[Pnews] With Gen. Inch in Charge, We Can Expect Further Militarization of the Prison System
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 3 19:19:43 EDT 2017
With Gen. Inch in Charge, We Can Expect Further Militarization of the
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
*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
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.
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./
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