CMUs/Prison Conditions

  • Use of video visits for inmates grows, along with concerns

    Source: Associated Press. Four-year-old William Cole saw his father’s face and reached out to touch it during a jail visit. But he could only feel a video screen. The facility in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, is among a growing number of jails and prison systems across the U.S. in which video visitation has replaced the more familiar in-person visits, where people are in the same room but separated by thick glass. A report in January by the nonprofit found that 74 percent of county jails banned in-person visits when they started using video visitation. In Texas, of the 23 counties using video visitation, 13 have eliminated in-person visits.

  • How the CIA helped make “Zero Dark Thirty”

    Source: Frontline. When Zero Dark Thirty premiered in 2012, the Hollywood film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden became a blockbuster hit. Behind the scenes, the CIA secretly worked with the filmmakers, and the movie portrayed the agency’s controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” — widely described as torture — as a key to uncovering information that led to the finding and killing of bin Laden. But in Secrets, Politics and Torture, premiering this Tuesday, May 19 on PBS, FRONTLINE reveals the many challenges to that narrative, and the inside story of how it came to be. The documentary unspools the dueling versions of history laid out by the CIA, which maintains that its now officially-shuttered program was effective in combating terrorism, and the massive Senate torture report released in December 2014, which found that the program was brutal, mismanaged and — most importantly — didn’t work.

  • Homan Square detainee: I was sexually abused by police at Chicago ‘black site’

    Source: The Guardian (5/14): Homan Square detainee: I was sexually abused by police at Chicago ‘black site’
    For psychological reasons, Angel Perez does not call what happened to him rape. But he vividly recalls being taken to Homan Square, a warehouse used by the Chicago police for incommunicado detentions, where police inserted something into his rectum.Perez is now the 13th person the Guardian has interviewed since February who has described being taken by police to a warehouse on Chicago’s west side; kept without a record of his whereabouts available to the public; and shackled for hours or even days without access to a lawyer. Most of them have been poor and black or Hispanic. Some allege physical abuse; all allege that they were in an inherently coercive environment. Few were charged with a crime, and police took those who were to actual police stations for booking after detention at Homan. Police and local media have dismissed their stories, focusing instead on the atmospherics of how secretive the facility is or the rhetoric used to describe it.

  • Omar Khadr, once Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner, finally out of jail

    Source: The Intercept. Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was once the youngest inmate held at Guantánamo Bay, was today let out on bail from a Canadian prison — walking free for the first time since he was captured by U.S. forces when he was 15 years old. A judge today ruled that Khadr should be released from a medium security prison near Edmonton, Alberta, while he appeals his conviction for throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier during a raid near Ayub Khel, Afghanistan in 2002. Khadr, who spent nearly 10 years at Guantánamo, will live with his lawyer, Dennis Edney, and Edney’s wife. In the aftermath of the decision, which finally thwarted years of government attempts to keep Khadr behind bars, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney expressed disappointment with the ruling, lamenting the release of a “convicted terrorist.” To many, however, Khadr is not a terrorist but a long-abused child soldier.

  • Chicago creates reparations fund for victims of police torture

    NPR. The city of Chicago has become the first in the nation to create a reparations fund for victims of police torture, after the City Council unanimously approved the $5.5 million package. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the abuse and torture of scores of mostly black, male suspects in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s by former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives is a “stain that cannot be removed from our city’s history.”

  • UPDATE: Mumia Abu-Jamal taken from hospital back to prison; family limited to one visit a week

    Source: Democracy Now! After an international outcry authorities have allowed family members of imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal to visit him for the first time since he blacked out from diabetic shock in prison and woke up in an outside hospital. After the visits authorities limited Abu-Jamal’s family members to one meeting a week. All other meetings have been denied, including with his lawyers and longtime supporter Pam Africa, who is listed on his medical records as his emergency medical contact.

  • Prison dispatches from the war on terror: Gitmo detainee’s life an “endless horror movie”

    Source: The Intercept. Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, a Yemeni national who has been detained at the American prison facility at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, weighs only 98 pounds. Never charged with a crime, al-Alwi, now 35 years old, is one of many detainees at the camp who have gone on a prolonged hunger strike. As described in a recent petition submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) by his lawyers, al-Alwi’s mental and physical state is seriously deteriorating after two years on hunger strike, and subsequent force-feeding. Al-Alwi, who has described his strike as “a form of peaceful protest against injustice,” has said that he will not resume eating until there is some sort of legal resolution to his case. Prison officials have responded to his hunger strike by placing him in solitary confinement, denying him access to prescribed medical items and subjecting him to extreme temperatures in his cell.

  • The best-selling prisoner of Guantánamo

    Source: Slate. Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s attorney, Linda Moreno, traveled to the island prison to tell him his book, Guantánamo Diary, was a smash hit. She couldn’t even give him a copy. Slahi has been imprisoned for the past 14 years . The United States has never charged Mohamedou with any crime. In April 2010, a federal judge granted his habeas petition, ordering his release. But the government appealed, and he is still there.

  • Judge rules against prisoners In ‘Little Guantanamo’ lawsuit

    Source: Huffington Post. A federal judge ruled Monday against inmates who had challenged highly restrictive federal prison units, dealing a severe blow to their five-year attempt to close what are sometimes called Little Guantanamos. For years, advocates have complained about the special prison wings set up in the wake of 9/11 called “communication management units.” The units restrict prisoners’ links to the outside world, severely limiting phone time and barring contact with visitors. At first, most prisoners in the special wings were Muslims. Today, the inmates are more diverse.

  • How prison stints replaced study hall

    Source: Politico Magazine. Police officers in Meridian, Mississippi, were spending so much time hauling handcuffed students from school to the local juvenile jail that they began describing themselves as “just a taxi service.” Most of the children were arrested and jailed simply for violating school rules, often for trivial offenses. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit to stop the “taxi service” in Meridian’s public schools, where 86 percent of the students are black. The DOJ suit, still unresolved, said children were being incarcerated so “arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience.” The reality, though, is that Meridian’s taxi service is just one example of what amounts to a civil rights crisis in America: a “school-to-prison pipeline” that sucks vulnerable children out of the classroom at an alarming rate and funnels them into the harsh world of police, courts and prison cells.