Saturday, February 2, 2008


In the past we heard of these types of maltreatments of prisoners
only in countries
like China, Russia, South America or the third world – what has happened that we now allow for these horrible Abuses in America?

For the purposes of this [United Nations] Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Under 15 CCR 3391, employees shall be alert, courteous, and professional in their dealings with inmates. They shall never refer to inmates by derogatory or slang references, nor shall they use indecent, abusive, profane or otherwise improper language. Employees shall avoid irresponsible or unethical conduct.

Yet, it is not unusual for Guards to resort to baiting inmates into punishable actions, use derogatory remarks, sexually explicit language, profanity, racial epithets, reference to individual’s family members and name-calling -- the guards don’t threaten you with violence anymore; they just provoke you into it. It’s your word against theirs, and they can always doctor their reports.

Stanford Prison Experiment:
As was demonstrated with the experiment conducted by Phillip Zimbardo in 1973 at the Stanford university, a number of case studies on the effects of prison life have also indicated that imprisonment can be brutal, demeaning, and generally psychologically a devastating experience for many individuals. Psychological symptoms described in these studies, which are believed to be directly caused by imprisonment include psychosis, severe depression, inhibiting anxiety, and complete social withdrawal.

The Stanford Prison experiment was aimed to examine the power of roles, rules, symbols, group identity and situational validation of behavior. Two dozen university students, judged to be most normal, average and healthy were selected to participate. Some became prisoners and others were guards, and the basement of the psychology department was turned into a prison. Guards were dressed in uniform while prisoners wore dresses and no underpants to take away their masculinity. They had a chain on one foot to remind them of the repression of being in prison.
The experiment was going to last for two weeks however it ended after 6 days. After 5 days, several prisoners experienced an emotional breakdown. They cried hysterically, had disorganized thinking, they smashed their heads on the walls and refused to eat. The guards showed no concerns or sympathy towards the prisoner, and accused them of malingering.

The experiment showed that normal average, healthy males became too powerful when they had the role of being the guards.

Dry Cells and Pro-straint Chairs:

Referring to the pro-restraint chair, Stuart Katz, a lawyer who successfully sued the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for its use in 2000 said, "It’s a Spanish Inquisition technology with sort of a late 20th century advertising spin,"

In May 2000, the United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture issued recommendations to the US Government, one of which was to abolish use of restraint chairs as a method of restraining people in custody, on the ground that their use led to breaches of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment .

The American Correctional Association (ACA) standards also ban the use of restraints as punishment, and state that four-point restraint should be used only in extreme instances and only when other types of restraint have proven to be ineffective and should not be applied in any event ''for more time than is absolutely necessary''.

The chairs are routinely used in some facilities to punish or control prisoners who are disruptive but not a danger to themselves or others.

In 2002, Amnesty International documented 11 cases where the restraint chair was a factor in inmate deaths. Today, Amnesty has documented 19 restraint chair-related deaths in the past decade. Amnesty International is calling on all authorities to restrict or ban the use of restraint chairs in their facilities. They are concerned that prisoners are subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of the USA's obligations under international human rights standards and treaties --

The International Covenant on Civil and political Rights to which the USA is a state party specifies that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" (Article 7) as does the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment.

Jails stop restraint chair useDevices linked to deaths of 3 inmates in 10 years
Lindsey Collom, The Arizona Republic Aug. 22, 2006: Restraint chairs that have been connected to at least three inmate deaths will no longer be used in Maricopa County jails. Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Monday said that the controversial chairs used since the 1970s have been replaced with beds…

In March, a federal court jury awarded $9 million to the parents of Charles Agster III, who died in 2001 after being strapped into a restraint chair at a Maricopa County jail. It was second time in a decade that the county and Sheriff's Office had to pay millions of dollars from lawsuits stemming from the deaths of inmates strapped into the devices.

In January 1999, the county settled for $8.25 million in the 1996 death of Scott Norberg. Autopsies of both men indicated they died of positional asphyxia. Both also had meth in their systems. Arpaio contends that it was the drugs and not the restraint device that triggered their deaths.

Attorney Michael Manning, who represented the Agster and Norberg families, said Arpaio has "finally gotten the message that (the chairs) are utterly inappropriate and lethal." Manning said his clients' would not have pursued lawsuits "had the sheriff just apologized to them and made these changes so other kids wouldn't die, so this is very gratifying," Manning said. "It's tragic that it's taken this long."

Restraint chairs have been utilized in county jails since the 1970s, but Arpaio said he feels it was "time to move in the direction of what many hospitals and psychiatric wards do to restrain combative people."

Until now, Maricopa County jails have used safe beds only to restrain psychiatric patients. The restraint chair was thought of as a "good tool" and still is, Arpaio said.But Amnesty International has urged authorities to restrict or ban the use of restraint chairs until the federal government initiates a national inquiry into the use of the devices in U.S. detention and correctional facilities.

Solitary Confinement
In solitary, prisoners are locked in small, claustrophobic cells 24 hours a day ... One CIA researcher in Canada, Dr. Donald Hebb, discovered, the effect of isolation on the brain function of the prisoner is much like that which occurs if he is beaten, starved, or deprived of sleep.

He found that normal brain function is severely impaired if a person is deprived of the complex sensory stimulation of normal social environments. In fact, the CIA’s psychiatrist found that sensory deprivation can produce major mental and behavioral changes in man and produces psychosis more naturally and consistently than drugs and physical torture.

The CIA embodied the findings of these and other studies in its 1963 torture manual KUBORK: Counterintelligence Interrogation" where it confirmed that: 1. The deprivation of sensory stimuli induces stress; 2. The stress becomes unbearable to most subjects; 3. The subject a growing need for physical and social stimuli, and, 4. Some subjects progressively lose touch with reality, focus inwardly, and produce delusions, hallucinations, and other pathological effects.

The nature of being housed in a 6X 10 foot cell for 23 or 24 hours a day disposes prisoners to losing touch with reality and exhibiting signs and symptoms of psychiatric decompensation. The psychological effects of severe and prolonged social isolation and reduced environmental stimulation commonly lead to the development of psychosis-like symptoms, including anxiety, hyper-responsiveness to external stimuli, perceptual distortions and hallucinations, a feeling of unreality, difficulty with concentration and memory, acute confusional states, motor excitement, violent destructive or self-mutilatory outbursts, and rapid subsidence of symptoms upon termination of isolation.

The Human Rights Committee ruled that solitary confinement of just one month in a cell with 24 hour a day artificial light was torture.

The European Convention on Human Rights said ...complete sensory isolation coupled with complete social isolation can destroy the personality.

The existence and scope of these conditions are also in opposition to guidelines for treatment set in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners...

Dr. Stuart Grassian, an expert on the results of living in extended isolation, has commented at length on the psychiatric harm that can come to people subjected to long-term isolation. He interviewed people who began to cut themselves just so they can "feel" something and reports panic attacks and a progressive inability to tolerate ordinary stimulation. Isolation has been documented as a cause of paranoia, problems with impulse control, extreme motor restlessness, delusions, suspiciousness, confusion, and depression. I have treated a number of ex-control unit prisoners who come out with serious symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress.