How the rest of the world sees our prison system

Lauri Love is accused by the U.S. government of hacking of the computer systems of various U.S. military agencies in the 2012 and 2013. He was arrested in Britain, a nation that we have an extradition treaty with.
So end of story, right? Nope.

A British appeals court on Monday rejected demands from the U.S. government for the extradition of an accused British hacker, Lauri Love, citing the inability of U.S. prisons to humanely and adequately treat his medical and mental health ailments. Extradition to the U.S., the court ruled, would be “oppressive by reason of his physical and mental condition.”
Rejecting the prosecutor’s pleas that “the British courts should trust the United States to provide what it said it would provide” in order to secure Love’s health and safety, the court instead invoked extensive medical and psychological testimony that conditions inside American prisons are woefully inadequate to treat Love’s ailments.

That happened this week.
This is not unprecedented. In 2012, Britain's home secretary, Theresa May, blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon, a British citizen who was wanted for hacking into the Pentagon. The justification used was McKinnon's health.

Those two examples are nothing compared to the 2015 case of Ali Charaf Damache.

Irish High Court Justice Aileen Donnelly went as far as to write a 333-page report about why the suspect shouldn’t be extradited. One highlight from the court’s ruling was that incarceration at ADX Florence prison would amount to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Donnelly said the prison “amounts to a breach of the constitutional requirement to protect persons from inhuman and degrading treatment and to respect the dignity of the human being.”
“[P]rolonged exposure to involuntary solitary confinement exacts a significant physiological toll, is damaging to the integrity of the mind and personality, and is damaging to the bodily integrity of the person,” she continued.
...Lawyers have even argued that incarceration at ADX Florence is worse than the death penalty. Defense expert Mark Bezy called it “a mechanism to cut off an inmate’s communications with the outside world.”

In 2016, Germany refused to extradite a murderer to the U.S. because of concerns that it would amount to a death sentence.

As you might imagine, the U.N. decided to investigate torture in the U.S. prison system.
That was in 2010.

Fast-forward five years. The U.S. government has yet to grant Mendez access to a single isolation pod in any U.S. prison. The clock is ticking. Mendez has a mere 20 months left of his term, and he has yet been able to substantiate his reports with a firsthand investigation.
“The U.S. was voted into the Human Rights Council—a position that carries with it an obligation to cooperate," he says. When he speaks, Mendez wears a look of weary determination befitting of his post.
"I’m disappointed to still be waiting for the State Department to respond to my request. I’ve been waiting over two years.”
“That fact that he hasn’t received a response is contemptible,” says Laura Rovner, legal expert on prison conditions from University of Denver. “It puts the U.S. in the company of countries like Syria, Pakistan, and Russia that also have been unresponsive to requests for country visits.”

The fact that we've refused/ignored the request speaks volumes. We are ashamed of our prison system, but still refuse to do anything about it.
Without a formal inspection, the U.N. still published a report.

In its first review of the U.S. justice system since 2006, a United Nations committee has cited a long list of transgressions against international standards of human rights, from the use of water-boarding on terrorist suspects to shackling pregnant inmates in prisons, and the racially-charged police brutality on American streets.
Not shying away from some of the most pressing and overwhelming issues plaguing the U.S. criminal-justice system, the committee condemns the treatment of juveniles, with particular attention to rules that enable sentencing a minor to life without parole. It calls for these laws to be abolished, “irrespective of the crime committed.” The U.S. is one of three countries in the world, along with Somalia and South Sudan, that have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates that parties should have a minimum age for criminal prosecution.
Other issues raised in the report include prison conditions, the death penalty, and the migration crisis on the southern border of the U.S.

Syria, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia and South Sudan. That's who has comparable prison systems to the U.S.
Just a few months ago, the U.N. said that the use of tasers in some U.S. jails may be tantamount to torture.

As you might imagine, Amnesty International has something to say on the matter.

The US government’s callous and dehumanising practice of holding prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement in the country’s only federal super-maximum security prison amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is in violation of international law, said Amnesty International today.

If our nation's government had any shame at all, they would move to reform the system. Instead we are looking to make it worse.

One day after President Donald Trump invited Republican lawmakers to the White House to celebrate the historic tax cuts they passed for corporations and wealthy business leaders, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, quitely reinstated a draconian policy that effectively serves as a regressive tax on America’s poorest people.
A symbol of Victorian England’s inequitable nature made infamous by Charles Dickens, debtors’ prisons were banned in the United States in 1833. The Supreme Court has affirmed the unconstitutionality of jailing those too poor to pay debts on three different occasion in the last century, finding that the 14th Amendment prohibits incarceration for non-payment of exorbitant court-imposed fines or fees without an assessment of a person’s ability to pay and alternatives for those who cannot. “Punishing a person for his poverty” is illegal, the Court said. Yet in recent years the modern-day equivalent of debtors' prisons have returned, as cities have grown to rely on a punishing regime of fines and fees imposed on their own residents as a major stream of revenue.

A good example of how this system of punishing the poor for being poor works can be seen in an ongoing Oklahoma court case that is starting to get needed attention.

A follow-up to a FOX23 Investigation revealed a local lawsuit targeting what some say is a “statewide extortion scheme, aimed at targeting impoverished Oklahomans” is getting national attention.
FOX23 learned Oklahoma is one of a few states who fund their criminal justice system through court fines paid by the alleged criminals themselves.
Attorney Dan Smolen says this system is set up to squeeze as much money from the poor as possible.
FOX23 found out that in the early 1990s, the crime-funded court system came into being after voters approved State Question 640—which removed the funding from the taxpayers and into the hands of criminals.

Oklahoma is doing it wrong. If they really want a system where poor people pay for their own incarceration, and the system profits from it, there is already one that is proven to work - slavery.

26 users have voted.


the law sometimes matters

Sessions’ withdrawal of the letter on fines and fees cannot rescind these principles or the caselaw on which they are based. Nor can it stop the ongoing momentum behind reform of modern-day debtors’ prisons in places like Biloxi, Mississippi; Missouri; Ohio; Michigan; and New Hampshire.

Several weeks ago, a federal court ruled that New Orleans judges faced a conflict of interest in jailing poor people for unpaid fines because the judges control the money collected and rely on it for court funding. That same week, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction halting Michigan’s system for suspending driver’s licenses upon non-payment of traffic tickets due to constitutional concerns. And days later, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety agreed to reinstate the driver’s licenses of all drivers whose licenses were suspended for non-payment of court fines and fees.

There is no place in this country for a justice system that lets rich people buy their freedom while poor people are locked up or lose their driver’s licenses because they can’t afford to pay money to courts. The momentum for change will continue even as the current Justice Department declines to lead by encouraging fairness and equal treatment of rich and poor.

15 users have voted.

all in the name of profit

An unnamed, paralyzed prisoner in one of Corizon Correctional Healthcare's for-profit prisons in Arizona chewed part of his left hand off because Corizon refused to give him the correct medication for his pain.

In 2015, a group of prisoners successfully sued the state of Arizona and Corizon for their human rights abuses, and reached a settlement; but last October, federal judge David Duncan held that the state and Corizon have had "pervasive and intractable failures to comply" with its terms, asking Arizona prison health director Richard Pratt how he could sleep at night, knowing that the cancer patients he was responsible for were being denied care. Pratt blamed Corizon.

As the Prison Law Project files court documents detailing the state and Corizon's failure to comply with their settlement, new and horrifying abuses continue to come to light, including women with masses in their breasts being denied mammograms and being given Aleve for what turned out to be cancer pain; and a prisoner named Walter Jordan who died of untreated cancer.

a ray of hope

A Tennessee Republican wants his state to stop using private prisons.

It's an uphill battle, considering national private prison giant CoreCivic calls Nashville home and more than one-third of the state's 22,000 inmates are housed in CoreCivic prisons.

But Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Crosby, said the state should stop outsourcing its constitutional responsibility.

"The U.S. Constitution says that government is supposed to carry out justice," Faison said in a recent telephone interview.

"Our Tennessee state Constitution says that government is supposed to carry out justice, not, 'somebody who’s trying to make money gets to carry out justice.' That's crazy."

13 users have voted.
Meteor Man's picture

Thank-you for the comprehensive and incisive analysis gjohnsit. An addition to include judicial acceptance by The United States Supreme Court of the death penalty and homicide by cop:

In its conference of February 16, 2018, the court will consider petitions involving issues such as whether the death penalty in and of itself violates the Eighth Amendment, in light of contemporary standards of decency; . . . and whether, in deadly force shooting cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit erred by requiring that the jury must be instructed regarding the specific legal justifications for the use of deadly force, and that the usual less specific instructions regarding the use of excessive force are not adequate, when such a requirement is in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s decision in Scott v. Harris and subsequent decisions, which abrogated the use of special standards in deadly force cases and established “reasonableness” as the ultimate and only inquiry. (emphasis added)

In light of "contemporary standards of decency"? As construed by SCOTUS, America's contemporary standards of decency parallel Charles Manson.

This is the death penalty case:

Hidalgo v. Arizona
Issues: (1) Whether Arizona’s capital sentencing scheme, which includes so many aggravating circumstances that virtually every defendant convicted of first-degree murder is eligible for death, violates the Eighth Amendment; and (2) whether the death penalty in and of itself violates the Eighth Amendment, in light of contemporary standards of decency.

The lethal force case:

Kisela v. Hughes
Issues: (1) Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit erred in holding that Andrew Kisela, the police officer who found Amy Hughes walking down her driveway toward another woman while carrying a large kitchen knife, acted unreasonably when he shot and wounded Hughes after she ignored commands to drop the knife given Kisela’s well-founded belief that potentially lethal force was necessary to protect the other woman from an attack that could have serious or deadly consequences; and (2) whether the lower court erred—to the point of warranting summary reversal—in refusing qualified immunity in the absence of any precedent finding a Fourth Amendment violation based on similar facts and, indeed, ignoring a case with remarkably similar facts that found no constitutional violation.

Long story short, as long as a law enforcement officer has a "reasonable belief" that their life or the life of another is threatened then the use of lethal force is justified.

The implied parenthetical is that if a law enforcement officer cold blooded killer with a badge says they had a reasonable belief that their life was threatened then their use of lethal force was clearly justified.

13 users have voted.

"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

dkmich's picture

least worst?

4 users have voted.

"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

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22 years on death row

In Arizona

This shows how hard it is to get a wrong conviction overturned

And the expense of a journalist to cover the case.

The articles are very long. Fascinating.

There will be a part 3 later when the decision is made. It looks like the sentence will be reversed.

Prosecutors and judges and cops get a theory and a promotion and a high profile case and ride tunnel vision all the way and they continue and continue...

6 users have voted.