According to Human Rights Watch, mistreatment of prisoners is practically a tradition. In 1995, a federal judge found a stunning pattern of staff assaults, abusive use of electronic stun device guns, beatings, and brutality at Pelican Bay Prison in California, and concluded the violence “appears to be open, acknowledges, tolerated and sometimes expressly approved” by high ranking corrections officials. Another federal judge four years later concluded that Texas prisons were pervaded by a “culture of sadistic and malicious violence.”
“In recent years, U.S. prison inmates have been beaten with fists and batons, stomped on, kicked, shot, stunned with electronic devices, doused with chemical sprays, choked, and slammed face first onto concrete floors by the officers whose job it is to guard them,” HRW says.
What’s more, many prisoners are dumped into numbing solitary confinement not because of any infraction against prison rules but owing to their political views. As one man who experienced this wrote in the Socialist Worker last year: “There is no way to articulate the excruciating torture of sensory deprivation. Picture living in a cage, about the size of a bathroom. You are there 23 hours a day, day in and day out, year in and year out. You are allowed one hour a day out in a cage the size of a tiny living room. You are allowed one five-minute phone call every six months, which is monitored. Your mail and reading material is maliciously scrutinized and censored. When leaving your cage, you are subjected to a dehumanizing strip search which includes a genital and anal probe, and then handcuffed. You are completely under the control of prison guards who carry pepper gas and long, black batons that some refer to as “spic and nigger beaters.”
That’s one inmate’s perspective. Yet an overview report titled “Rights For All” by Amnesty International found: “Some prisoners are abused by other inmates, and guards fail to protect them. Others are assaulted by the guards themselves. Women and men are subjected to sexual, as well as physical, abuse. Overcrowded and underfunded prisons, many of them privatized, control inmates by isolating them for long periods and by using methods of restraint that are cruel, degrading and sometimes life-threatening. Victims include pregnant women, the mentally ill and even children.” And the Justice Department itself conceded four years ago that sexual assaults on inmates is a “significant problem”in federal prisons.
Indeed, U.S. prisons have a long and tragic history of punishing innocent individuals. read on