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(en) US, Oakland, Ca. The Dawn #1 - From CYA Stockton to Abu Ghraib: Prisoner Abuse at Home and Abroad

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.the-dawn.org)
Date Sat, 17 Jul 2004 21:25:57 +0200 (CEST)


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For the past few months we have seen horrific photos depicting
prisoner abuse by US troops and contractors stream out of Abu
Ghraib Prison. The photos are shocking and twisted to most, except
to the cruel and heartless who shrug it off as the cost of war.
Meanwhile, politicians are busy doing their finger pointing,
psychologists are on every news program promoting their recently
concocted syndrome to explain the soldiers' actions, and slimy
lawyers (like UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo) attempt to
justify this type of abuse by making it not punishable under the
Geneva Conventions. Cause hey, if it isn't illegal, it must be right.

Incarceration = Humiliation

Prison strips one of their humanity by separating them from their
loved ones, controlling their every move, and forcing them to live in
a cage like an animal.

On May 6, 2004, when President Bush was
meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, he offered a pathetic
public apology to the abused Iraqi prisoners. In his speech, his lack
of sincerity was disgustingly apparent, and it was clear that he only
worried about how this “scandal” affected his international
reputation. Bush commented, “I told [King Abdullah II] I was
sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the
humiliation suffered by their families. I told him I was equally sorry
that people who have been seeing those pictures didn't
understand the true nature and heart of America.”

But is the true nature of America based on humiliation and cruelty?
Well yes and no. I can honestly say that it is not the true nature of a
majority of the American people. My neighbors, friends, and family
– ordinary people who live, work, and die.

But it is the true nature of government, whose authority is based on
coercion through force. As an arm of the state, prisons use
punishment and humiliation to execute the will of a elite few,
whether it be at home or in Iraq. Prison strips one of their humanity
by separating them from their loved ones, controlling their every
move, and forcing them to live in a cage like an animal. When a
person is released from a correctional institution, society labels
her/him a felon, forever a criminal who is ostracized and
discriminated upon when looking for a home and employment.

What has been rarely emphasized in the mainstream press is that a
couple of the US soldiers charged with abusing prisoners in Abu
Ghraib work as prison guards back home. When one, Staff Sgt. Ivan
“Chip” Frederick, was asked by BBC news why he
committed the acts, he responded he and his fellow reservists had
never been told how to deal with prisoners or what lines should not
be crossed. “We had no training whatsoever,” he said,
“I kept asking my chain of command for certain things…like
rules and regulations. And it just wasn't happening.”

This statement begs one to question the treatment of prisoners at
home.

There are 1.4 million people in this country who are prisoners in the
state's penitentiaries, all branded by the media and society as
sick and dangerous criminals.

We have to admit it. What was shown
in those pictures happens at home but with less media attention,
less government accountability, and less international outrage. A
friend who wrote to me recently from Georgia State Prison stressed
this point. He remarked, “Even though this prison I'm in is
classified as maximum security, it is severely understaffed. Been
like this for a minute, but ever since war-mongering Bush began his
quest for world-wide dominance, a lot of the cops who work here
were shipped out cause they were in the reserves or National
Guards. Now a lot of them were thug officers. Hittin' us with
sticks, denying us food, lying on us, etc., and they did that at
“home” to people who look like them (Black officers) –
so you know they are raising hell over there.”

There are 1.4 million people in this country who are prisoners in the
state's penitentiaries, all branded by the media and society as
sick and dangerous criminals. There are so many prisoners in
California, that at many institutions, three people are cramped into
cells meant for two. As Americans, we are conditioned to fear these
men and women. Once a person crosses a prison's gates, we
are told that they not human beings and any abuse given to them
are justified. Countless cases are reported of prison authorities
abusing their power. The 1993 rape of California inmate Eddie
Dillard (set up by prison guards at the Corcoran institution), the
1999 death of Florida inmate Frank Valdez (with boot imprints
covering his corpse), and most recently, the abuse of teens at the
California Youth Authority (CYA) lockup near Stockton. As a slap
in the face to the families of the teens, both the San Joaquin County
district attorney and State Attorney General refused to prosecute the
guards shown in the released video footage repeatedly punching a
motionless teenager.
One law for them, another for us

“To the league of prisoners there is opposed the league of
jailers. It is the institution which makes them what they are –
petty, mean persecutors.”

One thing is for certain. Law is
privilege and the state does not persecute its allies. If ever used
against the rich and powerful, they are, at most, given a slap on the
wrist. For example, compare the one year sentence awarded to
former Enron executive Lea Fastow for conspiring to steal millions
and the two twenty-five-to-life sentences inflicted on three strike
victim Leandro Andrade for stealing $150 worth of video tapes from
Kmart, meant to be Christmas gifts for his nieces.

These abuses will continue as long as we live in a world with a
privileged elite who has the authority to decide who and what
actions are “illegal” and a brutal punishment system in
place to protect their interests. Over a hundred years ago, Russian
anarchist Peter Kropotkin saw the uselessness of
“correctional” institutions and noted on prison guards,
“You cannot give an individual any authority without corrupting
him. He will abuse it. He will be less scrupulous and feel his
authority even more when his sphere of action is limited. Forced to
live in any enemy's camp, the guards cannot become models of
kindness. To the league of prisoners there is opposed the league of
jailers. It is the institution which makes them what they are –
petty, mean persecutors.”

Here's a list of local contact information for groups that offer
support to prisoners and/or are working to abolish the prison
system:

* Critical Resistance, the Oakland chapter of Critical Resistance
meets at 7pm on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 1904
Franklin St, Suite 504. (510) 444-0484
* Books Not Bars, Ella Baker Center, (415) 951-4844
* Prison Activist Resource Center, Oakland, (510) 893-4648
* Prisoners Literature Project (the Bay Area books thru bars
program), meets at 2022 Blake St., Berkeley, every Tues. And
Weds. at 7pm and Sun. at 5pm.
* Break the Chains
* Anarchist Black Cross Federation
* Anarchist Black Cross Network
expose your community
There's not a local ABC group in the Bay Area. With California
being one of the states leading the campaign of incarceration of the
poor, it's a damn shame. Anyone interested in starting one?
Mei Lingg
================================================
The dawn is a voice for anarchist-communism.


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