Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘puerto rico

On the Imperial Past of America’s Prisons

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If you’re interested in the deep past of America’s carceral state, and/or American imperial history, then you may want to take a look at Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State, a 2009 edited volume put together by Alfred McCoy and Francisco Scarano and published by the University of Wisconsin Press. (At the moment, I happen to be making my way through McCoy’s important — and dense — other recent book, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, also out from Wisconsin in 2009.)

Colonial Crucible is a series of essays about ways in which the United States’ Pacific and Caribbean empire shaped U.S. policy both abroad and at home. In the publisher’s words,

the essays in this volume show how the challenge of ruling such far-flung territories strained the U.S. state to its limits, creating both the need and the opportunity for bold social experiments not yet possible within the United States itself. Plunging Washington’s rudimentary bureaucracy into the white heat of nationalist revolution and imperial rivalry, colonialism was a crucible of change in American statecraft. From an expansion of the federal government to the creation of agile public-private networks for more effective global governance, U.S. empire produced far-reaching innovations.

Of particular interest to readers of this blog might be Part 2, “Police, Prisons, and Law Enforcement,” which includes essays on American penal practices in colonial Puerto Rico, the prohibition of opium in the Philippines, policing in the Philippines, and, again in the Philippines, the Iwahig Penal Colony, opened in 1904 to alleviate overcrowding in Manila’s central penitentiary.

Written by sara

February 5, 2011 at 11:23 am

Puerto Rico Prisoner Forced to Undergo Abdominal Surgery, or, the Case of the Apparently Nonexistent Contraband Cell Phone

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The First Circuit held last month that a Puerto Rico prisoner’s lawsuit claiming Fourth Amendment violations can proceed, where the inmate alleges that he was

forced to undergo dangerous, painful, and extremely intrusive abdominal surgery for the purpose of finding a contraband telephone allegedly concealed in his intestines, even though the basis for believing there was a telephone was slight, several tests had indicated the absence of any such object, and additional, far less intrusive testing could easily have obviated any need for such grievous intrusion.

(Sanchez v. Pereira-Castillo, et al., No. 08-1748, 1st Cir., Dec. 23, 2009, p. 21)

Although prisoners are not afforded full Fourth Amendment protections — for instance, their cells can be searched at any time — they do retain a limited right of bodily privacy while incarcerated (see pp. 15-16). Here, the court emphasized the dramatically invasive nature of the search — involving “total anesthesia, surgical invasion of the abdominal cavity, and two days of recovery in the hospital” (p. 23) — combined with the lack of justification for such an extreme procedure, given that a variety of less intrusive measures, such as an X-ray, could have been used. The court also rejected the government’s arguments that the surgery was not a search at all, or, if it was a search, was not unconstitutional, simply because it was a medical procedure: “When a medical procedure is performed at the instigation of law enforcement for the purpose of obtaining evidence, the fact that the search is executed by a medical professional does not insulate it from Fourth Amendment scrutiny” (p. 26). More details after the jump…

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Written by sara

January 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm

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