Constant's pations

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

US Prisons: What they don't tell the auditors

Thought Guantamamo was bad? Those guards learned how at home.

But why aren't Americans treated better than the Taliban?

Quick stats: Abuse on females; HRW Games and Abuse GAO Report Sample complaint State By State Abuses

19-20 April 2005, Tampa FL: Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons held hearings: "The commission noted there are no national statistics for guards' use of excessive force."

  • July 19-20 in New Jersey: Safety problems at prisons.
  • Nov05: Problems faced by corrections officers.
  • Jan 05: Oversight within the prison system.


    There's the false notion that prisoners don't have rights. In theory, the constitution applies.

    In practice, most guards know how the game is played. This is simply one of the reasons, among many, why the abuses occurred in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Afghanistan.

    We should not be surprised why the abuses occurred in Guantanamo. US Prison violence is a problem. In fact, probation officers are immune to it. When they get promoted to become Trial Court Executives, they think nothing of lying about whether they know the name of the General Counsel in the Administrative Office of the Court.

    Allegations of officer misconduct are not looked into. Court officers state that they will not second guess the guards. Yet, when outside auditors review the matter, court officials assert the opposite: That the situation was appropriately investigated.

    We should not be surprised why nothing was done to stop abuses in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. The Bush Administration wants abusive, arrogant people like Bolton in government. Yet, the real tragedy is that the whitewash investigations in Guantanamo, and the failure of the Senate to aggressively investigate says more about the United States than whether there is a problem with discipline.

    It is amazing that the US will dance around the world, spinning the world up about abuses overseas. Yet, we find that these abuses are illusory. There was no WMD.

    There were lies coming out of the White House.

    Yet, one would think that if the United States was in a position to do something about foreign abuses, then it's house at home would be in order. This is not the case.

    The US Prison system has a problem with inadequate facility maintenance. The problem isn't simply that the overcrowded prisons don't have enough money to repair and make suitable living arrangements.

    The problem is that a pervasive pattern of abuses goes unreported, ignored, and largely termed the exception.

    Yet, it is in the wake of the scandals in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Afghanistan that former prisoners need to come forward. They need to share with the American public their stories of what goes on in the US prisons.

    And there are plenty of horror stories. First, let's talk about the Guard abuse of prisoners. Most prisoners are conditioned that they have no rights while in prison. Again, in theory the constitution still applies.

    Yet, as we have seen in Abu Ghraib, the rules are ignored. Clearly promulgated statutes and documents to which sworn officers have taken an oath to preserve, protect, and defend...are regularly ignored.

    Documents are reguarly forged. Reports are backdated. If a guard wants to send a message to a prisoner, the guard will antagonize another prisoner to take it out on the target.

    There's also the basic problem with living conditions. Again, those descriptions Martha Stewart give about prison life shouldn't be ignored.

    Rather, they should be contrasted with how everyday prisoners are treated. The US prisoners are subjected to overcrowding, poor living conditions. Nothing like the nice conditions for Martha Stewart.

    But Martha Stewart should not be demonized for having spent time in prison. Rather, her experiences should be something that all understand and come to know. Martha Stewart should be encouraged to write a book about her prison experiences, and what she learned from other prisoners.

    Some prisoners she may have come in contact with may have had some interesting stories about how life is in other prisoners. Those stories need to see the light of day. The public needs to hear more about the abuses.

    Also, the public needs to hear about the constant prison building and transfer problem. Communities grow and the old prisons get surrounded with new development.

    Government's answer has been to move the prisons. But not make enough beds.

    What happens? Today's prisoners in the United States are subjected to poor heating. In fact, "modern prisons" are known to have broken windows, inadequate heating, and insufficient bedding for prisoners.

    Those prisoners in warm climates may think they have it easy. But the abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo showed us that even in "warm" climates prisoners still get locked away in some very cold places.

    This isn't solitary. It's the everyday prisoner's experience. If you're fortunate, you'll get enough bedding and blankets to keep warm.

    What the United States needs to realize is that the current White House coverup of the intelligence "failures" is about doing nothing. The President has said that the intelligence report will be the necessary catalyst to "adjust."

    I am unconvinced. Rather, so long as the abuses under the United States continue to not see the light of day, so too will the abuses.

    For every day and year that prisoners are not supported in their struggle to get the word out, is another year of history that is the "precedent" to continue to do nothing.

    I find it appalling that American citizens are subjected to inhuman treatment at home. Especially when they freely come forward in an effort to help.

    Yet, the truth is surfacing. There is no advantage to working with law enforcement. The public is abused, just as prisoners are abused.

    We have yet to see a full accounting of the post-9-11 dance with authoritarianism in the United States.

    Yet, in the wake of 9-11 and in 2005 we now know that the FBI reports of the "10,000 AlQueda" have proven false.

    FBI agents need to be reminded who they work for. If they continue to abuse, ridicule, demean, and talk to the public in a condescending manner, then DoJ should not be surprised why they are in the dark.

    A civil society depends on people cooperating. In the wake of 9-11, the balance has shifted far to the side of deferential treatment of law enforcement.

    That imbalance needs to be corrected. There is no reason to have the Patriot Act. There are no terrorists that the FBI can find.

    What is needed is a concerted effort to reveal the hidden deception and truth that occurs under the "benevolent" US government. We have seen the results in Abu Ghraib.

    Going forward, we need to have a better accounting of the investigations that occurred in Afghanistan. Supposedly, the "memos from Guantanamo" magically showed up in Afghanistan in "unofficial briefcases."

    Even retired Generals were called up to "review" the matter. Yet, now we find out that the abuses were far more widespread.

    It appears these retired Generals were mislead, or knowingly went along with a whitewash.

    In the end, the public needs the information on the abuses both within law enforcement and from the direction of the White House. Although the intelligence community may have gotten a slap on the wrist, the real crime is that the public doesn't benefit from an improved government.

    Rather, this government chooses to solve the wrong problems, divert attention, and make up stories. That can only last so long. Eventually the truth comes out.

    Yet, this government hopes to hide the truth. The Senate has refused to release the real report about the White House meddling in the intelligence community.

    What the public needs to do is connect the dots: The abuses we've heard about in the US prison system is a symptom of a very sick system. One that enjoys a number of good old boys who like to pretend they follow the law, all the while making up stories to justify hiding reality.

    There are two common elements that I have seen in the wake of the Red Lake Shooting, the shooting in Georgia at the courthouse, and the Abu Ghraib prison scandals. In both cases I have seen the management linked back to a common location.

    It wasn't a security guard or bailiff who stepped forward in Georgia. Someone, a private citizen, was the one who called the police about the shooting.

    Where were the bailiffs? And how many complaints about the bailiffs have been ignored?

    Also the FBI in Red Lake clearly missed something. DoJ needs to explain what broke down on their informant program.

    And, the US prisons need to come clean on why the management abuses that were supposedly "just minor" turned into a major scandal involving war crimes, torture, and death.

    This isn't simply a "torture problem." It's both a leadership and credibility problem.

    If we look at the security complaints in re bailiffs and courts, I would encourage you to review the state court administrator files and the management letters sent back and forth between the state auditor and the AOC office.

    It's troubling that the state auditors are supposed to receive information related to both financial and non-financial information. Yet, it appears as though when the issues are tough, the state auditors will fall down on their job, feign ignorance, and possibly instruct their employees to rebuff information that should otherwise be looked into.

    At the same time, when the state court administrators get information and complaints about security, they need to show a track record of having looked into those issues. I question whether the leadership in the AOC's offices are performing this function.

    Further, I challenge the AOC's to independently provide the public a forum to openly review the complaint letters. I would hope that the issues were actually looked into when they were small.

    What is most troubling is when we hear of a Trial Court Executive who has supposedly "looked into" a security matter, but there's no documentation to back up this assertion.

    More troubling is when the state court administrator's office goes out of it's way through its General Counsel to say "we are concerned" and "we want the public to get involved", all the while fabricating stories to back up the opposite: That, in fact, they made no serious effort to respond to concern;s that there is a communication problem; and that the public-government dialog has broken down.

    Going deeper, it is also troubling when we review the state-level meeting minutes of the various judicial counsels. I find it troubling that committees will continue to report "no meeting."

    The issue is leadership. And we should not be surprised why there are abuses, shootings, and loss of life. The public has been given a sham story. What is needed is some independent reviews of the State Court systems to understand why the public concerns about security were not addressed; and to what extent court official were involved in deliberate efforts to backdate findings when no investigation occurred.

    More troubling is that in the wake of these scandals, the White House would have us believe "we're making gains on terror." I disagree. The President is giving the United States and world a line of baloney.

    What is actually happening is the opposite: The US is making significant gains in perpetuating terror both at home and abroad.

    Take not of your local law enforcement, FBI, and court system. They like you to believe that they are there to help. But they will go out of their way to do nothing, not respond, and come up with excuses not to take complaints.

    They openly admit and brag about lying all the time. Their management promises to look into things, but the conduct doesn't change. Even the press refuses to seriously follow up on issues.

    The Press is reluctant to "not push to hard" because they do not want to lose their sources within law enforcement.

    What's needed is a better accounting of the Interpol and National Police Office Standards and Training. There need to be more no-notice audits of the Field Training Officers.

    I find it disturbing to read reports of FTOs knowingly telling the new recruits to make up stories, fabricate excuses, and refuse to take complaints.

    The FTO's need to have better oversight. I am not persuaded that the state level personnel are adequately overseen, nor are they effectively managed. I would like for there to be a better no-notice review system. One that ensures that Interpol and National Post standards are effective.

    What is surprising, though is despite the many complaints and promises to reform, management at the local level will say one thing, but they do something else. What's needed is some better follow-ups.

    How did the "communication problem" really get solved?

    If new management is brought in to "solve a communication problem," did the communication problem really get addressed; or are we having the same issues come up: Officers lying, management not communication public concerns, and the officers still getting a green light to engage in misconduct.

    It is not simply a "management problem" when officers refuse to take complaints. The real issue is that the public is being denied their 42 USC 1983-protected rights to have honest services, report crime, and exercise their right to bring complaints to law enforcement.

    Whether law enforcement does anything with the information is a separate issue.

    But in the wake of 9-11, the public needs to know that law enforcement has burned many bridges. Not just with Moslems, but the full spectrum of society.

    Officers used the post 9-11 era to "justify" abusing people, to not just inquire, but to actively intimidate people who were coming forward to help.

    I have little sympathy for officers in law enforcement, who now that they've been called up and reactivated as a reserve, find themselves on the battlefield. In Iraq. Far away from home. And seeing their fellow law enforcement-national guardsman officers gunned down.

    The flags, ribbons, and medals that these officers show case mean little, especially when they are actually linked to perpetuating a system in Iraq that is corrupt in the United States.

    America has far too long enjoyed in the wake of 9-11 a free pass. The President failed to gain the momentum and achieve the desired result: Greater security for the American people.

    Rather, he won on foreign shores those things he might wish to one day achieve at home: A more civil society in Afghanistan? I think not. More stable and secure Iraq? If you believe in fairy tales.

    Rather, the American citizenry needs to realize that they have been a victim of these abuses as have the Iraqis and Afghans. Just as prisoners were abused in Abu Ghraib, so too have American citizens been abused and denied their rights at home.

    Is this the type of world America wants to create? Apparently so.

    Unfortunately, we now learn in Georgia, Red Lake, and in the US prisons that the lessons from Abu Ghraib were simply about abuses in the military. It is about a culture that doesn't like to have its apple cart upset.

    This is a leadership problem. A discipline problem. And a symptom of a society that continues to believe "Whatever it wants to do" is justified, just as long as the majority of people are better off than a third word country.

    That is unacceptable. The constitution applies to all people. And citizens have the right to bring forth their complaints without fear that their effort to assist and improve things is thrown back in their face.

    it is amazing how much the American system will go out of its way to do the exact opposite of what is most desired, most constitutional, and most consistent with the rule of law.

    How much evidence is backdated?

    Why does the public have to have witnesses when they go to a "trusted" police officer?

    How many of the charges are trumped up?

    Officers should fear the law because the true law, if it were enforced, could put them in their place.

    I am outraged that America continues with this charade. It is time that there be a better accounting:

  • Why should the public believe law enforcement?

  • Why should the public have confidence in the legal leadership?

    If we truly had before us a nation that stood for the rule of law, it wouldn't take three years after the abuses occurred to resolve the issue. That's three years of unreported abuses on other victims.

    There's alot of explaining to do. The worst thing to do is continue the Patriot Act. What's needed is a "we're going to have adult leadership"-Act.

    The adults have proven themselves in sore need of some better leadership. The Patriot Act will simply do more to permit that which is most abhorrent to a civilized society.

    If you are a former prisoner and know of abuses and misconduct in prisons, I encourage you to share your stories. Get a blog. And write.

    Eventually, the world will realize this isn't isolated. Eventually an attorney will realize that there's money to be made in investigating and publicly litigating these cases.

    But you must promise yourself to not be fearful, despite the threats. You know what law enforcement is good at doing: Using intimidation and abuse to silence those who know the facts.

    Do not be afraid. There are more of those of you who have been abused, than there are of them. Your collective voice can touch them.

    And when they shout louder, use that as a sign that they are fearful. Let the world see that they are willing to shout to "defend" supposedly something that wasn't occurring.

    Never lose hope. The truth is starting to come out. One day, the United States shall have its full constitution.

    Until then, spread the words and stand up for yourself. The truth is going to make you more free.