What’s Hidden Behind the Walls of US Prisons?
Telesur, June 5, 2017
2.3 million people behind bars, but that figure tells only part of the story.
Yes, in a stunning array of 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails and 76 Indian Country jails, as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers and prisons in the U.S. territories, America physically contain more human beings than any other country in the world. In addition to those actually locked up, there are another 840,000 Americans being supervised on parole and an additional 3.7 million people being monitored on probation.
The world’s most populous city, Tokyo, and the U.S.‘s most populous state, California, have fewer residents combined than the up to 100 million U.S. citizens who now have a criminal record.
America’s incarceration crisis is suffered staggeringly and dis-proportionally by communities of color.
There is a long history of the public being kept away from prisons so that corrections officials could run them as they wished. Prison authorities, it was understood, had the right to do what they wanted to those in their charge.
Prisoners routinely tried to bring attention to the abuses that happened to them. But time and again, and most notably in the infamous 1871 case Ruffin v. Commonwealth, their bid to be treated as human beings was formally denied. In fact, according to the court in this case, prisoners were “slaves of the state.”
The principle that the public has a responsibility to run prisons humanely was in fact adopted by the United Nations back in 1955.
The abuses that went on in this country’s 19th-century penal institutions, both in the North and in the South, are well-documented, and it is now obvious that the 20th century did not bring much improvement.
One need only read of the pain and suffering the men locked up at the Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana endured in the 1950s. Here, men willingly cut their own Achilles tendons so that they might avoid the abuses of the guards driving them in the prison’s cotton fields. Or we can look at the horrific torture endured by the men at Attica in the wake of their 1971 protest.
Throughout American history unspeakable abuse of men and women has been allowed to happen behind prison walls. In September 2016, prisoners at facilities across the country erupted in protests for better conditions. In March and April of 2017, prisons in Delaware and Tennessee similarly exploded.
In a juvenile facility in Florida, in the 20th century, prison officials murdered scores of young boys. In facilities such as Rikers Island, young people today experience physical abuse and some have died in custody. And not just children, but vulnerable adults as well, suffer tremendously, and daily.
Indeed, it is only when there is a particularly dramatic abuse, or a death that simply can’t be hidden, that the public gets any glimpse of what life on the inside is like for so many Americans.
It wasn’t until concern was raised about babies being born with brain damage that we learned that women are shackled during childbirth in our prisons. It wasn’t until brave health care professionals came forward that we learned about the many broken bones and internal injuries prisoners were suffering at the hands of their captors. It wasn’t until prisoners ended up dead with marks on their body indicating that they had been tortured that we knew about the traumas that the mentally ill are suffering in prison. And, sadly, it isn’t until we hear of cases being filed on behalf of children that we finally learn how many of them have suffered sexual and physical abuse and about how much emotional distress they suffer from being kept in utter isolation.
Every American prison is, of course, severely overcrowded and, therefore, they are not just hellholes for the incarcerated, they are also volatile and dangerous workplaces.
Like prisoners, correction officers also end up injured and killed behind bars and, also like prisoners, they too experience high rates of suicide as a result of the terrible conditions. And, also as with prisoners, the only way we hear just how terrible things really are for guards is when something particularly awful happens to one of them and protests erupt.
Между тем, здешние политиканы, «эксперты», подконтрольные ЦРУ СМИ продолжают нахваливать псевдодемократическую Америку.
Те, кто любит «наших американских партнеров», «забывают» о грязных, злых уродах США.
О таких монстрах, как коварный и крайне опасный мошенник, расист, лжец, и убийца Дональд Трамп. И о таких, как порочный Конгресс США, фашистские ФБР и ЦРУ, лживые американские СМИ…
Арнольд Локшин, политэмигрант из США