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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/15/19

The Settler-Colonial Strategy: Militarization of Diplomacy, Domestic Law Enforcement, Jails, Prisons and the Border

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Not only does the U.S. military occupy indigenous lands, but normalization of extensive militarism occupies the minds of our society. Domestic police forces have militarized their training. The U.S. military has made available to local police forces excess military equipment such as armored personnel carrier, sound machines, helmets, vests, rifles.

Military rules of engagement and tactics are used by many police forces in breaking into homes, approaching persons suspected of criminal activities, shooting first and asking questions later. Now it is routine following police shooting of an unarmed civilian, to inquire whether the police officer has been in the U.S. military, when, where and what dates the person was in the military as the police officer may have used military rules of engagement instead of police regulations which in shooting the unarmed civilian.

Preferential status is given to military veterans who apply to become police, although after many police shootings of unarmed civilians as happens frequently in military contact with civilians, many police organizations are requiring additional mental testing for combat veterans during the recruitment process. A veteran with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and particularly those receiving a medical rating for PTS from the Veterans Administration should be eliminated from police recruitment due to emotional and mental challenges.

U.S. military operation of prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and black sites in Europe, South East Asia and locations still unknown to the public have brought into U.S. civilian prisons a military approach toward prisoners, particularly those prisoners who are reacting negatively to prison conditions and prison discipline.

The human rights abuses orchestrated by U.S. military personnel at the U.S. military prison in Abu Ghraib, Iraq and in Bagram, Afghanistan and in the still operating U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba are replicated in civilian prisons in the U.S.

Civilian Oversight of County Jails

I work with an organization called the Texas Jail Project which is a civilian advocacy group that assists families of incarcerated persons in the 281 county jails in Texas. The Texas Jail Project was created when a friend, an environmental justice activist, was jailed for 120 days in the Victoria County, Texas jail for bringing attention to the 30-year-old continuous daily plastic pellet dump by a chemical company into Alamo Bay where she was a fisher-woman. After roadside protests, hunger strikes, letter to the editors, to bring attention to the pollution, she decided to try to get publicity about the pollution by climbing a tower in the chemical company's plant and chaining herself to the top of the tower, 150 feet off the ground. She was found guilty of trespass and sentenced to 120 days in the county jail.

While she was in jail, she wrote about the conditions in the jail and decided she would work on county jail reform when she got out We as her friends have worked to investigate horrific stories of treatment of prisoners, terrible conditions inside the jails including the treatment of mentality disturbed and of pregnant women. The Texas Jail Project began attending the quarterly meeting of the Texas Jail commission, one of the very few groups that had ever sat in on meetings of the board that determines policies and orders investigations. The project spearheaded the lobbying of the Texas State legislature to pass a law that a woman in labor must not be shackled to a hospital bed when she gives birth. The Texas Jail Project also gives each month a "Hell Hole of the Month" designation to some county jail that has a record of poor treatment of prisoners.

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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