NPR Ignores Torture in United $tates
Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interview with a former prisoner in Iran to discuss the recent release of 5 Amerikan citizens from an Iranian prison. The focus was on the horrible effects of solitary confinement and how to adapt to being back in society.
In our 2008 survey of long-term solitary confinement in the United $tates, we found that there were over 90,000 people suffering in those conditions. It is strange for the NPR story to not have mentioned this problem at home as well, or how the oppressed people in this country fair after years in torture cells. The NPR report spoke of “death chambers” in the Iranian prison, yet the United $tates has electric and now injection chairs with viewing areas and what they call “death row” in prisons across this country (though only about a dozen states are actively murdering prisoners in recent years).
The United $tates has long had the highest imprisonment rate across the world. They even boasted a higher imprisonment rate of Black people than the internationally condemned apartheid regime in South Africa.
The one-sided depiction of prisons and solitary confinement in Iran on NPR revealed a strong bias in their reporting. Yet what was most shocking to learn was that these people coming out of Iranian prisons were being offered what sounded like a fully immersive program through the U.$. military for dealing with the mental anguish of being in long-term solitary confinement.
Really? Yet every year we have comrades who are released from the same conditions in this country with nothing but a parole officer watching over them, often sabotaging their efforts to maintain a job and build a new life. Tens of thousands of people every year are released from long-term solitary in the United $tates, either into general population prisons or to the streets, with no concern for their mental well-being from the state. Who the U.$. imperialists offer mental health services to is a political decision, and it is our politics that guide us to offer help to those the imperialists will not.
As of last week, the California Mandela Act (AB 280) passed a supermajority in the state house and senate, heading next to the desk of Governor Newsom. Newsom vetoed the Mandela Act just one year ago. An aspiring presidential candidate, Newsom is likely to reject the calls from the state legislator to stop this torture again. This is over a decade after the historic California hunger strikes that called for an end to long-term solitary confinement, leading to the 2015 Ashker vs. CDCR settlement where those sacrifices led only to individuals being released from the SHU, leaving the institution in place. [UPDATE: The bill has been stalled to negotiate with the Governor and will not be passed in 2023.]
For comrades currently suffering in torture cells in U.$. prisons, you can write to us for back issues of Under Lock & Key on solitary and materials from the American Friends Service Committee on dealing with isolation. For comrades who are getting out, who have spent long periods in solitary, our Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to offer mentoring, guidance and political engagement to ease the transition back into society. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone to get involved in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement in this country completely.
Because over 100,000 people face torture in solitary in the United $tates every year with no imperialist Army programs for rehabilitation offered afterwards, we must develop independent institutions of the oppressed to address this material need among the oppressed masses in this country.
Shut Down the Control Units