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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/21/09

Torture and Abuse are as American as Apple Pie

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Early today, CNN’s top story was in regard the civil suit that alleges that children were abused in Florida’s Reform Schools in the 1960’s. The retired guard is denying the charges - but they ring true based on my own personal experiences. Torture and abuse has been prevalent in our Reform Schools and prisons as long as I can remember - and it still continues in many of our prisons and has been condemned by Amnesty International. I feel for the man who was courageous enough to file a suit against the State of Florida, however, I also feel sure that our Justice System (sic) will exonerate the accused guard.

Reform school guard, 85, denies beating boys

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — The man with the white hair and Southern twang seemed the consummate gentleman. Handsomely attired in a dark jacket and open-collared burgundy shirt, Troy Tidwell came to answer questions in a civil lawsuit that portrays him as a monster.

Across the table sat one of his accusers, Bryant Middleton. He had finally come face to face with the man who he says has haunted his dreams for the past 50 years.

He claims Tidwell beat him mercilessly with a leather strap when he was 14, when Tidwell was an administrator at a Florida reform school. Much More

How can we stop the torture of prisoners outside of the United States when at home, it is commonplace throughout the bulk of our own prisons? I’m disgusted with the torture of people that aren’t on American soil, but the ACLU needs to work on cleaning up our own prison systems before they can honestly address the torture of so called “Enemy Combatants.” If we do it on a regular basis to our own citizens, then it’s a natural progression to use the same or worse tactics on those who the government believes are terrorists. The American people need to acquaint themselves with what is going on in our own prisons and express the same outrage they have for torturing Enemy Combatants.

It is insulting to me that we care more about those who might be a threat to our country while ignoring the terror and death that is occurring in a prison system that is growing by the day. We incarcerate more people in the land of the “Free and Brave” than any other country on earth and then have the audacity to condemn other countries for doing exactly what is standard operating conditions throughout America.

The American Prison and the Normalization of Torture

By H. Bruce Franklin

The prison has become a central institution in American society, integral to our politics, economy, and culture. Between 1976 and 2000, the United States built on average a new prison each week and the number of imprisoned Americans increased tenfold. With a current prison and jail population of over two million, America has become the uncontested world leader in incarceration. Prison has made the threat of torture part of everyday life for millions of individuals in the United States, especially the 6.9 million currently incarcerated or otherwise under the control of the penal system. More insidiously, our prison system has helped make torture a normal, legitimate, even routine part of American culture.

Imprisonment itself, even when relatively benign, is arguably a form of torture. This is implicit in our society using prison as the most dire legal form of both “punishment” and “deterrence,” except for execution. Moreover, in the typical American prison, designed and run to maximize degradation, brutalization, and punishment, overt torture is the norm. Beatings, electric shock, prolonged exposure to heat and even immersion in scalding water, sodomy with riot batons, nightsticks, flashlights, and broom handles, shackled prisoners forced to lie in their own excrement for hours or even days, months of solitary confinement, rape and murder by guards or prisoners instructed by guards–all are everyday occurrences in the American prison system.(1)

The use of sex and sexual humiliation as torture in Abu Ghraib and the other American prisons in Iraq is endemic to the American prison. Psychological and physical sexual torture is exacerbated by the underlying policy of denying prisoners any volitional sex, making the only two forms of sexual activity that are physically possible–homosexuality and masturbation–both offenses subject to punishment. Strip searches, including invasive and often intentionally painful examination of the mouth, anus, testicles, and vagina, frequently accompanied by verbal or physical sexual abuse, are part of the daily routine in most prisons. A 1999 Amnesty International report documented the commonplace rape of prisoners by guards in women’s prisons.(2)

Each year, numerous prisoners are maimed, crippled, and even killed by guards. Photographs could be taken on any day in the American prison system that would match the photographs from Abu Ghraib that shocked the public. Indeed, actual pictures from prisons in America have shown worse atrocities than those pictures from the American prisons in Iraq. For example, no photos of American abuse of Iraqi prisoners have yet equaled the pictures of dozens of prisoners savagely and mercilessly tortured by guards and state troopers in the aftermath of the 1971 Attica rebellion.(3) Even more appalling images are available in the documentary film Maximum Security University about California’s state Corcoran Prison. For years at Corcoran, guards set up fights among prisoners, bet on the outcome, and then often shot the men for fighting, seriously wounding at least 43 and killing eight just in the period 1989-1994. The film features official footage of five separate incidents in which guards, with no legal justification, shoot down and kill unarmed prisoners.(4) MUST READ ARTICLE

It is hypocritical of us as a nation to run headlines about torturing enemy combatants when we constantly torture our own citizens. Those who have suffered torture in our prisons and reform schools need to bring lawsuits “en masse” to bring the torture of Americans in our penal system so that torture at home will also be addressed in these times when so much publicity has been given to the inhabitants of facilities that are not on American soil.

I have my own ghosts I would like to face in a court of law, and I urge anyone that was in Fred C. Nelles School for Boys in Whittier, California during the 1960’s to contact me via email so that a similar suit can be brought against the State of California. I have outlined some of the torture I was exposed to myself in this article: US Has Been Torturing Our Own Citizens, Including Children, For Decades

Torture will not stop until Americans that have been exposed to it file similar lawsuits that was filed against the State of Florida, and I urge anyone that has been tortured on American soil to stand up for your rights and work together to file a class action lawsuit that will address torture that occurs regularly in our own country which is always ignored by the mainstream news media. If we fail to address this issue, Americans will be subjected to torture and abuse as long as those whom have suffered through this unconstitutional activity remain silent.

William Cormier

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My Bio is as varied as my life. In 2012, my twin sons murdered a Journalist in Pensacola, Fl., for 100K worth of "Magic The Gathering" playing cards and buried the body in my backyard. I was once a regular writer here, but PTSD from my son's (more...)

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