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by Peter Moskos

July 15, 2011

The California Prisoner Hunger Strike...

...enters it's second week. From the S.F. Weekly:
Activists and inmates say the strike is meant to call attention to inhumane conditions in Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU), where dangerous prisoners are lodged in small, windowless cells, often without access to other people or open space for extended periods. Critics of the SHU say that solitary confinement is equivalent to psychological torture, a position that is buttressed by recent scientific research.
Here's a more current update from The Nation.

Or, as Johann Koehler relates it to In Defense of Flogging in a thoughtful blog post:
The question of whether you’d prefer flogging instead of prison is nowhere near as grotesque as whether you’d prefer to starve yourself to raise awareness than tolerate another day of institutionally sanctioned torture. One is a fanciful thought experiment. It’s fiction. For 400 people, the other is acutely real.


Anonymous said...

What are the authorities supposed to do with SHU inmates? They've been put in isolation because they prey on other imates and guards when they are in general population. Should they be drugged 24/7 or euthanized?

Corrections officials have a duty to protect inmates, and one way to do that is to isolate the most vicious.

PCM said...

Good question.

*Some* are there because they prey on other inmates and guards. They perhaps need to be kept in there.

Some are there because the don't follow the rules (but may not prey on others). Some are in there because somebody else said they're a gang member. Still others are in there because they're mental.

The problem is once they're in there, they can't get out. And once they're in there, they go crazy, if they didn't already.

We need to ask if our goal is to torture these people or just keep them in the SHU. Because assuming it's the latter, we could meet the demands of the hunger strikers.