Friday, 9 September 2011


Now none of this stuff is unusual in the world, or in world history. When I googled for "prison brutality", Uzbekistan came up right along with the US on the first page.
See, the thing is that what happened in Abu Ghraib and Guantanmo is not surprising. It is the export of civilian practices in prisons into the military. Maybe it goes slightly further, but it doesn't go that much further. The US attitude towards towards convicts (and indeed, even towards people accused but not actually convicted) is that they deserve whatever they get.
My response to this is to say "fine. If you think they deserve to be raped and tortured, put it back on the books. Have the judges say, you John Smith, are hereby found guilty of snorting some cocaine. You are sentenced to 5 years in prison, and you shall be raped no less than five times. Electricity shall be applied to your testicles on no less than three occasions. You will be strapped to a metal restraint for no less than 3 days, at least 10 times and forced to defecate upon yourself for the duration. You will also spend at least 3 months in solitary. Be greatful that we are not making you pay your debt to society by releasing the hounds on you, sir, that we will spare you, since you were involved in no violence".
But in many jurisdictions of the US, the judge might as well be, because many of those things will happen to prisoners. You send a certain type of man or woman (pretty, not tough or connected) to a maximum security prison and the odds of them being raped are so close to 100% that there is no effective difference.
And it's this casual contempt, not for the rights of other humans, but for their essential humanity; this inability to put ourselves in anothers shoes, to treat even the worst (and many are far from the worst) among us with dignity, respect and reasonable kindness and forebearance which the US has displayed to the world. The world, rightly, is disgusted and the effect has been a real loss of American prestige. These things aren't just niceties; aren't just frills - a decent respect for humanity buys you a lot of leverage; buys you respect, helps you get your way. Those who preach about democracy, human rights and freedom are expected to live up to those words.
The "tough man macho" bullshit has got to stop. It doesn't mean being strong, it means being a bully. The US blows into countries it thinks it can beat, but tiptoes around places like North Korea who could bloody its nose. Prison guards beat prisoners who have no way of fighting back, who are nobodies and helpless, then cover it up. People make jokes about rape all the time (an indication that they fear it), but no one does a thing about it. Meanwhile the US locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world - beating out totalitarian states like China.
The entire process has been largely privatized, with prisoners held to make a profit. Entire rural communities have as their primary industry a local prison. To put it crudely, white rural men get paid to lock up urban black men. The industry is so powerful that no one wants to take it on - not just because the corporations have influence, but because the prison guard unions will savage any politician who suggests reform of either the prisons themselves, or the insane system of laws which has lead to such a massive prison population.
As with so much in the US, everyone with any sense (which means a lot less people than one would hope) knows this is FUBAR, but because people are making so much money for doing work that shouldn't even be needed (like the 20% to 30% administrative overheads in health insurnace companies) no one deals with it.
And so people suffer; people are raped; people die - all because some greedy people want to make money off the public teat doing what they enjoy - abusing blacks and poor whites who get caught up in the system.
One of the few good things that can be said about the oncoming collaps of the US economy is that it's going to force people to look really closely at things like this and decide if they're really willing to pay billions and billions for a system like this.
@by Michelle Schmude

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