Magazine article New Internationalist

Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading

Magazine article New Internationalist

Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading

Article excerpt

There are nearly two million people in prison in the United States.

These are some of the devices used in these prisons.

The restraint chair is a steel-framed chair in which the prisoner is immobilized with four-point restraints securing both arms and legs and straps which are tightened across the shoulders and chest. The prisoner's arms are pulled down towards his ankles and padlocked and his legs secured in metal shackles. Prisoners are often left strapped in restraint chairs for extended periods in their own urine and excrement.

A stun gun is a hand-held weapon with two metal prongs which emits an electrical shock of roughly 50,000 volts. The use of stun guns and stun belts is widespread. The belt on the prisoner is activated by a button on the stun gun held by a prison guard. The shock causes severe pain and instant incapacitation. This has been described as torture by remote control.

Mentally disturbed prisoners have been bound, spread-eagled on boards for prolonged periods in four-point restraints without medical authorization or supervision. It is common practice for prisoners to be shackled during transportation by leg irons or chains. Pregnant women are not excluded. Sexual abuse and rape by guards and inmates in these prisons are commonplace.

In 1997 thirty-six states operated fifty-seven 'supermax' facilities housing 13,000 prisoners. More are under construction. These are super maximum security facilities. They are designed for isolation of dangerous prisoners but in fact prisoners may be assigned to 'supermax' units for relatively minor disciplinary infractions, such as insolence towards staff or, in the case of both men and women, complaints about sexual abuse. …

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