US Prisons worse than Guatanamo, from the American Conservative magazine:
“U.S. prison officials have obtained greater and greater discretion to send someone to solitary confinement for years; to force people into their cells naked, without meals; to inflict punitive measures without any possibility of outside intervention. It’s often a closed system whose managers have all the authority, especially at our supermax facilities. They function in many ways like Guantánamo.”
Gitmo and Bagram were well within our capabilities before 9/11. Yes, it’s true that Bush administration officials and pundits told us with excitement about how, in our counterattack on al-Qaeda, “the gloves were coming off.” For a great many Americans already in U.S. prisons, however, those gloves had never gone on to begin with. This raises some vexing questions about how we budget our indignation. It is not at all clear why violent interrogations, abuse, and torture should be more scandalous when they happen overseas than in Chicago.
What explains this collective Jellybyism? Is it because so many of our domestic inmates, especially in the regions where national opinion is produced, are African American and Latino, whereas most of our professional social reformers in the nonprofit sector are white and Asian? Is it because most of our elite public-interest lawyers and white-shoe pro bono advocates come out of a top half-dozen law schools where they most likely got a nice taste of well-tended federal courts, but little if any exposure to our overburdened state criminal courts? Is it just too depressing to think about our crumbling, overstrained criminal justice system in Guantánamo-like terms? Does compassion fatigue for those atrocities closest at hand always set in first, and hardest? Whatever the reasons, the gaping legal black holes in our domestic justice and penal system have acquired the seamless invisibility of an open secret.
It is no coincidence that most of the American intellectuals who have pointed out these domestic precursors to the Global War on Terror — journalists like Margaret Kimberley and Bob Herbert, and law professor James Forman, Jr. — are African American. Black Americans, whose overall incarceration rate today is probably higher than that of Soviet citizens at the peak of the gulag, have had ample reasons over the centuries, and now as much as ever, to doubt the fundamental fairness of American justice. When advocates compare the military tribunals unfavorably to “the Cadillac version of justice” that U.S. citizens supposedly get (which was how one Gitmo defense attorney described America’s domestic courts), it is simply baffling to those aware of how our system actually works…