The United States leads the developed world in the number and percentage of children it locks up. A large number – more than 90,000 in each of the past five years, and some as young as at age 13 – are held in adult jails and prisons, where they are often isolated from the other prisoners for their own protection. They don’t fare much better in many state juvenile facilities, where isolation practices, some deemed excessive by the Department of Justice, are widely reported.
Solitary confinement – being held in isolation for 22-24 hours a day, day in and day out – can be harmful even for adults. But the potential damage to children, who do not have the maturity and resilience of an adult and are at a particularly vulnerable, formative stage of life, is much greater.
“Kids who had been in solitary told me how they lost control. They described fits of rage, anxiety attacks, depression. They told me about being denied adequate exercise, books and education, family visits. “The only thing left to do is go crazy – just sit and talk to the walls,” a youth confined in Florida told me. “Screaming, throwing stuff around – I feel like I am alone, like no one cares about me. Sometimes I feel like, why am I even living?” More than a few spoke in candid detail about trying to kill themselves. In fact, more than half of all suicides in juvenile facilities occurred when children were in isolation.”
- Ian Kysel, Human Rights Watch fellow. Read more here.
Photo: A cell at the Pinellas County jail, an adult facility where young people are held in solitary confinement. One girl interviewed for the report said she spent four months in isolation there. © 2008 AP Photo/Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
“For members of Congress and candidates for Congress spend anywhere between 30% and 70% of their time raising money from this tiny, tiny slice of us. Think of a rat in a Skinner box, learning which buttons to push to get pellets of food, and you have a pretty good sense of the life of a congressman: a constant attention to what must be done to raise money, and to raise money not from all of us, but from the tiniest slice of the 1% of us. And so what issues might that tiny, tiny slice of the 1% care about? Unemployment? Out-of-control health care costs? Actually reforming Wall Street? Obviously not. The issues that matter to this tiny fraction of the 1% are not the issues that matter to America. This is the corruption of USA-land. And it will only ever change if we change the way we fund elections.”
The New Yorker’s David Remnick urges President Obama to address climate change during his second term in a Kennedy-esque “we choose to go to the Moon” fashion.
Barack Obama can take pride in having fought off a formidable array of deep-pocketed revanchists. As President, however, he is faced…
The NYPD and other police departments received some international condemnation on Friday by the OSCE (Organization of Security Cooperation in Europe) for its treatment of journalists and protesters during Occupy rallies. The OSCE, of which the US is itself a part, surveyed various countries and their responses to freedom of assembly, and released a report in Vienna on Friday. The report concluded that the practices of kettling protesters and obstructing journalist access, among other actions, amounted to violations of human rights standards based on OSCE member country commitments.
The report, which importantly highlights that in dealing with freedom of the press, police ought not to make distinctions between credentialed journalists and citizen journalists, says this:
Restrictions on the activities of journalists such as the ones imposed during the eviction of the Occupy camps in Los Angeles and New York appear to have been imposed also with the purpose of limiting coverage by the media of these events. As such, they are not in line with relevant OSCE commitments and other human rights standards.
Read the full report here.
And read what a guest writer on this blog had to say about her experiences as a Muslim-American and a hijabi Occupy demonstrator when she was part of those rounded up by the NYPD.
Photo: A man is arrested during protests marking Occupy’s first anniversary this past September. Ramin Talaie/EPA.
After nearly 10 years, military trials at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp have produced a total of six convictions. One of those was Australian David Hicks, who agreed to a plea bargain under which he would be sent back to Australia to serve out his sentence. On his release, he wrote a book about his experiences. Under Australian “proceeds of crime” laws, the earnings from books about a criminal career are liable to confiscation, and the Australian government accordingly froze the proceeds and took action to have them forfeited.
The news today is that the Director of Public Prosecutions has abandoned the actions and paid Hicks’ legal costs. Although no rationale was given, the general presumption is that the US conviction would not stand up in an Australian court, either because (as Hicks alleged) Hicks’ guilty plea was extracted by torture, or because the whole system failed to meet basic standards of due process. Most simple of all is the fact that, unlike the usual case of plea bargaining, the options aren’t pleading guilty or going to trial. Rather those who plead guilty get a definite (and usually relatively short) sentence on top of their detention, while those who do not are held indefinitely without trial.