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<div class="entry-date">September 03, 2013<br>
<br>
<small><a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/03/a-psychologists-deceptions-about-prison-abuse-in-california/">http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/03/a-psychologists-deceptions-about-prison-abuse-in-california/</a></small><br>
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<div class="subheadlinestyle"><big>Misleading Rhetoric About
Unconscionable Realities</big></div>
<h1 class="article-title">A Psychologist’s Deceptions About Prison
Abuse in California</h1>
<div class="mainauthorstyle"><big><big>by ROY EIDELSON</big></big></div>
<div class="main-text"><big><big> </big></big>
<blockquote><big><big></big></big>
  <p style="text-align: left;" align="center"><big><big>“Brutal killers
should not be glorified. This hunger strike is dangerous, disruptive
and needs to end.”</big></big></p>
  <big><big></big></big></blockquote>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>That’s how Jeffrey Beard, head of California’s Department
of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), concluded his disturbingly
deceptive <a
 href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-oe-beard-prison-hunger-strike-20130806,0,4933570.story"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.latimes.com']);">August
6th op-ed</a> in the Los Angeles Times. He was condemning a hunger
strike that had begun a month earlier, when 30,000 inmates refused
meals in solidarity with striking prisoners subjected to long-term and
indefinite solitary confinement at Pelican Bay and the state’s three
other “supermax” prisons. Now nearly two months in, over 100 inmates
reportedly still remain on strike. But rather than negotiating with
these prisoners, Secretary Beard’s office has instead sought and
obtained a court order authorizing <a
 href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1306065"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.nejm.org']);">medically
unethical force-feeding</a>.</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>What is it that the striking prisoners want? They have <a
 href="http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/the-prisoners-demands-2/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com']);">five
core demands</a>: (1) compliance with recommendations from the <a
 href="http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/Confronting_Confinement.pdf"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','download','http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/Confronting_Confinement.pdf']);">2006
report</a> of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s
Prisons, including an end to long-term solitary confinement; (2)
modification of the criteria used to determine gang status (which
include tattoos and certain artwork or literature) and abolishment of
the “debriefing” policy whereby release from isolation often requires
informing on other prisoners; (3) an end to group punishment and
administrative abuse; (4) the provision of adequate and nutritious
food; and (5) the expansion of constructive programming and privileges
(such as a weekly phone call and a yearly photo) for inmates held
indefinitely in “Security Housing Units” (SHUs). Currently over 10,000
prisoners are held in isolation in California SHUs, with more than 500
of them having been in solitary confinement <a
 href="http://ccrjustice.org/solitary-factsheet"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://ccrjustice.org']);">for
over a decade</a>.</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>When Secretary Beard was appointed to lead the CDCR last
December, this could have been viewed as an encouraging sign. As <a
 href="http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2012/12/governor-brown-appoints-new-corrections-secretary/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov']);">Gov.
Jerry Brown said</a> then, “Jeff Beard has arrived at the right time to
take the next steps in returning California’s parole and correctional
institutions to their former luster.” Previously, he had also received <a
 href="http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar06/people.aspx"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.apa.org']);">high
praise</a> from the governor of Pennsylvania when he held a similar
position in that state: “Jeffrey Beard is setting a positive example
not just in Pennsylvania, but nationally. …His exemplary leadership has
ensured the improved management of Pennsylvania’s state prison system,
and a safe place for inmates to rehabilitate.”</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>Even more, there was seemingly reason for optimism in the
fact that Secretary Beard is a psychologist, having received his
doctoral degree in counseling psychology over thirty years ago. That
training <i>should </i>matter because among the core principles of
psychologists’ professional <a
 href="http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx?item=3"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.apa.org']);">code
of ethics</a> are all of the following: “respect the dignity and worth
of all people,” “strive to benefit those with whom they work,” “take
care to do no harm,” “safeguard the welfare and rights of those with
whom they interact professionally and other affected persons,” and
“guard against personal, financial, social, organizational or political
factors that might lead to misuse of their influence.”</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>But eight months later, Dr. Beard’s background as a
psychologist only adds to the outrageousness of his recent op-ed in
which he repeatedly misrepresented the seriousness and legitimacy of
the striking prisoners’ concerns, including here:</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<blockquote>
  <p><big><big>Some prisoners claim this strike is about living
conditions in the Security Housing Units, commonly called SHUs, which
house some of the most dangerous inmates in California. Don’t be
fooled. Many of those participating in the hunger strike are under
extreme pressure to do so from violent prison gangs, which called the
strike in an attempt to restore their ability to terrorize fellow
prisoners, prison staff and communities throughout California.</big></big></p>
</blockquote>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>Dr. Beard’s office has offered neither evidence nor access
for independent verification of these claims, and its misguided public
relations campaign runs counter to compelling evidence of widespread
abuse in the prison system. Last year Amnesty International issued a
scathing report – titled <a
 href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/060/2012/en/3af9a573-df33-4d9b-bfdb-5ef393df2b24/amr510602012en.pdf"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','download','http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/060/2012/en/3af9a573-df33-4d9b-bfdb-5ef393df2b24/amr510602012en.pdf']);">“USA:
The Edge of Endurance”</a> – about California’s SHUs, based on a visit
to Pelican Bay and other prisons in the state. The report concluded
that conditions there “breach international standards on humane
treatment” and amount to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” In
describing prisoners who are confined to their cells for at least 22
and a half hours a day and have no access to work, group activities, or
programs focused on rehabilitation, the report stated:</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<blockquote>
  <p><big><big>Most prisoners are confined alone in cells which have no
windows to the outside or direct access to natural light. SHU prisoners
are isolated both within prison and from meaningful contact with the
outside world: contact with correctional staff is kept to a minimum,
and consultations with medical, mental health and other staff routinely
take place behind barriers; all visits, including family and legal
visits, are also non-contact, with prisoners separated from their
visitors behind a glass screen.</big></big></p>
</blockquote>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>In addition to the critical assessments from human rights
organizations and the <a
 href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13655&LangID=E"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.ohchr.org']);">United
Nations Special Rapporteur on torture</a>, Dr. Beard is certainly
familiar with the research of fellow psychologists and psychiatrists
documenting the extreme adverse effects of extended involuntary
solitary confinement (sometimes referred to as the <a
 href="http://law.wustl.edu/Journal/22/p325Grassian.pdf"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','download','http://law.wustl.edu/Journal/22/p325Grassian.pdf']);">“SHU
syndrome”</a>), which can persist long after isolation has ended. Among
the negative psychological effects identified by California
psychologist <a href="http://cad.sagepub.com/content/49/1/124.abstract"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://cad.sagepub.com']);">Craig
Haney</a>, psychiatrist <a
 href="http://solitarywatch.com/2013/04/24/new-video-dr-terry-kupers-on-solitary-confinement-and-mental-health/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://solitarywatch.com']);">Terry
Kupers</a>, and other scholars in comprehensive reviews are lethargy,
depression, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts and behavior; anxiety,
panic, and insomnia; irritability, hypersensitivity, aggression, and
rage; and cognitive dysfunction, paranoia, and hallucinations. Haney
has also noted that <i>ten days</i> in solitary confinement is enough
to produce harmful health outcomes. Many of the prisoners at Pelican
Bay have been held in isolation for <i>years.</i></big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>Exactly why Dr. Beard has decided to ignore, discount, or
distort these unconscionable realities is ultimately beside the point.
But the public should not be confused by his misleading rhetoric. The
key demands of the hunger strikers are little different from prison
reforms that have been strongly recommended by mental health experts
and human rights advocates alike.</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big>In an <a href="http://governingthroughcrime.blogspot.com/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://governingthroughcrime.blogspot.com']);">essay</a>
published shortly after the CDCR Secretary’s op-ed appeared, Berkeley
law professor Jonathan Simon argued that Dr. Beard’s public dishonesty
and demonization of the hunger strikers demonstrate that he is the
wrong leader to bring urgent reform to the “grotesque structure of
inhumanity” that defines California’s prison system today. Simon called
for “a protest movement and direct action campaign to force real change
starting with Secretary Beard’s resignation.” Given their ethical
commitment to the promotion of human welfare,<b> </b>psychologists
should be among those at the forefront of these <a
 href="http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/take-action-2/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com']);">efforts</a>.</big></big></p>
<big><big></big></big>
<p><big><big><i><strong>Roy Eidelson</strong> is a clinical
psychologist and the president of <a
 href="http://www.eidelsonconsulting.com/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.eidelsonconsulting.com']);">Eidelson
Consulting</a>, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the
role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group
conflict settings. He is a past president of <a
 href="http://www.psysr.org/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.psysr.org']);">Psychologists
for Social Responsibility</a>, associate director of the Solomon Asch
Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a
member of the <a href="http://www.ethicalpsychology.org/"
 onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://www.ethicalpsychology.org']);">Coalition
for an Ethical Psychology</a>. He can be contacted at <a
 href="mailto:reidelson@eidelsonconsulting.com">reidelson@eidelsonconsulting.com</a>.</i></big></big></p>
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