Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘torture

Upcoming Event: January 8 Launch of Anti-Solitary Confinement Campaign in Princeton, NJ

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On Sunday, January 8, Columbia law professor Scott Horton will speak at the launch of the National Religious Campaign against Torture’s initiative against solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. More event info here; register here. Thanks to a reader for sending this along!

Written by sara

January 5, 2012 at 6:49 am

Will Future Generations Condemn Us for Our Prison System?

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Kwame Anthony Appiah. Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite (2005)

Slavery, book-burning, waterboarding. In this Washington Post op-ed, which has been been making the rounds of the blogosphere, Princeton philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah asks what from today’s society will go the way of these once widely accepted, now universally discredited institutions and practices. OK, so one might quibble with Appiah’s examples since waterboarding has turned out not to be so universally discredited after all. And while the antebellum American plantation variant of slavery may be a thing of the past, other forms of slavery persist around the world.

Nevertheless: it’s worth noting that in contemplating what institutions might earn our grandchildren’s opprobrium, Appiah lists the prison system first among them:

Roughly 1 percent of adults in this country are incarcerated. We have 4 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. No other nation has as large a proportion of its population in prison; even China’s rate is less than half of ours. What’s more, the majority of our prisoners are non-violent offenders, many of them detained on drug charges. (Whether a country that was truly free would criminalize recreational drug use is a related question worth pondering.)

And the full extent of the punishment prisoners face isn’t detailed in any judge’s sentence. More than 100,000 inmates suffer sexual abuse, including rape, each year; some contract HIV as a result. Our country holds at least 25,000 prisoners in isolation in so-called supermax facilities, under conditions that many psychologists say amount to torture.

Of course, the irony is that the modern penitentiary was invented as a humane alternative to corporal and capital punishment. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sara

September 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Widespread Torture and Abuse in Iraqi Prison System

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USA Today summarizes the findings of a new Amnesty International report:

About 30,000 detainees are currently in Iraqi custody, although the exact number has not been released, the report stated. Prisoners are often housed in crowded conditions, leading to health problems, and they sometimes go years without seeing the inside of a courtroom, Amnesty said. …

Amnesty International researchers detailed a litany of abuse, including suspending people by their limbs, beating them with cables and pipes, removing toenails with pliers and piercing the body with drills.

Hundreds of people — including some facing the death penalty — have been convicted based on confessions extracted through torture, the report said.

The vast majority of the detainees are Sunnis suspected of helping the insurgency; hundreds are Shiites accused of being part of the Mahdi Army, an outlawed militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has fought U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

Last month, the U.S. military released thousands of its own prisoners into Iraqi custody (i.e., into these conditions), completing the near-total handover of prison responsibilities to the Iraqi government. However, Reuters reports that U.S. wardens continue to guard about 200 detainees, “including al Qaeda militants and henchmen of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.”

Written by sara

September 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

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