A lively exchange on Fox News. Sean Hannity’s head explodes, which is always good television at the thought that the same standards applied to Democrats should apply to Republicans. The meltdown happens around the 3:20 mark. Hannity also says that the Vietnamese "did not break [McCain’s] spirit." Actually, they did, using the enhanced interrogation techniques Hannity approves of when used by Americans. McCain attempted suicide and made a taped confession of crimes he didn’t commit after torture was inflicted on him. The torture techniques included beating, stress positions, dietary manipulation, withholding of medical care and solitary confinement – all of which are now used by the Bush-run CIA and were used indiscriminately across all theaters of war by the US after 2001 on Bush’s authorization. McCain’s confession, I might add, says nothing about McCain’s integrity or character, just something about the evil of torture techniques that McCain then acquiesced to when practiced by the CIA in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Readers will recall that there was considerable doubt about whether Jose Padilla was mentally fit for trial. After three years of solitary confinement, manacled by feet and hands and guarded with almost military aggression – he was forced to wear sound-proof earmuffs and goggles to get a tooth fixed by the dentist, for example – he was a wreck. One of his psychiatric evaluators, Dr Angela Hegarty, spoke to Amy Goodman about what she saw in this broken man after observing him for 22 hours:
AMY GOODMAN: What was the effect of over three-and-a-half years of isolation on Jose Padilla? DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: I think there’s two things, really. Number one, his family, more than anything, and his friends, who had a chance to see him by the time I spoke with them, said he was changed. There was something wrong. There was something very “weird” — was the word one of his siblings used — something weird about him. There was something not right. He was a different man. And the second thing was his absolute state of terror, terror alternating with numbness, largely. It was as though the interrogators were in the room with us. He was like — perhaps like a trauma victim who knew that they were going to be sent back to the person who hurt them and that he would, as I said earlier, he would subsequently pay a price if he revealed what happened. So I think those would be the two main things.
I’m going to read the legal analyses carefully before commenting substantively further. But I will take this moment to observe a couple of salient facts. The verdict is not on the original charge of plotting a dirty bomb, and it was this charge that had Padilla arrested and detained without charges and allegedly tortured for three years in solitary. The question of Padilla’s innocence or guilt on a much lesser charge is therefore less salient than the way in which he was treated by the government. That remains a travesty; and the government should be relieved its clumsy handling of the case did not lead to his acquittal. It is also important to recall that Jose Padilla was interrogated in a fashion to render his mental capacity to stand trial a question. He claimed torture, and was sequestered without being charged for three years in solitary confinement. The result was a broken man, according to Time magazine:
The government itself cited the affidavit of a psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Angela Hegarty, who said that Mr. Padilla did not understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and that he suffered "impairment in reasoning" as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder "complicated by the effects of prolonged isolation." Mr. Padilla’s lawyers said he opposed this request that his competency be evaluated. Dr. Hegarty, one of two mental health professionals who examined him, said Mr. Padilla was "fearful of being thought of as crazy." She described him as "hypervigilant," his eyes darting about, his face twitching into grimaces, his "startle response" on constant high alert.
John Surico relays some actual good news out of the Big Apple when it comes criminal justice: New York City’s Rikers Island, the second-largest jail in America, has been making headlines for the worst possible reasons lately. Between the ritualized beating of teenage inmates and horrendous treatment of mentally ill prisoners, it’s no wonder the feds … Continue reading Doing The Right Thing At Rikers
by Dish Staff Libby Copeland tells the story of Tamara Loertscher, “a woman arrested for drug use even though she says she stopped when she realized she was pregnant, brought to court and twice refused lawyers (even though her fetus was given one), and then sent to jail for 17 days, where she was placed in … Continue reading Getting High For Two
by Dish Staff Maya Schenwar reflects on what she’s learned from exchanging letters with prisoners: Prison is built on a logic of isolation and disconnection. Letters between pen pals are almost always exchanged for the opposite purpose and with the opposite effect: connection. The act of pen-palling mirrors the mindset shift that will be necessary to … Continue reading Breaking Into Prison
Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater, is based on the memoir of Maziar Behari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was arrested while covering the 2009 elections in Iran. Behari spent 118 days in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin prison. Michael O’Sullivan calls Stewart’s film “an impressive and important piece of storytelling,” and David Edelstein agrees: In outline, Rosewater sounds earnest, one-note, relentless — something you’d watch … Continue reading A Comedian Takes A New Direction
Arrested at sixteen, Kalief Browder was imprisoned at Rikers Island for three years without ever being convicted of a crime. His case was eventually dismissed. From Jennifer Gonnerman’s excellent coverage of the injustice: In order for a trial to start, both the defense attorney and the prosecutor have to declare that they are ready; the court clerk … Continue reading Waiting Years For A Trial
Sarah Shourd argues that a certain “progressive” jail in New Hampshire has major drawbacks: There are many things about Cheshire County Jail that you’d be hard-pressed to find in any other carceral space in the country. The warden, Rick Van Wickler, prides himself on the building’s environmental design—complete with a geo-thermic heating and cooling system—and … Continue reading What Do Prisoners Value Most?
In the wake of the Adrian Peterson case, various threads are emerging. Josh Voorhees investigates the race angle: The perception that black parents are more likely to employ corporal punishment than their nonblack counterparts is borne out by academic research. In one study that examined 20,000 kindergartners and their parents, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found … Continue reading The Racial Divide On Spanking Kids