soon and very soon

Thursday, May 04, 2006

So Moussaoui will live. That's good, we don't need another shahid (martyr) at the hands of the US government. It's a definite loss for the Bush Administration and I think raises serious questions about the legitimacy of what is being done to prisoners in Camp X in Cuba. I mean if the US government couldn't convince a jury in Northern Virginia to fry this guy, who was suppose to have been an integral member of 9/11, than I think it raises serious questions about the holding of hundreds of prisoners in Cuba without even charging them with a crime.

The good news is that Moussaoui will be shipped to a "Supermax" federal prison compound in Colorado whose nickname is 'Alcatraz'. Moussaoui has this to look forward to:

Supermax prisoners are locked into small cellsfor approximately 23 hours a day. They have almost no contactwith other human beings.

There are no group activities: no work, no educationalopportunities, no eating together, no sports, no getting togetherwith other people for religious services, and no attempts atrehabilitation.

There are no contact visits: prisoners sit behind aplexiglass window. Phone calls and visitation privileges arestrictly limited. Books and magazines may be denied and pensrestricted. TV and radios may be prohibited or, if allowed, arecontrolled by guards.

Prisoners have little or no personal privacy. Guardsmonitor the inmates' movements by video cameras. Communicationbetween prisoners and control booth officers is mostly throughspeakers and microphones. An officer at a control center may beable to monitor cells and corridors and control all doorselectronically. Typically, the cells have no windows. Lights are controlledby guards who may leave them on night and day. For exercisethere is usually only a room with high concrete walls and a chin-up bar. Showers may be limited to three per week for not morethan ten minutes.

1. Typical cell sized 7ft x 12ft (3.5x2m) with small slit window 2. Shower works on timer 3. Small black and white TV showing educational programmes (some prisoners only) 4. Heavy duty steel door or grate 5. Writing desk 6. Toilet which shuts off if blocked 7. Sink 8. Steel mirror, rather than smashable glass

"Prisoners are confined to a concrete world in which theynever see a blade of grass, earth, trees or any part of thenatural world."

There are complaints that inmates who misbehave while in supermax or control units are put into "strip cells" (sometimesat temperatures near 50 degrees with only boxer shorts to wearand no bedding), or are chained spread-eagle and naked toconcrete beds. Other complaints include denial of medical care,interference with mail, arbitrary beatings, "hog-tying"(intertwining handcuffs and ankle-cuffs), "cock fights" (doublecelling inmates who are likely to attack each other), and injuryto inmates during "cell extractions."

John Perotti, writing after having spent 10 out of 12 yearsin control units, says: "Every aspect of life in the ControlUnit is meant to debase and degrade a prisoner's very soul thepurpose being that when released to general population whereconditions are somewhat improved, the prisoner causes no problems. . . for fear of being sent back to the Control Unit."

Longterm confinement under supermaxconditions is likely to have psychological consequences. "Studies of the psychological effects of solitary confinementhave found it can produce symptoms of paranoia, hypersensitivityto noise, panic attacks, hallucinations and even episodes ofamnesia. One article by Harvard psychiatrist Stuart Grassianreported 'the emergence of primitive, aggressive fantasies ofrevenge, torture, and mutilation of the prison guards' amongsolitary inmates in Massachusetts."

Dr. Craig Haney, who is anexpert on the psychological effects of living and working inmaximum security prisons, puts it this way: "[W]hen our reality is not grounded in social context, the internal stimuli and beliefs that we generate are impossible to test against the reactions of others. For this reason, the first step in any program of extreme social influence--ranging from police interrogation to indoctrination and 'brainwashing'--is to isolate the intended targets from others, and to create a context in which social reality testing is controlled by those who would shape their thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and behavior. Most people are so disoriented by the loss of social context that they become highly malleable, unnaturally sensitive, and vulnerable to the influence of those who control the environment around them. Indeed, this may be its very purpose."

Dr. Haney describes several different reactions. In asupermax, he says, the institution is in total control. Manysupermax inmates become totally dependent upon the structure androutines of the institution to control their behavior. Somebecome unable to set limits for themselves; they lose a sense ofhow to behave without a tight external structure and enforcedrestrictions. Others lose the ability to initiate behavior or toorganize their lives around any activity and purpose; their mindswander, they cannot concentrate or focus their attention. "Inextreme cases, a sense of profound despair and hopelessness iscreated."

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