Abuse common in U.S. prisons, activists say
May/June 2004

When Bush claimed, after CBS broadcast photos of U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners, "That's not the way we do things in America" many prisoners, prison rights advocates and people fighting police brutality responded, well, actually that's pretty consistent with how we do things in America. For example, Amnesty International has long condemned U.S. prisons for sexual and physical abuse. What follows is a portion of a Reuters story detailing a few examples.

Alan Elsner (Reuters)
May 6, 2004--Horrific abuses, some similar to those revealed in Iraq, regularly occur in U.S. prisons with little national attention or public outrage, human rights activists said on Thursday.

"We certainly see many of the same kinds of things here in the United States, including sexual assaults and the abuse of prisoners, against both men and women," said Kara Gotsch, public policy coordinator for the national prison project of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"This office has been involved in cases in which prisoners have been raped by guards and humiliated but we don't talk about it much in America and we certainly don't hear the president expressing outrage," she said.

President Bush has said he was disgusted by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Yet, there were many cases of abuse in Texas when he served as governor from 1995 to 2000.

For example, in September 1996, guards at the Brazoria County jail in Texas staged a drug raid on inmates that was videotaped for training purposes.

The tape showed several inmates forced to strip and lie on the ground. A police dog attacked several prisoners; the tape clearly showed one being bitten on the leg. Guards prodded prisoners with stun guns and forced them to crawl along the ground. Then they dragged injured inmates face down back to their cells.

In a 1999 opinion, federal Judge William Wayne Justice wrote of the situation in Texas state prisons: "Many inmates credibly testified to the existence of violence, rape and extortion in the prison system and about their own suffering from such abysmal conditions."

Judy Greene of Justice Strategies, a New York City consultancy, said: "When I saw Bush's interview on Arab TV stations, I was thinking, had he ever stepped inside a Texas prison when he was governor?"

Michelle Deitch, who teaches criminal justice at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, said there were many parallels with Iraq.

"The levels of abuse, the humiliation and degradation, the lack of oversight and accountability, the balance between human rights and security interests, overcrowding issues--I ask myself, how can we get people equally concerned about what goes on here?" she said.

Two of those allegedly involved in the abuse of Iraqis were U.S. prison guards. Spc. Charles Graner, who appears in some of the most lurid photographs, was a guard at Greene County State Correctional Institution, one of Pennsylvania's top security death row prisons. Two years after he arrived at Greene, the prison was at the center of an abuse scandal in which guards routinely beat and humiliated prisoners.

Prison officials have declined to say whether Graner had been disciplined in that case.

Full story at: www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0506-07.htm

previous article [current issue] next article
Search | Archives | Calendar | Directory | About / Subscriptions |

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional eXTReMe Tracker