FBI REPORT (7/29/04): On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold...On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.
The article over at the Daily Howler tries to make this look like torture, and more importantly, tries to make something hideous out of this paragraph. Well, folks, it's time to get a clue. I've worked in and around jails and prisons my whole adult life, and what is described in that paragraph sounds like Standard Correctional Practice as used in jails and prisons all across the United States.
Let me do a little fisking of that one paragraph and you'll see what I mean.
I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water.
This looks to me like a standard preventive practice as used in many jails and prisons. Inmates who want to harm themselves or others are normally segregated into private cells. Those cells are devoid of furniture, because furniture can be used as weapons or tools of suicide. Correctional officers are charged with the care, custody, and control of prisoners, and that care extends to not letting them harm themselves if possible. While the ACA doesn't publish its standards for jails or prisons, I managed to find a small lesson plan from the Texas prison system here. Lets look at one paragraph out of that document. It describes steps to take when an inmate is threatening to harm himself or others:
All suicidal inmates should be housed in suicide-resistant, protrusion-free cells located in high traffic/visibility areas
Belts, ties, shoelaces, suspenders should be removed but the inmate should be allowed to keep other clothing unless their behavior indicates otherwise. If clothing is removed, a paper gown should be issued
In most cases, constant watch status should not require clothing removal or restraint application
The national correctional standard of audio monitoring and/or closed circuit TV should not be utilized as replacement for staff observation
The removal of clothing and applying restraints should only be used as a last resort for use in periods where the inmate is physically engaging in self-destructive behavior
Please note that the cell is required to be suicide resistant and protrusion free. That belts, suspenders, and shoelaces are removed, but that clothing should be allowed UNLESS behavior indicates otherwise. When you've seen a guy hang himself with a pair of bluejeans, you learn to take their pants. Also note that applying restraints is a last resort, but is not forbidden. When you have watched a naked guy try to commit suicide by slamming his head against a wall, you learn to apply restraints. Paper garments, you ask? Well, paper garments can be woven into ropes for hanging and wadded into balls for trying to commit suicide by choking. I've seen it. Sometimes all you can do for the prisoner is leave him naked.
Correctional officers are responsible for returning a family member, a loved one, back into freedom, relatively free from injury. If your family member went into the jail and came out dead, you would sue someone.
As a long time cop and correction hand, I am here to tell you that the treatment described in the report is standard practice. It ain't common, but it isn't unheard of, either.
Lets go back to the FBI report, shall we?
Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more.Inmates in this situation often urinate or defecate on themselves. In my experience, there is always a facility for them to use, but often, the shock value of voiding on the floor is preferred to doing it in the toilet. Every jail I have worked in was cleaned thoroughly at least once a day. Often more than that. However, when you clean a cell, and five minutes later the inmate craps on the floor, it is easy to take an hour or more before you clean it again.
Back to the report.
On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold...Yeah, this is standard practice too. Jails and prisons are kept cold because bacteria, viruses, and germs don't thrive in cold conditions. If you want to keep your jail healthy, turn down the air conditioning and issue blankets. Most jails I worked in kept the A/C at about 62 degrees all the time. It keeps the mold from taking over the place. Now, if you are a jail inmate, and you are suicidal, I am going to put you in one of those minimalist cells until I can get you to a psychiatrist. For about 72 hours, you are going to be in a steel or concrete room, and the A/C is going to be set at about 62 degrees. If you are an active suicide, you will be naked. Standard correctional practice.
Back to the report:
On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees.Not all jails are climate controlled. Many state prisons are not. The Correctional Community is trying to fix that, but the fact remains that there are still jails in the US without A/C. Again, imagine living at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, near Angola, LA in the summer without air conditioning. It sucks, but then again, it is supposed to.
Back to the report:
The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night.I've seen this, too. Guys do weird things when locked up. They try to hurt themselves any way they can.
So, just looking at one paragraph of the FBI report, I can say with some authority that most correctional professionals have seen the same things and worse at jails and prisons all over the United States. It sounds tough, and it is. Working in a jail or prison is the most intense education any person will ever recieve in human psychology.
Yeah, sometimes jailers snap, go over the edge, and mistreat prisoners. The vast majority don't. The ones that do are fired, and sometimes prosecuted. Professional correctional staff take very seriously the triple duties of Care, Custody and Control. Those three are the trilogy of correctional work.
But, to my good friends on the left, I would love it if you would educate yourself on the necessities of correctional work before you accuse the jailers at Gitmo of crimes against humanity. Better yet, hie yourself down to the local jail and fill out an application. Good jailers are hard to find. Working in a jail or prison is honorable service and the staff there always needs good replacements.
Or, just know that men and women across the United States are doing a dangerous, thankless job that keeps you safe. Our brethren at Guantanamo are doing a job that keeps the entire United States safe. If you don't want to get involved, the least you can do is educate yourself on Standard Correctional Practice.