THE HANDSTAND

JULY 2007

 
U.S.A.PRISONS - ABUSE OF PRISONERS INVESTIGATED


Hendry Guards Charged with Abusing Inmates



Astounded by what happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, most Americans
looked on in disbelief. Quick to dismiss US soldiers' behavior as an
apparition, it showed their total ignorance of what really goes on inside
US prisons. Accordingly, The DISH presents this very limited exposť of
two states where compassionate conservatives Jeb and George W. Bush were
governors. In these states, prisoner abuse is commonplace.



On Tuesday (5-1-07), prosecutors in Tallahassee, Florida issued arrest
warrants for eight former prison employees at the Hendry Correctional
Institution in the Everglades. Guards at the medium to minimum security
605-bed prison for men are charged with criminal abuse of inmates, battery
and failure to report inmate abuse.



Department of Corrections Secretary James McDonough said "a cabal" of
officers sadistically tormented prisoners with "dehumanizing, improper,
illegal, heinous and despicable acts. Using the threat of force - beating
and choking - prison employees, including the warden and assistant warden,
compelled inmates to clean toilets with their tongues. Done apparently in
an organized and conspiratorial fashion, inmates were forced to choose
between eating their food off of floors or providing sexual favors to
guards." The abusers face a combined 23 state criminal charges. The FBI
and U.S. Attorney are reportedly looking into civil rights violations
connected to these cases.



Charges Filed in Florida Boot Camp Death



Seven former juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse were charged with
aggravated manslaughter in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson,
who collapsed in the exercise yard at the Bay County sheriff's boot camp
in Panama City, Florida on January 5, 2005. Anderson was beaten by guards
who said he was uncooperative and refused to continue participating in
boot camp intake exercises. Anderson's death was captured on videotape.



Initially, the medical examiner's autopsy claimed Anderson died of
complications from sickle cell, a usually benign blood disorder in blacks.
However, a second autopsy ruled Anderson suffocated due to the guards'
actions. Anderson's death caused the state's top law enforcement officer
to resign and the military-style boot camp's elimination. The Associated
Press.




Deadly Restraint



Officers said Paul Choy, a 5' 4", fifteen-year-old, refused to comply with
punishment for failing to finish a five-mile run (2-4-92). Choy was
restrained by two staff members with a choke hold for ten minutes. When
the officers released their hold, Choy was no longer breathing.



A nurse trained to identify signs of sexual assault observed injuries
consistent with anal rape. "His was the first such case to come to my
attention. Now, I've lost count of the number of children killed by
suffocation in custodial settings. Yes, I said ‘suffocation.' I know the
preferred euphemism here is ‘accidental restraint-related death.' But out
of respect for the victims and for the English language, I opt to use the
other word."



Blaming the victim, officials said, "Paul was too frail a boy for boot
camp. He didn't have the ‘athletic ability.' He should have been sent
somewhere else. His ‘accident' was the result of an unfortunate
bureaucratic oversight. They miscalculated, sending a puny, little Asian
kid to a camp designed for tough young thugs (niggers), who are inured to
being knocked around--ones who would benefit from being marched and
exercised to exhaustion and could safely bounce back from almost ‘any
amount of brutal treatment.'



Paul's demise was part of ‘the window of loss,' similar to an egg in a
large shipment to market. One must expect some breakage, particularly
among the ones with prior defects. It's the price of doing business."
Whenever the subject of young people dying violently in custodial settings
make the news, which is becoming more frequent as larger numbers of them
are funneled into that industry, there is a call for better trained staff,
rather than examining the efficacy of the whole notion of punishment,
particularly in isolated settings. See www.nospank.net/camps for more.







Texas: A Hellhole of Abuse
By John Burl Smith



Morales v. Turman (1977), a federal lawsuit to reform Texas' juvenile
detention system, as well as end the physical abuse of incarcerated
youths, required observation monitors. According to monitor Steve Bercu,
"Within days after we arrived, the culture inside the institutions
reverted to what it was before. They were beating kids up, and doing bad
things just like before. Texas' ingrained, entrenched, institutional
culture, simply took over again."



On Tuesday (5-1-07), police went to 22 Texas Youth Commission (TYC)
facilities and its headquarters in Austin to investigate claims that young
inmates were sexually abused and that TYC officials covered it up. TYC
houses about 2,700 youth ages 10 to 21. A 2005 investigation unearthed
evidence that high-ranking officials at its West Texas State School in
Pyote had repeated sexual contact with some of the 250 youth housed there.



Charged with abuses dating from October 2004, the former assistant
superintendent at TYC's West Texas State School was indicted on two counts
of improper relationship with students and two counts of improper sexual
activity with a person in custody. The former principal was indicted on
one count of sexual assault, nine counts of improper sexual activity with
a person in custody and nine counts of improper relationship between a
student and an educator.



Amidst headlines of a crackdown on illegal sexual encounters between
agency employees and their charges, a halfway house employee in Fort
Worth, Texas was arrested (4-25-07) and accused of trying to entice a girl
to perform oral sex. On April 30, health services auditors disclosed that
a rape at a state youth lockup was not reported or followed up, along with
myriads of other problems ranging from delayed treatment to lack of
psychiatric care.



Then came this bomb shell, superintendent of the high-security juvenile
prison, Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg, Texas was fired
(4-29-07) amid allegations of inmate abuse. Texas continues to be a
"hellhole of abuse" for youth even after Morales. State officials have
opened 27 investigations into inmate complaints of abuse at Evins.



A US Attorney's report said that the prison's high levels of violence,
overcrowding, and an inadequate number of guards violated inmates'
constitutional rights. Inmate-on-inmate assaults were five times the
national average for a comparable facility.







News You Use
When Kids Get Life



In 1992, the US ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, which requires that juvenile imprisonment focus on rehabilitation.
However, the US reserved the right to sentence juveniles to life without
parole in extreme cases involving the most hardened of criminals.



According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, more than 2,000
inmates are currently serving life without parole in the US for crimes
committed when they were juveniles. Worldwide, the US is one of the only
countries that allows children under 18 to be sentenced to life without
parole. Figures reported by the UN' Convention on the Rights of the Child
show only 12 juveniles are serving such sentences outside the US.



In When Kids Get Life, FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel (The O.J. Verdict,
Innocence Lost) profiles five individuals sentenced to life without parole
as juveniles in Colorado, an early pioneer in juvenile justice that
focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment. According to Bikel, the
focus on rehabilitation took a sharp turn in the late 1980s and 1990s,
when violent crimes by young offenders increased and attracted enormous
press coverage. In response, legislators nationwide clamped down. The
Colorado General Assembly eliminated the possibility of parole for life
sentences and expanded the power of district attorneys to treat juveniles
as adults.



For more on the young men sentenced to live without parole, their victims
and the ongoing debate on juvenile justice and the harsh punishments meted
out to youthful offenders, visit www.pbs.org, where you can view the video
When Kids Get Life.



The DISH Vol. 10 No 20