AMERICA'S SUPERMAX PRISONS DO TORTURE
by Kiilu Nyasha
November 22, 2009
President Barack Obama has clearly stated, "We don't torture."
Oh, yes we do. Big time.
A myriad of studies have clearly shown that human beings are social creatures -- making prolonged isolation torture.
The New Yorker published an article March 30, 2009 by Atul Gawande titled, Hellhole: The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?
Gawande asks, "If prolonged isolation is -- as research and experience have confirmed for decades --so objectively horrifying, so intrinsically cruel, how did we end up with a prison system that may subject more of our own citizens to it than any other country in history has?"
By 2000, some 60 supermax prisons had been opened nationwide, in addition to new isolation units in nearly all maximum-security prisons.
The first such gulag was established in 1983 in Marion, Illinois. In 1989, California opened Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border housing over 1,200 captives. It's been the model for dozens of other states to follow. The SHU (Security Housing Unit) is entirely windowless, and from inside a cell with doors perforated with tiny holes, prisoners can only see the hallway.
They're confined 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year with just a brief time (when permitted) in the "dog run" or outdoor enclosure for solitary exercise with no equipment, not even a ball.
But after nearly 20 years, California is now holding more people in
solitary than ever; yet its gang problem is worse, and the violence
rates have actually gone up.
Nationwide, at least 25,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement with another 50-80,000 in segregation units, many additionally isolated but those numbers are not released.
According to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons reported there are 216 so-called international terrorists and 139 so-called domestic terrorists currently in federal facilities (I'm convinced the real terrorists are on Capitol Hill). No one has ever escaped from these "most secure prisons."
In a 60 Minutes segment titled, Supermax: A Clean Version of Hell (revisited), June 21, 2009, the reporters took cameras into the ADX-Florence, Colorado Supermax where there have been six wardens since it opened in 1994. It's where Imam Jalil al-Amin and Mutulu Shakur are held captive, along with myriad other political prisoners.
One former warden stated, "I don't know what hell is, but I do know the assumption would be, for a free person, it's pretty close to it."
"Supermax is the place America sends the prisoners it wants to punish the most -- a place the warden described as a clean version of hell."
In a national study (Hayes and Rowan 1988) of 401 suicides in U.S. prisons --one of the largest studies of its kind--two out of every three people who committed suicide were being held in a control unit.