Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

New Jersey targeted for prison abuse scandal -- Oscar Aviles refuses on-air interview

The abuse you didn't hear about. The man you don't want to meet. Three named-individuals have implicated officials at a New Jersey correctional facility, alleging gross and reckless conduct violated the state's prison certification standards.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Specter, having won the backing of his Republican allies, has his work cut out for him.

He might want to make an example of New Jersey's Hudson County jail acting-director Oscar Aviles.

Aviles, given the opportunity to comment for a media report, declined. He did write a lovely, but unconvincing memo.

Oh, those memos. How they come back to haunt government and corporate officials alike.

There is now every prospect the Department of Justice could be called in to formally investigate. Stay tuned.

It is a shame that these young men were apparently treated this way. It's more a shame that despite Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, domestic law enforcement still hasn't woken up to the standards of conduct both on the highway and in the correctional facilities.

Indeed, DoD and DoJ create lovely media stories. But as the facts surface, the truth will only inspire more cynicism about the motivations of this President in this "must win war."

You may win, but it will come at a high price. We do far more when we show the world by example, not exception, that we are a nation that inspires the world based on respect, the rule of law, and decency.

The US continues to ask for exceptions.


Following 9-11, DoJ increased efforts to round up aliens and detain them. Unfortunately, their treatment as less than cordial.

Three were recently cited on NPR as "case studies" of what happened in New Jersey:

  • Hemnauth Mohabir
  • Sadek Awaed
  • Fathi Ganmi

    Ref Ref Ref Ref Ref

    What's happened in New Jersey is mounting evidence that things after 9-11 got a little goofy.

    Sure, the President is an important man and we have to win this war on terror. But there's a little matter of human rights.

    Aviles' problems only mounted in March when he assumed command at the Hudson County jail after the previous director left for "medical reasons." How sad.

    Mind you, it doesn't help if an inmate has hung himself and the allegations of misconduct make the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department look like angels in the City of Police Abuse.

    New Jersey

    New Jersey isn't that far from the RNC's "Guantanamo on the Hudson." [If you're so inclined you can even look at the pictures of the barbed wire enclosures constructed indoors, magically documented by members of the public who were rounded up without probable cause and promptly freed.]

    It's understandable that New York and the local cities are a little on edge. It was only three years ago that two aircraft collided with the World Trade center. Just up the street another one crashed into the PA farmland.

    Mind you, the media is quick to ignore initial complaints of misconduct. When the media asked about the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq they dutifully saluted when told those reports were just rumors.

    This time NPR reporters have flown around the globe to independently capture the first hand accounts of prisoners held in US prisoners.

    The results are not pretty.

    Yet, we've also had the Abu Ghraib scandal. So what's going on--why, despite the human rights and Geneva Conventions and 42 USC 1983 are officers apparently not able to control themselves; is the threat of prosecution at the hands of DoJ so meaningless that discipline remains second priority?


    Understandably the public grows weary hearing of more allegations. They just wish the bad news would go away: "We've got a war to win, and we have the requisite skills and talent to achieve victory."

    Excellent, but for the rest of humanity that actually has to deal with the fall out, the story from New Jersey is just another reminder of how far things can drift.

    In the wake of 9-11, we had the DoJ prison abuse scandal which only gained traction after the video tapes surfaced. Faced with mounting evidence that they had lied to criminal investigators, the DoJ guards somewhat reluctantly agreed to refrain.

    With respect to the New Jersey case, the first headline might have read, "Alleged drug runners get little sympathy even if DHS or local law enforcement allegedly abuses them while in confinement." But let's not be so negative.

    On the other hand, the US Military also had the same reaction when the press asked questions about the "rumors" of Abu Ghraib torture, which proved true and the guilty were sentenced at a courts martial for war crimes.

    Yet, the initial reaction to DHS detainees who use drugs and are abused is:

  • "So what";
  • "They were from the drug culture,"
  • "They got what they deserved"
  • "Now, they'll know not to mess with drugs."

    Here's one headline that will not get much traction: "DHS: Allegations of detainee abuse and beatings".Ref

    2003 publication of this situation, and One mentions the article.

    It is noteworthy that the details of the events are independently corroborated by individuals thousands of miles apart.

    Note, the investigation is still pending. We know how "investigations" are done -- they'll do a whitewash if they can get away with it.

    Yes, law enforcement officers are unreliable in that they lie all the time; and will do what they can to shift the attention and burden to the public. Ref Ref

    42 USC 1983 claims are explained away all the time on the basis of "lack of evidence." I'm not clear that detainees necessarily are afforded the right to an attorney nor allowed to have cameras; yet this did not stop the convictions at Abu Ghraib.

    The lesson of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo is the United States law enforcement community will take the law into their own hands, do "what it has to" when serving a national objective of "advancing freedom."

    If you want to know more about about fabricated evidence within the Customs, now DHS: Law enforcement files are destroyed, back dated, and adjusted to fit the story.

    It remains to be seen whether the Certified Fraud Examiners [CFE] can determine the actual date the report was filed in the "incident log" or whether it was retroactively inserted to justify what was done.

    Prosecution considerations

    I'm inclined to take the "ongoing investigation" by IAD as a sign that the situation warrants attention. I am less inclined to believe the merits of the letter from the Acting Chief.

    The fact that the prosecutor did not decline the case is noteworthy; and it is compelling that the prosecutor is still looking into the matter.


    Based on the independent corroboration and the unpersuasive letter from law enforcement, in my opinion the situation warrants further review by DoJ OPR.

    It remains to be seen whether DoJ OPR is called in on this one. Until we have a new Senate Judiciary Chairman and new AG, not much prospect OPR is going to get its act together and take action.

    Discovery, Media Interviews

    Former director Ralph Green, (856) 742-9164, 503 Essex St, Gloucester City, NJ 08030

    Oscar Aviles took over in Mar 2004.