough" 
and not be "too nice" to those he called "thugs" and "animals." 
Throughout his campaign for president, Trump billed himself as the "law 
and order" candidate -- rhetoric that apparently resonated with his base.

Attorney General Sessions, appointed by Trump, has expressed his own 
support for the war on drugs, asset forfeiture and anti-immigration 
policies. In his announcement, Sessions called Inch a "military 
policeman" who was "uniquely qualified" to head the federal prison system.

Truthout spoke with Amy Ralston Povah, who served nine years in federal 
prison before being granted clemency by President Bill Clinton. After 
her release, she founded CAN-DO <http://www.candoclemency.com/> to 
secure executive clemency for those convicted of drug offenses in 
federal prisons. She said that Inch's appointment signals the further 
"militarization of the Bureau of Prisons." US citizens, she said, are 
viewed by prison authorities as "combatants" who have no rights to 
defend themselves.

*Give Him an Inch*

Since his inauguration, President Trump has appointed several retired 
generals to prominent positions typically held by civilians. Trump's 
transition team included three of them in his cabinet: Gen. James Mattis 
as Secretary of Defense, Gen. John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland 
Security, and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser. Mark 
Inch retired from the military in May 2017, after serving since the 
early 1980s in the Army's military police. He takes the place of Thomas 
R. Kane who had worked at the BOP since 1977.

Early in his career, Inch worked at the Army's Ft. Leavenworth prison. 
 From 2008-2009, he was chief of staff for Task Force 134, overseeing 
detention facilities in Baghdad during "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The 
torture and abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison occurred in 2002, and by 
this time the prison had been transferred over to Iraqis, but Task Force 
134 still provided support for reopening the prison which was designed 
to hold 3,500 people in early 2009.

In 2013-2014, Inch oversaw detention operations with Joint Task Force 
435 in Afghanistan. As early as 2002, there were incidents of abuse and 
deaths at the US-run Bagram prison, later renamed the Parwan Detention 

During the years when Inch was in Afghanistan, a UN report 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/world/asia/abuse-of-detainees-remains-widespread-in-afghanistan-un-says.html> revealed 
widespread abuses. Although control of the Parwan facility had 
officially been turned over to the Afghan government in March 2013, the 
US still maintained a hand in the operations. Among the almost 800 
detainees interviewed by UN investigators, one-third said they had 
experienced mistreatment, including being beaten with pipes, 
electrocuted, and having their fingernails ripped out to obtain 
confessions. While prisons used by US-led forces in Afghanistan and Iraq 
have larger prison populations than Guantánamo Bay, the abuses that have 
taken place in them are far less publicized.

*Military-Prison-Industrial Complex*

When asked to respond to Gen. Inch's appointment, people I spoke with 
who have spent time in federal prison in the US noted that a military 
culture already exists inside most prisons. Beatrice Codianni spent 15 
years in a federal facility and now is managing editor of Reentry 
Central <http://www.reentrycentral.org/>, a website of criminal legal 
resources. She told Truthout that, in her experience, the "majority" of 
corrections officers (COs) had come from the military, and prison 
officials would recruit at military bases. "These COs had a military 
attitude that was abrasive and condescending and brought many, many 
women to tears," Codianni said. Under Inch, they will likely become 
"even more aggressive."

Former political prisoner Susan Rosenberg had her sentence commuted by 
Clinton and was released after spending 16 years in federal prison. She 
is the author of /American Radical: A Political Prisoner in My Own 
Country/. There is an "increasing connection," she wrote in an email to 
Truthout, "between the military-industrial complex and the 
prison-industrial complex." She pointed out that UNICOR, the Bureau of 
Prison's work program, sells many of its manufactured goods to the 
military. In the future, she said, we can expect to see an increase of 
"slave labor" working for military contractors, and the use of solitary 
confinement and torture. General Inch, she added, is the "perfect 
person" to carry this out.

Alan Mills -- a lawyer at the Uptown People's Law Center, who has fought 
to improve mental health conditions and scale back the use of solitary 
confinement in Illinois -- agreed. "The military has a horrible record 
on the issues of mental health and solitary confinement," he said in a 
phone interview, giving the examples of Guantánamo and Bagram prisons. 
He also mentioned José Padilla, who was picked up at O'Hare airport and, 
without a hearing or even notice to his family, held in complete 
isolation for three and a half years in a military brig in South 
Carolina. Chelsea Manning was put in solitary confinement when she felt 
suicidal due to the treatment she received in military prison. Mental 
health is a "growing issue," with half of people in prisons diagnosed 
with mental illness, Mills told Truthout. "Prisons in the United States 
are supposed to be about corrections, not punishment -- it's in the name."

The sheer size of the prison system that Inch will be overseeing is much 
larger. The BOP is responsible for housing approximately 190,000 people 
across 122 facilities, and has some 40,000 employees. "It is of concern 
that General Inch has no experience in civilian corrections or dealing 
with a prisoner population that is not only much different than a 
military prisoner population in terms of literacy, drug addiction, 
criminal history and mental health but is also over 1,000 times larger," 
said Paul Wright, executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center 
in Lake Worth, Florida.

The appointment is also a setback for those working on reform from the 
inside of prison. Adam Bentley Clausen, who is currently incarcerated at 
Federal Correctional Institution, McKean in northwestern Pennsylvania, 
told Truthout that over the summer, temperatures have soared to beyond 
100 degrees. In recent months, since the election of Trump, he said, 
"the morale of the inmate population has plummeted."

With General Inch at the helm, we can expect conditions for those 
incarcerated in federal prisons to further deteriorate.

/Note: Thanks to Lois Ahrens, of The Real Cost of Prisons 
<http://www.realcostofprisons.org/>, for assistance with this article./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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