Abu Ghraib, USA

This article is from some time ago (no date available) but in it you will read about the Utah prisons and torture. So therefore we publish it here.
Source: The Progressive.

Abu Ghraib, USA

By Anne-Marie Cusac

When I first saw the photo, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison, of a hooded and robed figure strung with electrical wiring, I thought of the Sacramento, California, city jail.

When I heard that dogs had been used to intimidate and bite at least one detainee at Abu Ghraib, I thought of the training video shown at the Brazoria County Detention Center in Texas.

When I learned that the male inmates at Abu Ghraib were forced to wear women’s underwear, I thought of the Maricopa County jails in Phoenix, Arizona.

And when I saw the photos of the naked bodies restrained in grotesque and clearly uncomfortable positions, I thought of the Utah prison system.
Donald Rumsfeld said of the abuse when he visited Abu Ghraib on May 13, “It doesn’t represent American values.”

But the images from Iraq looked all too American to me.

I’ve been reporting on abuse and mistreatment in our nation’s jails and prisons for the last eight years. What I have found is widespread disregard for human rights. Sadism, in some locations, is casual and almost routine.
Reporters and commentators keep asking, how could this happen? My question is, why are we surprised when many of these same practices are occurring at home?
For one thing, the photos of prison abuse in the United States have not received nearly the attention that the Abu Ghraib photos did. And maybe we have so dehumanized U.S. prisoners that we have become as distant from them as we are from foreign captives in faraway lands.

In February 1999, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department settled a class-action lawsuit alleging numerous acts of torture, including mock executions, where guards strapped inmates into a restraint chair, covered their faces with masks, and told the inmates they were about to be electrocuted.

When I read a report in The Guardian of London of May 14 that it had “learned of ordinary soldiers who . . . were taught to perform mock executions,” I couldn’t help but remember the jail.

Then there’s the training video used at the Brazoria County Detention Center in Texas. In addition to footage of beatings and stun gun use, the videotape included scenes of guards encouraging dogs to bite inmates.
The jail system in Maricopa County is well known for its practice of requiring inmates to wear pink underwear, and it is notorious for using stun guns and restraint chairs. In 1996, jail staff placed Scott Norberg in a restraint chair, shocked him twenty-one times with stun guns, and gagged him until he turned blue, according to news reports. Norberg died. His family filed a wrongful lawsuit against the jails and subsequently received an $8 million settlement, one of the largest in Arizona history. However, the settlement included no admission of wrongdoing on the part of the jail.
The Red Cross also says that inmates at the Abu Ghraib jail suffer “prolonged exposure while hooded to the sun over several hours, including during the hottest time of the day when temperatures could reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.” Many of the Maricopa County Jail system inmates live outdoors in tent cities, even on days that reach 120 degrees in the shade. During last year’s heat wave, the Associated Press reported that temperatures inside the jail tents reached 138 degrees.

Two of the guards at Abu Ghraib, Ivan L. (Chip) Frederick II and Charles Graner, had careers back home as corrections officers. Graner, whom The New York Times has described as one of “the most feared and loathed of the American guards” at Abu Ghraib, worked at Greene County Prison in Pennsylvania. According to a 1998 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, guards at the Greene facility behaved in ways that eerily anticipate the allegations from Abu Ghraib.
At Abu Ghraib, according to the investigation Major General Antonio M. Taguba carried out on behalf of the U.S. Army, there was “credible” evidence that one inmate suffered forced sodomy “with a chemical light and perhaps a broom handle.” The Taguba report says U.S. soldiers were involved in “forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing” and “forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped.” Guards beat inmates and wrote insulting epithets on their bodies.

The Post-Gazette reported that guards at the Greene County prison beat inmates, sodomized inmates with nightsticks, and conducted “nude searches in which every body orifice is examined in full view of other guards and prisoners.” An inmate claimed that guards had used his blood to write “KKK” on the floor.
Although twelve guards eventually lost their jobs, Graner was, according to The New York Times, “not involved in that scandal.” A lawsuit by an inmate who had been held at Greene accused Graner of beatings and other mistreatment, though the lawsuit ended up being dismissed.

Guy Womack, attorney for Graner, told CNN, “And, of course, in Abu Ghraib what he did–which was bad enough–is he was following orders. So he did nothing that was wrong. He was following lawful orders.” Womack failed to return several telephone calls from The Progressive requesting comment.
At the very least, Graner moved from one prison where abuse was commonplace to another. Abu Ghraib was a familiar environment.

In a Utah prison, Michael Valent, a mentally ill prisoner, died after spending sixteen hours nude in a restraint chair in March 1997. As it turns out, Valent’s death has a connection to Abu Ghraib. Lane McCotter was serving as the director of the Utah State Prison system on the day that Valent was put in a restraint chair. After Valent died, McCotter resigned. Six years later, McCotter was in charge of reconstructing Abu Ghraib, though he has denied involvement in the abuses.

Read more here.

See also DemocracyNow! from 2004 with an interview about McCotter and Deland by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

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