The subject of torture has been a sore spot for me, and because of personal embarrassment, I have written little on the subject except for an article written in 2005 that has remained buried in the archives. The time for avoiding this subject has come to its end, and to start-off the commentary, I am raising from the dead an article that was written before I became fairly well known - and I've kept it buried on purpose. One out of nine adults in the United States has been incarcerated or on parole or probation, and 35 years ago, I was not the person I am today, and like millions of other Americans, I have attempted to forget what happened over thirty (30) years ago. My decision to "come clean" is based on the government's propensity to violate the Geneva Convention and the social value it can provide for those that have little or no knowledge of the Criminal (in)Justice System that is claiming innocent lives on American Soil.
My experiences with the CJS began when I was 14 or 15 years old. I grew-up in a sleepy little town, Kingman, Arizona, and because my Grandmother was ill as well as my step-father, we moved into Hanford, California, located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Moving from a town that didn't have gangs and violence in the schools was a shock, and I found myself in an environment I didn't understand - and after being mugged and beaten-up numerous times, I started hanging around with someone who had several serious encounters with the law - and from that point forward, I made all of the wrong decisions. I was small for my age, hadn't reached puberty yet, and was exasperated by my inability to adjust to gangs and violence that I had never been accustomed to; prior to leaving Kingman, I had never been in a fight, and suddenly, my world turned upside down. The mistakes were mine, however, many teens make mistakes - and mine altered the rest of my life. The article I wrote in 2005 begins below:
Does The United States Condone Torture?
I was reading CNN this morning, and I came across one of Condoleezza Rice's statements that literally made my blood boil:
Rice repeated on Thursday that no U.S. personnel are allowed to commit abuses, whether on U.S. soil or overseas.
"The United States doesn't engage in torture, doesn't condone it, doesn't expect its employees to engage in it," she said. Link
Why did it make me angry? As usual, when Rice is speaking for the administration, it is the "party line", and truth - which Condi is better at than most in the White House, is how you interpret the statement and then you have to factor in variables that most people don't even know exist. As an example, I'm going to print the draft of Chapter Two in a biography which I attempted to publish 20 years ago, but found out that publishers (at that time) refused to accept manuscripts from people that were unknown or represented by an agent. It's condensed and lacks many facts that should and will be included in the final copy, but are relevant to Condi's statement -which I will get into further on in this article. If we torture American prisoners on our own soil - why should anyone believe that we won't do the same to our enemies?
Read on, and form your own opinion:
FRED C. NELLES SCHOOL FOR BOYS
California Youth Authority
The Good Life
I remember the bus pulling into Fred C. Nelles School for Boys and how beautiful the entire facility appeared. The lawns were vividly green, each cottage was well manicured and it had the look of a very high-priced vacation spot. All the individual units had basketball courts and I could see children playing everywhere. Some appeared to be 16 or 17 years old while others seemed to be small like me. I don't remember my exact age, but however old I was, at that time I was extremely small for my age. I believe that I was 14 years old and hadn't even reached puberty. The racial mix was mostly White and Mexican, although there were some Blacks and even an Oriental or two; This was to be home for at least the next eight months.
After processing in a special induction Unit, I was placed in Adams Cottage, based on my age and grade level. This was supposed to be the unit that would be ideal for my "rehabilitation". When I was brought to the Unit carrying my bundle of new clothes everyone stopped to look at me and I was very self-conscious and terrified when I saw the gang tattoos and other signs that this was another world I had never experienced. At that point I'm not sure what I was afraid of, albeit my fears proved to well founded.
My Dad had already visited me while I was in the processing Unit and I had a candy bar in my bag. After getting my bunk assignment, a black kid named Holloway was watching me put away my things. He saw that I had a candy bar and stated that he wanted it. I said no, remembering immediately that I did not know how to fight. Holloway punched me in the face so fast and so many times that I was a bloody mess by the time that Mr. Cantino arrived on the scene. Without any explanation at all, he unceremoniously kicked the Holloway kid and me in the shins several times as hard as he could.
The Holloway kid just stuck his tongue out at the Counselor, but no, not me. I had about all that I could take. Some brat had just beat me up, my candy bar was gone, my face was a bloody mess,
my shins hurt like hell and I didn't understand why I was punished for not giving in to a bully.
I didn't know how to fight but considered this an excellent time to learn. But, not being the brightest kid on the block, I went after the Counselor, mainly because he had injured my feelings the most for not standing up for me. I went at him with arms and legs flailing, screaming at the top of my lungs, intent on making him experience the same pain I was feeling. That was my first mistake...
It seems that Mr. Cantino was used to this type of behavior and very quickly turned me around, placed a choke hold on me, and promptly choked me into unconsciousness. I awoke on the concrete floor shaking with my hands handcuffed behind my back and several of the kids on the unit laughing at me. My Nickname from that day forward at Nelles was "Outer Limits."
Nelles wasn't too bad at first. It was weird not to be able to talk going from place to place, and also having to march everywhere we went, but such was the way of the California Youth Authority. The food was pretty good, school was school, boring, but worse than at home, because it seemed that everyone was already classified as illiterate and incorrigible - in other words, school for me was terribly boring, I was sharp anyway and I loved to learn, only these idiots wanted to teach me what I had already been taught. Guess how that went over! It was agony to sit through what I had already learned, especially when the rest of the class seemed completely out-of-touch with the teachers and simply refused to participate other than sitting through the class.
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