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Survivors Speak -- Prisoner Torture Testimoneies, ASFC, 2014

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Survivors
Speak
Prisoner Testimonies of Torture in
United States Prisons and Jails
A Shadow Report Submitted for the November 2014 Review of the
United States by the Committee Against Torture

I. Reporting organization
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker faith based organization
that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action.
AFSC’s interest in prison reform is strongly influenced by Quaker (Religious Society of
Friends) activism addressing prison conditions as informed by the imprisonment of
Friends for their beliefs and
actions in the 17th and 18th
centuries.
For over three decades AFSC
has spoken out on behalf of
prisoners, whose voices are all
too frequently silenced. We
have received thousands of
calls and letters of testimony of
an increasingly disturbing
nature from prisoners and their
families about conditions in
prison that fail to honor the
Light in each of us. Drawing on
continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture
the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and
systems. AFSC works to end mass incarceration, improve conditions for people who are
in prison, stop prison privatization, and promote a reconciliation and healing approach to
criminal justice issues.
Contact Person:
Lia Lindsey, Esq.
1822 R St NW; Washington, DC 20009; USA
Email: LLindsey@afsc.org
+1-202-483-3341 x108
Website: www.afsc.org

Acknowledgements
This report would not have been possible but for the courageous individuals held in U.S. prisons
and jails who rise above the specter of reprisal for giving testimonies of the abuses they endure.
The support and assistance of American Friends Service Committee program staff were crucial in
the development of this report. We also thank Paul Wright, Mari Garcia and Susan Schwartzkoph
of Prison Legal News for inviting prisoners to share their experiences. Generous contributions
and assistance provided by Bonnie Kerness, Casey Diaz, Ashiera Jones, Scilla Wahrhaftig,
Jamie Bissonnette-Lewey, Laurel Townhead and Emily Cohane-Mann are deeply appreciated.
Photo credits: Images on pages 17, 20, and 21 copyright Ojore Lutalo; all other images copyright AFSC.

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Table of contents
I. Executive Summary ...................................................................................................................... 4
II. Questions from List of Issues ....................................................................................................... 5
III. Health Care ................................................................................................................................. 6
IV. Inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment .................................................................................. 8
a. Concerns about confinement conditions ....................................................................... 8
b. Degrading and cruel acts committed by jail and prison staff .......................................10
V. Sexual violence ..........................................................................................................................12
a. Abuses committed by prison and jail staff ....................................................................12
b. Abuses committed by third parties while in the custody of the U.S. government .......13
VI. Isolation and solitary confinement ..........................................................................................14
a. Conditions in solitary confinement .............................................................................14
b. Mental health and isolation ........................................................................................16
c. Life after isolation .......................................................................................................17
VII. Political prisoners and Control Management Units ................................................................18
VIII. Psychological / “No touch” torture ........................................................................................21
IX. Reprisals against prisoners for airing grievances .....................................................................23
X. Conclusion .................................................................................................................................25
XI. Questions ..................................................................................................................................27
XII. Suggested concluding observations ........................................................................................29

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I. Executive summary
The popular narrative of living in the United States is one of prosperity, equality, and
opportunity. America is seen as a nation where everyone has the right to life, liberty,
and freedom. While that may be true for some privileged segments of society many
Americans are prevented from fully realizing these rights because they are in the
custody of the U.S. government.
At the close of 2012, the U.S. led the world in incarceration rates1 with over 2.2 million
adults2 held in prisons and jails.3 Why is this the case? Deeply flawed policies focusing
on punishment − not healing or rehabilitation − have created a pipeline through which
economically disadvantaged populations are funneled into prisons and jails.
Incarcerated individuals are frequently exposed to deplorable, cruel, and dangerous
conditions of confinement that no human being should experience.
The list of abuses committed against U.S. prisoners is long and deeply distressing:
sexual violence, humiliation, unsanitary conditions, extreme temperatures, insufficiently
nutritious food, inadequate medical care, isolation, psychological torture, racism,
chemical abuse and disproportionate uses of force. These are just a sample of
experiences you will read about in these first-hand accounts from individuals living in
jails and prisons throughout the United States.
Other civil society shadow reports addressing corrections conditions feature legal
analysis, data illustrating the prevalence of ill treatment committed against prisoners and
insights from experts. This shadow report supplements those crucial examinations by
bringing the human experience to bear. Statistics are helpful in understanding the ways
in which the U.S. prison system is fundamentally broken. Yet even the best charts are
unable to fully convey the reality of what it is like to live through breaches of CAT
obligations. These are their testimonials − verbatim − of inhuman conditions under which
they are held, abuses that irrevocably change their lives. The details are difficult to read;
some of the language is crude and graphic. All are compelling narratives.

1

Sentencing Project, Trends in Corrections Fact Sheet,
http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_Trends_in_Corrections_Fact_sheet.pdf (last updated September 2014).
2
Id.
3
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics outlines the distinction between “jails” and “prisons” in the United States: “Jails are
locally-operated, short term facilities that hold inmates awaiting trial or sentencing or both, and inmates sentenced to a
term of less than 1 year, typically misdemeanants. Prisons are long term facilities run by the state or the federal
government and typically hold felons and inmates with sentences of more than 1 year. Definitions may vary by state.” For
more information please visit http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=qa&iid=322.

4

II. Questions from List Of Issues
Articles 1 and 4
Q2: Please clarify the State party’s position with regard to its understanding of acts of
psychological torture, prohibited by the Convention. Does the State party recognize a
wider category of acts which cause severe mental suffering, irrespective of their
prolongation or its duration, as acts of psychological torture prohibited by the
Convention?

Article 16
Q32: Please provide information on steps taken to:
(a) Prevent and punish violence and abuse of women, in particular women
belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities. Do these measures include
providing specific training for those working within the criminal justice system
and raising awareness about the mechanisms and procedures provided for in
national legislation on racism and discrimination?
(c) Ensure that reports of violence against women are independently, promptly
and thoroughly investigated, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and
appropriately punished.
Q33: In light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations, please elaborate on
the measures adopted by the State party to ensure that women in detention are treated
in conformity with international standards, as well as on the implementation of these
measures (para. 33). Furthermore, please provide information on the impact and
effectiveness of these measures in reducing cases of ill-treatment of detained women.
Q37: Please describe steps taken to improve the extremely harsh regime imposed on
detainees in “super-maximum security prisons”, in particular the practice of prolonged
isolation.4

4 United Nations Committee Against Torture, List of Issues Prior to the Submission of the Fifth Periodic Report of United
States of America, U.N. Doc. CAT/C/USA/5, (2010).

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III. Health care
The U.S. government obligation to prohibit torture encompasses third party actors, such
as doctors and medical personnel in centers of confinement.5 Prisoners commonly
report inadequate health care conditions that include significant delays in accessing
medical treatment, medical personnel engaging in treatments for which they have not
received adequate training, denials of prescription medications, and humiliating
treatment by health care staff. Regrettably, prisoners have no recourse when medical
treatment is requested but withheld. In the most serious cases, failing to secure timely
medical attention can result in irreversible harm, and at times, death.
“I suffer from a rare form of benign tumors called Aggressive Fibromatosis… At my
sentencing my primary care physician Timothy McBride testified that without proper
medical care my health would deteriorate and could eventually lead to death if I was
forced to do a lengthy sentence… I was sent to USP Big Sandy in Inez, KY. While there
I continuously complained of a tumor in my chest and the Avascular Necrosis in the left
head of the humerus… It took 14 months from the time I first reported these tumors until
they were finally removed… I had a clinic with prison physician Dr. Roger Jones. On
this date I reported another knot in my chest. I suffered through 27 months of misery
before this tumor was removed. The tumor was so big it looked like a softball in my
chest… If I’m forced to stay here and not sent to a proper federal medical center I may
not survive those 8 years.” – M.B., USP Terre Haute, Terre Haute, IN, 20146
“On September 2, 2013, I witnessed two inmates being sprayed with chemical agents,
both mentally ill, in solitary confinement, after their water supplies were shut off, for
requesting to speak with medical- one did try to commit suicide the next day by cutting
his wrist… Guards shut off the entire pod’s water supply and when I questioned this I
was sprayed with chemical weapons and left in that state for 40-50 mins with only toilet
water left in the bowl to help wash my face and body with. As I remained in pain and
pleaded for help guards threatened to shoot me with a 37 mm riot control gun. I was
securely locked inside a single man cell the whole time too as I was sprayed, etc. I did
sustain first degree chemical burns from the amount of spray and the length of time it
covered my body.” – F.D., Mount Olive Correctional Complex, Mt. Olive, WV, 20147
“Over the years that I have been here many people have died here that had gone over a
month without their heart medications. It is a shame that I and many others in here
cannot get any medical treatment for our medical problems. The infirmary nurses are
fond of saying ‘you are not worth the cost.’” – R.K., Cummins Unit, Grady, AR, 20148

5

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, U.N. Doc.
A/63/175, ¶ 51, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disability/docs/A.63.175_en.doc (2008).
6
Letter from M.B. to American Friends Service Committee (2014) .
7
Letter from F.D. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
8
Letter from R.K. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).

6

“In January 2014, without being seen by any medical person, APN9 Griswold
discontinued my Propranolol 20 mg. Notefully, [sic] at that time, the Unit did not have an
actual doctor assigned to it. According to a Physician’s Desk Reference, a beta blocker,
such as Propranolol, must not be stopped suddenly as I was because there can be
severe medical complications (e.g. a heart attack). In February/ March of 2014 an
inmate laid in the infirmary complaining of severe pains on his right side. They did not
send him out to a hospital but let him lay in the infirmary. There he died of appendicitis.
In April of 2014 inmate Eugene Lilly went to the infirmary complaining of chest pains.
They gave him aspirin and sent him to his barracks. He went to his barracks, laid down
for a nap and died. Two nurses were fired for falsification of records. In May of 2014
inmate Ridling fell out in the exercise yard. Infirmary staff finally responded, however, it
was inmates who brought him back from his heart attack. He was taken to the infirmary
and there he died.” – J.G., Cummins Unit, Grady, AR, 201410
“One guy was in the infirmary here at LCF not long ago and as he fell to the floor in his
cell, clutching his chest in severe pain of a heart attack- nurse Suzy told him to shut up,
quit whining, and get off of the floor and up on his bunk. The poor chap died on the spot,
right then and there- due directly to nurse Suzy’s neglect.” – T.T., Lansing Correctional
Facility, Lansing, KS, 201411
“I’ve had serious mental illness since childhood, ‘bipolar disorder’ and behavioral
problems, ‘intermittent explosive disorder’ and I’ve got intellectual functioning disorder!
As well as chronic
seizures, grand mal
seizures…my
mental illness went
100% untreated for
my first couple
years in prison!
Which caused me
to be put into
confinement…I’ve
been in ‘strip cells’
with nothing but a
steel bunk in the
middle of winter and
no heat in the cell
house and had the officers spray water in my cell and on myself, and I would stay like
that for up to 10-12 days at times! With the whole cell having a thin layer of frost! – B.B.,
Tamms Correctional Center, Tamms, IL, 201012

9

Advance Practice Nurse
Letter from J.G. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
Letter from T.T. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).

10
11

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IV. Inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment
Despite the U.S. Constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment13 and
obligations under CAT to ban cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment14 abuses against
prisoners in the custody of the U.S. government are all too frequent. The myriad of
abuses falling within the scope of CAT Article 16 are diverse in nature, yet all fall within
the scope of State obligation to prevent torture, as “conditions that give rise to illtreatment frequently facilitate torture.”15
Many of the testimonies AFSC receives document cruel acts committed by prison and
jail staff. A culture of impunity and an “us versus them” mentality of prison/jail staff
create an environment ripe for prisoner abuse.
Prisoners frequently report denials of food and water, forced nudity, unsanitary
confinement conditions, inadequate nutrition, and use of racial and ethnic slurs by
guards. Regardless of the origins and classification of the prohibited acts, the
consequences to victims are the same: dehumanization and trauma.

A. Concerns about confinement conditions
“I have to beg for water and food. We are being killed slowly. If you were to come here
you would find us in this “dry cell” naked, cold and hungry. We are being cut off from all
avenues of recourse. I was removed from special needs and placed here. Please can
you get somebody, anybody to get us out of these torture chambers? We are doing
nothing wrong and have no intention of doing so. I’m having serious problems with the
staff and administration here. I’m getting threatened to be physically assaulted by staff
as well as other inmates, I don’t eat much either, this started after I filed my lawsuit. I
don’t feel safe, I don’t eat or sleep, nothing. The staff wants me to withdraw my
complaint. They won’t even give me paper to write on any more. It’s two other people
on this Unit scared for their lives due to staff misconduct and misinformation. They will
kill us.” – W.T., New Jersey State Prison, Trenton, NJ, 201416
“Staph infection, scabies, spider bites, TB, hepatitis (A, B, C) is present among the
brothers… I’ve witnessed CO17s beating other incarcerated citizens unjustly.” – K.S.,
William E. Donaldson Facility, Bessemer, AL, 201418
“It’s 5 of us back here and our cell has feces, bug/insect infested, toilet bowl filthy, feces
on door and walls, showers are extremely hot, showers are bug infested [and] unclean,
cold food, locked in cell 24 hours 7 days a week, no yard-calls at all, not allowed to buy
hygiene off store, insect and bug infested vents of heat in rooms that give off a
13

U.S. Const. amend. VIII.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, (December 10, 1984),
General Assembly Resolution 39/46.
15
Id. at 2,¶ 3.
16
Letter from W.T to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
17
Corrections Officers
18
Letter from K.S. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
14

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distinctive smell, very few cell clean outs, and no cleansing just straightening up by cart
team and etc.” – X.C., Hayes State Prison, Trion, GA, 201419
“First off I’m in Segregation Lockdown 23 hours a day… The officials here commonly
use chemical agents on inmates with documented asthma then leave you in your cell
naked, no property at all, no blankets, sheets, or mattress for 24 hours and no shower or
soap to wash off the tear gas or pepper spray. Just last summer in 2013 an inmate
named Wolverton, I think, here the ECB20 High Security Seg building died of chemical
agents. He was left on his cell floor covered in feces, he had a colostomy bag, and he
was found dead the next day after several counts… We are woken up at every count,
every 1 to 2 hours round the clock for count. You can never sleep more than 2 hours at
a time.” – J.W., Clements Unit, Amarillo, TX, 201421
“We are forced to be totally naked in front of staff constantly as well as other inmatesforced to be naked in front of them when we dress, wash, do bodily functions… I had
Nurse Fleming and Srg. Champman on 6-22-14 smear feces inside a nasal medication
and laugh ‘he just blew shit up his nose’” – C.G., State Correctional Institution Greene,
Waynesburg, PA, 201422
“My friend Barry begged and
pleaded to have the lights turned
out in his room. Officers
sadistically laughed at the
suffering they caused. Barry tore
out his own eyes so he could get
some sleep. They all laughed at
him and abused him greater.
Later – he killed himself.” -C.P.,
FMC Devens, Ayer, MD, 201023
“In this housing unit the windows are welded shut… They had one fire and used CO2 gas
twice. The fire, [sic] we were taken out one by one and when they sprayed the gas we
went nowhere…it made a lot of guys feel sick including myself. And there is no fire
suppression in this unit so we were forced to breath [sic] in smoke because windows
don’t open.” – T.M., SCI Frackville, Frackville, PA, 201424

19

Letter from X.C. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
Expansion Cell Blocks
Letter from J.W. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
22
Letter from C.G. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
23
Bonnie Kerness, ed., Torture in United States Prisons: Evidence of Human Rights Violations, 53 (2nd ed., American
Friends Service Committee).
24
Letter from T.M. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
20
21

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B. Degrading and cruel acts committed by jail and prison staff
“As I was kneeling down to submit to leg restraints, CO25 Baker grabbed me around my
neck in a choke hold position and pulled me, attempting to get me into the cell out of the
view of cameras and witnesses… still having me in a choke hold position, slammed my
face and forehead into the ground, causing severe excruciating pain and a brief
blackout. While I was on the floor, CO26 Best struck me forcefully in the testicles and
CO27 Baker struck me in the head with this hand… The other unknown CO28 twisted my
leg and CO29 Pashel stomped on my knee… I attempted suicide by trying to hang myself
and I was found by CO30 Godley and Pashel, hanging with a [sic] pants around my neck.
After spraying me with chemical agent … I was then placed in cell 1.A.130 without being
given a shower to wash off the chemical agents. I was made to walk naked all the way
to cell 130. In addition the cell was filthy and had fecal matter smeared on the walls and
floor. I was left in this cell for three days without being allowed to wash off the chemical
agents… They did this one more time. Then they picked me up and carried me to the
cell I was assigned to, all the while tormenting me with racial slurs such as “we should
have hit this piñata harder” and “I think we cracked this taco shell.” – C.M., Crossroads
Correctional Center, Cameron, MO, 201431
“A white guy that came into the trailer at 12 a.m. drunk with a distinct odor to his body,
he was yelling at us, calling us dumb ass niggers for not eating… I still have nightmares
from my experiences and I still live with the fear of being sent back there and beat or
killed just for being black.” – M.S., South Woods State Prison, Bridgeton, NJ, 201432
“I’ve witnessed an inmate get beat up by a gang of officers for allegedly sticking his
mirror out his cell to look at a nurse. He was sent to a hospital where he died. I’ve
witnessed an inmate get denied medication for his heart, threatened by an officer if he
didn’t stop complaining, and returned to his cell. He died in his sleep that very night.
Just recently I witnessed an officer physically abuse an inmate during a routine pat frisk.
When the inmate fought back, at least twelve other officers came running to restrain him,
and then kick him while he lay on the floor with handcuffs on. The sergeant was
overheard yelling, “Break his arm!” The inmate went into a coma.” – Anonymous, Sing
Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, NY, 201433
“On 11-26-12 Monday, at around 5:35 p.m., 3 C.O.34 brought me mattress. 1 of them
pinned me to my bunk, punched me at least twice in right side of ribs, semi-choked me,
while the other 2 watched… Afterwards, before lunch, 3 C.O.35 entered my cell again,
25

Corrections Officer
Corrections Officer
Corrections Officer
28
Corrections Officer
29
Corrections Officer
30
Corrections Officer
31
Letter from C.M. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
32
Letter from M.S. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
33
Letter from an anonymous prisoner to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
34
Corrections Officer
35
Corrections Officer
26
27

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pull me off bunk, punch on me, but intentionally avoid punching my face.” –G.E., Alfred
Hughes Unit, Gatesville, TX, 201436
“The lead building seven officer was not satisfied with the normal squat and cough
procedure and decided that he wanted me to “spread my cheeks” with his smirk on his
face so I simply stood my ground and looked at him like he was a pile of mule excreta so
he pulled out his MK 9 oleo resin capsicum spray and emptied it in my face where I
stood passively. However I withstood stubbornly the effects of the officer’s MK 9 each
officer in succession and [they] emptied a total of 4 MK 9 canisters into my face and due
only to my glasses the substance did not get into my eyes. This enraged the officer and
he then decided to pull his expandable baton to hit me. I was cuffed and shackled and
carried to the patio with a canvass “spit bag” over my head even though no one had
been spit on but I had a head and face full of “orange crush” MK 9 which the canvass
bag held inside. While on the patio a water hose was directed at the canvass bag on my
head and I being handcuffed. Water and canvass over one’s head was nothing nice.
This was the CDCR37’s new form of torturous waterboarding without the board. I could
not breath[sic] through the pepper spray and water mixing on canvass bag over my head
and if not for the arrival of another supervisory staff so one of the facility S+E38’s
removed the bag and I was then able to breath [sic].” –B.B., Wasco State Prison,
Wasco, CA, 201439
“[Officers] locked me in solitary confinement for 10 days handcuffed and shackled to a
metal bed. During that time they would extinguish their cigarette butts on my body and
flip hot ashes in my face and eyes and place meal trays just out of reach. Once I yelled
for water to drink. The officer rammed the nozzle of a chemical fire extinguisher into my
rectum and flooded my insides with liquid and chemicals that caused me to scream with
agony. Another officer told me to shut up or he would kill me and used his boot to kick
me in the head…” -C.P., FMC Devens, Ayer, MD, 201040

36

Letter from G.E. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
38
Security and Escort Officer
39
Letter from B.B. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
40
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 52-3.
37

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V. Sexual violence
In early 2014 the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an agency of the U.S. Department of
Justice, announced that reports of sexual abuse in prisons and jails increased
significantly between 2007 and 2011.41 In 2011 alone, 8,763 prisoner claims of sexual
abuse were filed with correctional administrators at their facility.42 Approximately 51
percent of reported sexual violence was committed by a prisoner against another
prisoner, and around 49 percent of incidents were perpetrated by staff against a
prisoner.43
However, the statistics change significantly when prisoners are surveyed directly about
sexual violence they have experienced (as opposed to relying solely on reported
incidents to examine rates of sexual abuse). In light of guard retaliation against
prisoners who file complaints or may consider doing so44, it is unsurprising that surveys
indicate far greater rates of sexual abuse incidents than what official accounts suggest.
These surveys show that during 2011 – 2012, 30,490 acts of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual
violence occurred and over 47,300 incidents involved guard-on-prisoner abuse.45
Sadly, the true rates of abuse is likely higher than what these surveys indicate given the
level of fear of reprisals prisoners experience. Regardless of who perpetrated the cruel
act, Article 16 of the CAT obligates the U.S. government to protect all those in their
custody from inhuman and degrading acts.

A. Abuses committed by prison and jail personnel
“In or about April 2012, Former Detention Center Officer Sherrie Brown-Braswell began
to sexually assault and demand sexual acts from me which were non-consensual and
against my will. Braswell threatened me with physical abuse should I resist her sexual
assaults or report this activity to another employee. Braswell continued the sexually
assaults and threats until approximately November 2012… This is humiliating
considering the fact I was raped at the Detention Center.” – S.F., Union County Jail,
Elizabeth, NJ, 201446

“We [women raped by prison/jail staff] are constantly given false write ups and put in
segregation on the littlest things… because of my RV5 rating [indicating that the prisoner
has had sexual contact with an officer] another officer, as he stated, ‘you will never tell
again since you got screwed so bad by CDOC47 you learned your lesson.’ Then he
41

U.S. Govt., U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics, Allegations of Sexual
Victimization in Prisons and Jails Rose from 2009 to 2011, http:/http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/svraca0911.pdf
(January 23, 2014).
42
Id.
43
Id.
44
Please refer to section VII on page X.
45
U.S. Govt., U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sexual Victimization in
Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates 2011-12, 9, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/svpjri1112.pdf (2013)
46
Letter from S.F. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
47
California Department of Corrections

12

forced me to perform. I had no choice, when one is grabbed around the neck and
breathing difficult it is easier to comply and besides I learned that if you resist you get
broken body parts and I can’t take any more of them. So I did as required. But my
friend is still going through it and needs help. This RV5 rating makes you open to all
who want to get you…it never stops and once a cop has an inmate they become serial
rapists because no one stops them.”- Anonymous, Colorado Dept. of Corrections,
Pueblo, CO, 201048

B. Abuses committed by third party actors while in the custody of
the U.S. government
“My cell mate started to beat me and stomp on me about October [sic] and he beat and
rape me for 11 days and he broke both sides of my jaw, deformed my left ear and swole
[sic] my nuts 2 times their normal size. Then he shoved a plastic spoon up my ass…
Now I suffer from paranoia and constant fear of others and always feel that people are
going to hurt me or kill me. Now I am a victim of rape and a brutal beating and suffer
from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” – D.K., Jester IV Unit, Richmond, TX, 201449

“In 2004 at the Smith Unit I was sexually assaulted by a Crip Gang Member… Upon
receiving a custody change I was sent to the Robertson Unit in 2010 and upon being
placed back into General Population where I was again harassed by the Mexican
population and the Crip Gang members. I decided to pay the required extortion
payments to a white Crip gang member for the protection I need to keep from harm.
Then I was sexually assaulted and physically assaulted by this same Crip, and forced to
perform sexually for his other Crip homeboys… They were going to place me back into
the General Population of the Robertson Unit when I attempted to take my life… In
October 2013 I started receiving sexual harassment in my workplace by a TDCJ.50 Food
Service Manager. It was ongoing until I had had enough and refused to continue to
perform homosexual acts to shame me for his pleasure.” – W.K., Ellis Unit, Huntsville,
TX, 201451

48

Kerness, supra n. 23, at 75-6.
Letter from D.K. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
50
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
51
Letter from W.K. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
49

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VI. Isolation and solitary confinement
Concerns surrounding the use of isolation are most frequently rooted in the long term
psychological effects on survivors of solitary confinement. In the U.S. federal system
isolation from the general prison population is classified as “special housing units”
(SHU), of which there are two categories: administrative isolation is designed to remove
the prisoner from the general population to keep that individual and/or the facility safe for
prisoners and staff,52 whereas disciplinary segregation is used for punitive purposes.53
As you will read below, prisoners may find themselves in the SHU through no fault of
their own or for minor rules infractions.
Prisoners in isolation report anger, bitterness, boredom, stress, losing a sense of reality,
suicidal thoughts, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to stimuli and hallucinations.54
Mental health experts found the rates of psychological and psychiatric issues were
greater in populations exposed to solitary confinement than among those who had never
been isolated.55 Those with a previous history of psychological problems placed in
isolation “generally experience a significant deterioration of their condition” while in
isolation.56
Some survivors of solitary confinement have lost decades of their life and countless
people suffer irreparable psychological harm due to U.S. government reliance on
isolating people from meaningful human contact.

A. Conditions in solitary confinement
“I am currently in solitary confinement here at SCI Greene (since 2005). I have been
repeatedly sexually harassed/threatened by guards here multiple times… Col Moore
who is the leader of inmate brutality (brags about “finding” by himself 4 inmates hanging
dead- has to be a record!) here at SCI Greene, repeatedly has threatened to hang me in
my cell with a “black bag over my head” in front of the whole block… Also, Col Moore
told the whole block that they needed a good “beat down” and he’d march us all to yard
naked in our socks and he’d start sodomizing inmates… He threatened to “execute” all
the long term inmates… I have already been assaulted by another C.O.57 for reporting
abuses.” – C.G., State Correctional Institution Greene, Waynesburg, PA, 201458
“None of the locks on cell doors work which resulted in the death of 5 prisoners in one
month… We are supposed to get an hour a day outside our cell but that’s not true in
Georgia. We gone [sic] months without seeing the sunlight with nothing to read but a
52

28 CFR 541.23 (2010).
28 CFR § 514.24.
Peter S. Smith, The Effects of Solitary Confinement on Prison Inmates: A Brief History and Review of the Literature,
Crime and Justice Vol. 34, No. 1, 488 (2006).
55
Id. at 451, 476.
56
Id. at 494.
57
Corrections Officer
58
Letter from C.G. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
53
54

14

bible. Prisoner suicide has tripled and it’s a medical fact that everyone has lost weight in
this program.” – J.H., Hayes State Prison, Trion, GA, 201459
“They called it a 23 hour lockdown, but during the hour out, you had no other human
contact- not even staff… As you are aware we are made to eat and sleep in a concrete
and steel bathroom…In my particular case they never turned off the light. My window
was covered on the outside with some type of white plastic so that we could not attempt
any type of visual communication with whatever may have been out there.” – D.L.,
Plymouth County Correctional Facility, Plymouth, MA, 201460
“I have been in solitary since 1998. From 1998-2005 I was held on “High Risk
Potential”… which in part includes zero staff and/or inmate contact, no group activities,
no program participation, stripped of privileges (e.g. phone, canteen, contact visits,
hobby craft, inter alia), and escorted with arm and leg restraints that have a dog leash
attached to them during any movement. In 2005 I was removed from the “HRP” status
and Disciplinary Segregation, but placed on Administrative Segregation. I’m still stripped
of privileges, staff and/or inmate contact, no group activities, no program participation
and in-cell confinement for 23 hours a day. I also only get to shower every 3 days.” –
G.P., Ely State Prison, Ely, NV, 201461
“First and I feel most importantly is the solitary confinement at the last prison I was at. It
is a dungeon like setting. Dark, no windows, you go weeks and months sometimes not
seeing light. These are dangerous and unsupervised for the most part. Men are put in
these cells with other men which fight and get injured without anyone knowing for hours
on end… I have seen several times inmate getting beat while in cuffs or ganged up by a
number of officers…” – C.M., Staton Correctional Center, Elmore, AL, 201462
“The conditions were very inhumane...hot, no working vents at all... stuffy and
humid...my first cell bugs were biting me all over my body, when I said something about
it they (the medical staff) played like I was crazy then finally after constant complaining
they gave me Benadryl then moved me and still didn’t clean the cell. They had a light on
all day that felt like a rotisserie lamp. It was hard to sleep because of the hot humid cells
and constant bugs biting me all day and night...we had no cups to drink the brown
colored water that came out of the sinks and toilets. There was constant screaming
yelling kicking and banging (with objects on doors to multiply the sound on the doors).” A.S.A., SCI Dallas Restricted Housing Unit (confinement), Jackson Township, PA63

59

Letter from J.H. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
Letter from D.L. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
61
Letter from G.P. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
62
Letter from C.M. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
63
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 11.
60

15

B. Mental health and isolation
“I have basically been in seg64 housing unit and while being here the guards have
tormented and encouraged me to cut myself and even specified jugular, carotid arteries,
and have taunted me every time I have cut my wrist arteries, saying that I did not do it to
their satisfaction and have threatened to beat me to a pulp.” – G.C., Wapun Correctional
Institution, Wapun, WI, 201465
“It’s hard to explain the multitude of little factors that induce stress, anxiety, frustration,
and depression…My best attempt to describe prolonged isolation in a supermax prison
is that it’s like Chinese water torture. A single drop may not harm you but the millions of
little drops of stress, anxiety, uncertainty, depression, and sorrow build up until you can
begin to feel your mind breaking. I wish I could explain it better. Maybe then people
could understand and wouldn’t allow this hell to continue.” – J.D., Tamms Correctional
Center, Tamms IL (2009)66

“I’ve been in the (hole) for three years and now so paranoid that I can’t be around
people. I can’t even sleep in a cell with someone else even if I knew him all my life. I’ve
tried every treatment, medication possible, no help…I am now so paranoid I can’t even
be on the yards. Even in a lock [sic] cell, a lock [sic] shower, a lock [sic] rec cage, I’m
still paranoid so how is it going to be on the streets when I am around others? I’ve really
tried to work on it but nothing at all works even the medications. So all I ask is, is this
place really need[ed].” –J.H., Federal Correctional Complex, Oakdale SMU, Oakdale,
LA, 201067
“A suicide attempt. That’s what happened to me during my time in solitary. A serious,
legitimate suicide attempt. I suffer of [sic] schizophrenia and while I was in segregation
all I had to talk to was the voices in my head… While in solitary I was electrocuted due to
faulty wiring. After that everything just went downhill for me. Every day I talked to
delusions more and more. It got to the point that I did whatever the voices told me.
Eventually I decided that was no way to live and chose to try to kill myself. I was found
in my room passed out and cover [sic] in blood. The next morning I went right back into
trying to kill myself as soon as [sic] woke up. I tried to kill myself by diving into a metal
stool… I suffer of brain damage… If I would [sic] had daily conversations with other
people, I would have not interacted with delusions. Delusions that led me to try to kill
myself.” –D.A., Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, Los Lunas, NM, 201468

64

Segregation
Letter from G.C. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
66
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 10-11.
67
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 9-10.
68
Letter from D.A. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
65

16

C. Life after isolation
“This term [in solitary confinement] I have been in a little over 4 years straight, but overall
most of the past 15 years… After doing a substantial amount of time inside alone, then
being released is shocking. It is a blast for a few days then the people, colors, sounds,
touching, movement, kids, cars, and social interactions become way too much, kind of
like over-stimulation of the senses, it gets really uncomfortable around everyone and
everything, so much that it usually takes alcohol or drugs to ‘feel’ comfortable.” – R.T.,
Corcoran State Prison, Corcoran, CA, 201469
“Even now, six months out of the hole I still remain affected. I withdraw from social
interaction/setting. I feel frustrated for no apparent reason. Possibly the most damaging
aspect of segregation is the sense of powerlessness. You can yell, scream, report
misconduct and abuse to prison officials to no avail.” B.S., Jefferson City Correctional
Center, Jefferson City, MO, 201070

69
70

Letter from R.T. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 19.

17

VII. Political prisoners and Control Management Units
In the U.S. federal prison system Control Management Units (CMU) are distinctly
different from all other confinement facilities, as they were “established to house inmates
who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct, or other verified
information, require increased monitoring of communication with persons in the
community in order to protect the safety, security and orderly operation of Bureau
facilities, and protect the public”.71
The most well-known CMU residents are those convicted of terrorism-related activities
such as the men deemed responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing,
individuals convicted for the 1976, 1985, and 1996 hijacking cases72, and at least one
person convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization.73
Two CMU facilities are commonly referred to as “Little Gitmo”74 and “Guantanamo
North”75 because, reminiscent of the U.S. Guantanamo Bay facility, two-thirds of the
prisoners are Muslim (despite only representing six percent of the general federal prison
population).76 In these facilities the use of solitary confinement is rampant, prisoners are
exposed to constant surveillance and their ability to interact with others is severely
restricted.77
Today, CMUs house not just those serving time for terrorism-related convictions but
others in social justice movements, who engage in prisoners’ rights advocacy, and who
file grievances about their treatment while incarcerated,78 whose beliefs and ideology the
U.S. seeks to track.79 Prisoners sent to CMUs are deemed security threats and thus
are constantly observed of their actions, letters, emails, calls and visits80 The uniting
characteristic of these prisoners is not the nature of their conviction, but that the U.S.
government fears they may recruit others to undertake “terrorist” or “criminal” acts.81
CMUs rely heavily on extreme conditions of solitary confinement, isolate prisoners from
the general population, and create conditions intentionally hindering their ability to
communicate with the outside world.82
Conditions in CMU are severe and disproportionate to the crime for which they were
convicted. Prisoners are prohibited from physical contact with visitors, all
communications are monitored, and prior to legal action taken prisoners were permitted

71

Center for Constitutional Rights, Aref, et al. v. Holder, et al. Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment Exhibit 1, 1,
ccrjustice.org/files/138.4%20Ehx%201-5.pdf (April 23, 2014).
72
National Public Radio, ‘Guantanamo North’: Inside Secretive U.S. Prisons,
www.npr.org/2011/03/03/134168714/guantanamo-north-inside-u-s-secretive-prisons (March 3, 2011, 1:09PM).
73
Amnesty International, Entombed: Isolation in the U.S. Federal Prison System,
www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/amr510402014en.pdf (2014).
74
New York Times Magazine, ‘Little Gitmo’, nymag.com/news/features/yassin-aref-2011-7/ (July 10, 2011).
75
National Public Radio, supra n. 72.
76
National Public Radio, supra n. 72.
77
Center for Constitutional Rights, supra n. 74.
78
Center for Constitutional Rights, Communications Management Unit Factsheet, ccrjustice.org/cmu-factsheet (2013).
79
National Public Radio, supra n. 72.
80
Daniel McGowan, Court Documents Prove I was Sent to Communications Management Units (CMU) for my Political
Speech, www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-mcgowan/communication-management-units_b_2944580.html (April 2, 2013,
8:36AM).
81
National Public Radio, supra n. 72.
82
McGowan, supra n. 72.

18

only one 15 minute call per week.83 Access to programming, education, and job training
is limited.84 Isolation, inability to interact with other humans in a meaningful way, not
being told how long they may be in CMU85, and limited visits from immediate family call
into question the U.S. government compliance with CAT.

“This notice informs you of your transfer to a Federal Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) facility
that allows greater management of your communication with persons in the community
through more effective monitoring of your telephone use, written correspondence, and
visiting. Your communication by these methods may be limited as necessary to allow
effective monitoring. Your general conditions of confinement in this unit may also be
restricted as necessary to provide greater management of your communications.” –
Federal Bureau of Prisons, Notice to Inmate of Transfer to Communication Management
Unit86
“I learned why the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) sent me to the CMU… In short,
based on its disagreement with my political views, the government sent me to a prison
unit from which it would be harder for me to be heard, serving as a punishment for my
beliefs… What's also notable about the CMUs is who is sent there…many CMU
prisoners were there because of their religion or in retaliation for their speech. – Daniel
McGowan (2013)87
“Inmate McGowan’s communications warrant heightened controls and review due to the
fact that he was an organizer of the group; wrote communiques for ALF/ELF (Animal
Liberation Front/Earth Liberation Front) actions; used coded communications during the
commission of the offenses; participated in the recruitment of others into the group;
espoused his anti-government beliefs verbally and in written communications… While
incarcerated and through social correspondence and articles written for radical
publications, inmate McGowan has attempted to unite the radical environmental and
animal liberation movements.” – Leslie S. Smith, Chief, Counter Terrorism Unit (2008)88
“So my question was, what government agency labeled me a terrorist? What terrorist
offense did I commit against the American government or any American citizen? What
evidence demonstrated my guilt? Why was I not afforded my constitutional right to a
due process hearing?” – A.T., former prisoner in the Communications Management
Unit, Terre Haute, IN (2011).89

83

McGowan, supra, n. 76.
Center for Constitutional Rights, supra, n. 74.
85
Brennan Center for Justice, Letter to Bureau of Prisons Regarding Communication Management Units,
www.brennancenter.org/analysis/letter-bureau-prisons-regarding-communication-management-units (June 2, 2010).
86
Center for Constitutional Rights, supra, n. 71 at 8.
87
McGowan, supra n. 76.
88
Center for Constitutional Rights, Aref, et al. v. Holder, et al. Exhibits to Defendants’ Consolidated Motion to Dismiss,
Exhibit 3, 1-2, ccrjustice.org/files/Exhibits%20to%20Ds%20Second%20MTD%202.12.13.pdf.
89
National Public Radio, supra n. 72.
84

19

“I’m being persecuted and discriminated against. You feel that my affiliation with the
Black Liberation Army and the Anarchist Black Cross Foundation poses a problem…
What concerns do [sic] Administration have with my political affiliation? In 2002, I was
released into GP with the same affiliation.” – Ojore Lutalo, New Jersey State Prison
(2008)90
“Your radical views
and ability to influence
others poses a threat
to the orderly
operation of this
Institution… Your
actions continue to
pose a threat to the
safety and security of
any correctional
facility.” – MCURC,
New Jersey State
Prison (2008)91

90
91

Ojore Lutalo, Notice of Classification Decision Routine Review, (2008).
New Jersey Department of Corrections Management Control Unit Review Committee, Notice of Classification Decision
Routine Review for Ojore Lutalo (2008).

20

VIII. Psychological / “No Touch” torture
U.S. law includes a definition of “torture” accounting for non-physical acts, such as
“prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from…the administration or application,
or threatened administration or application, of…procedures calculated to disrupt
profoundly the senses or the personality”.92 Prisoners experience this form of mental
suffering through being shackled for excessive periods of time, stress positions,
exposure to extreme temperatures and subjection to unrelenting light exposure.
Psychological torture may not leave visible wounds and scars but the suffering
experienced is equally cruel.

“I was being extradited from AR93 to WV94 and locked in the back of a van in a cage for
13 days straight by a private transport company called PTS (Prisoner Transport
Services). 13 days (only 1 time day 8) was [sic] we allowed out the van to sleep and
shower. The rest of the time we had to urinate, defecate, and vomit on ourselves, 8 of
us in a 6 ft by 4 ft cage. Below freezing temps, the water was freezing inside with us, no
heater, no medications, they gave everyone cigarettes to “stay calm.” Handcuffed,
shackled, belly chained 13 days. 90+ mph the whole time my head was swollen up, it
was so rough. I about died.” –M.T., Federal Corrections Institution, El Reno, El Rino,
OK, 201495
“…For at least the next 67
days…I was literally chained
to the metal bed frame in the
middle of the cell, by a 3-4
foot section of heavy tow
chain with defective shackles
(no working safety locks)
tethering me there for 24
hours a day. I was given
perhaps at best six showers
during this period of time and
only three opportunities to
change my clothing… the
room temperature stayed at
near freezing, and there
were large fluorescent lights directly over the bed I was tethered to, that never turned off.
When I complained to the Sheriff’s deputies, I was told there was no on/off switch for the
lights in my cell and there were likewise no temperature controls accessible.” -M.D., New
Jersey State Prison, Trenton, NJ, 201096

92

18 U.S.C. §2340(2)(B).
Arizona
94
West Virginia
95
Letter from M.T. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
96
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 51.
93

21

“I was stripped and handcuffed to a chain link fence in a freezing snow-ice storm for
seven hours because I was ten minutes late to an appointment…I was sprayed with
chemicals and a chemical fire extinguisher for having a Christian cross on the wall of my
cell. I was handcuffed to a wall and sprayed with a high pressure fire hose...I was forced
to stand on a foot stool while three officers handcuffed my hands above my head to a
chain link fence and then the stool was removed to leave me dangling in the air for four
hours…I was forced to stand in a telephone [booth] sized room for 27 hours without
food, water, or toilet breaks…Five times I suffered a ‘hook up’ for arbitrary spiteful
reasons. The hands are handcuffed and I am lifted up and the chain of the handcuffs
are draped over a tall door so I am dangling with my feet off the floor. It takes less than
five minutes to be agonizing. They leave you hooked up until unconsciousness, then let
you drop to the floor by raking you off the door…” -C.P., FMC Devens, Ayer, MD, 201097

97

Kerness, supra n. 23, at 52-3.

22

IX. Reprisals against prisoners for airing grievances
Accountability for inhumane treatment within centers of confinement is severely limited
despite the prevalence of prisoner abuse. Complaint mechanisms are the primary
means through which prisoners are able to air grievances about their treatment and to
report abuses committed by guards. Recurring challenges for prisoners are facing
threats and retaliation from guards after complaining about mistreatment, and/or when
guards believe a prisoner may be inclined to do so. This atmosphere of fear is a
significant hindrance to ensuring humane conditions and treatment, while at the same
time perpetuating a climate of impunity for those responsible for rights violations.

“I tried to explain the cuffs were extremely too tight and that my hands were numb, he
[Sgt. Broughton] laughed and stated something akin to “I thought you niggers were used
to shackles by now”… He stated something akin to “you haven’t felt pain yet faggot Write
another grievance against me and the next time I’ll stick my key up your black ass
nigger”… As he locked the cage he again threatened me that “next time I’m going to say
‘stop resisting’ then slam your punkass on your head. So if you even think about writing
this up or to report me to Lt. Mitchell again I’ll have my boys take care of your nigger
faggot ass!” –T.D., Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, Milton, FL, 201498
“Other things multiple officers do is refuse to feed inmates if they find out a certain
inmate filed a complaint step one grievance against them, they throw out outgoing mail,
or which is really fucked up give a offender another person’s mail on purpose, people
who can’t speak English are mostly victims of this bullshit deny them medical or jacking
them for their food...The people here with rank are out of control…my point is yeah we’re
in prison for breaking the law, but we’re still human beings and deserve to be respected
as one especially if we don’t.” – R.Z., Estelle High Security Unit, Huntsville ,TX 201099
“On 6/12/14 Thursday…Hyatt took me to the floor and Wartanin started kicking me in the
face on my left side and splitting my eye open and blood began to spill no the floor. Next
he began on my right eye hitting me 3 times and began to spray my face with gas while
saying, “this will teach you to write a grievance on me, little bitch!”… On 6/13/14 Friday
Wing Officer Wartanin deprived me my lunch… On 6/14/14 Saturday Wartanin deprived
me breakfast and ripped up 2 of my medical kites… Later C/O100 Clement deprived me
lunch… On 6/15/14 Sunday Wartanin deprived me breakfast and lunch and influence
[sic] RN101 Casper to deprive me morning and afternoon meds… On 6/16/14 Monday
Wartanin deprived me lunch and unfluence [sic] RN102 to deprive me meds.”–J.L.,
Baraga Correctional Facility, Baraga, MI, 2014103

98

Letter from T.D. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 49.
100
Correctional Officer
101
Registered Nurse
102
Registered Nurse
103
Letter from J.L. to American Friends Service Committee (2014).
99

23

“Other acts of retaliation and abuse include: being shocked with an electric body
immobilizer device; being forced into a restraint chair…[sic] and was neglected and left
to live on the floor, and in very filthy and unsanitary conditions for approximately nine
months; during this time I was tortured with a bright florescent light that stayed on for
twenty four hours a day.” –S.R., Graterford Correctional Facility, Graterford, PA, 2010104
“Five very big cowboys – correctional officers – took me to a special control unit, placed
me in restraints and tortured me for over two hours to punish me for grievances and/or
legal action on their friends and coworkers…they screwed their knuckles into my
temples, bent my wrist backwards until the cartilage popped and cracked, pulled my
neck back as far as they could without breaking anything, made me yell, scream, beg,
cry, defecate/urinate due to the excruciating pain, for over two hours.” – J.E., Colorado
State Penitentiary, Canon City, CO, 2010105

104
105

Kerness, supra n. 23, at 52.
Kerness, supra n. 23, at 53.

24

X. Conclusion
In its 2013 Periodic Report to the Committee on Torture, the U.S. government
acknowledged its obligation to ban acts of torture, stating “(t)he absolute prohibition of
torture is of fundamental importance to the United States.”106 A quote from U.S.
President Barak Obama was included to further underscore the U.S. commitment to
domestic and international laws on torture, “I can stand here today, as President of the
United States, and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture…”107
Despite these assurances AFSC continues to have grave concerns that the U.S.
government violates its CAT obligations to prevent and address acts of torture.
Specifically, we believe the following Convention Against Torture Articles have been
breached by the U.S. government while housing individuals in prisons and jails:

Article 10


The U.S. breaches its adherence to Article 10 by permitting guard retaliation or
threats of reprisal against prisoners who have or may file complaints of inhumane
confinement conditions. This system of intimidation undermines the possibility of
rectifying prior abuse and securing redress.

Article 16


The State practice of delaying health care treatment to prisoners, even in the face of
symptoms suggesting a medical emergency have resulted in permanent harm to
prisoners, violating its Article 16 obligations to prevent cruel treatment.



Denying prisoners access to clean water, providing inadequately nutritious food,
permitting insect and pest infestations, failing to protect prisoners against disease,
forced nudity and unsanitary conditions of confinement constitute violations of the
Article 16 prohibition of inhuman and degrading acts.



Prisoners are not shielded from cruel and degrading acts by guards while in
confinement, such as excessive and unnecessary uses of force, being subjected to
racial and ethnic slurs, and unrestrained use of chemical agents. In these ways the
U.S. breaches Article 16.



Failing to keep prisoners safe from degrading acts of sexual violence, especially at
such appalling rates, constitutes U.S. noncompliance with its obligations under
Article 16.



The use of isolation for prolonged periods of time - that in some cases can span
decades – is a torturous act causing severe mental suffering and psychological harm
extending far beyond the period of time they are in solitary confinement. The U.S.

106

U.S. Govt., U.N. Committee Against Torture Convention Against Torture Periodic Report of the United States of
America, 2, www.state.gov/documents/organization/213267.pdf (2013).
107
Id.

25

embrace of prolonged isolation is cruel and inhuman treatment violating its
commitment to Article 16.


The U.S. has violated Article 16 by allowing prisoners to be subjected to acts of
psychological harm that rise to the level of torture. These Article 16 violations
include stress positions, exposure to extreme temperatures, and constant light
exposure.

26

XI. Questions
Health care
1. Please explain how the State protects and provides for the unique needs of
vulnerable populations in jails and prisons, particularly the mentally ill.

Inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment
1. Please explain the complaint procedure and process in place for prisoners
who experience ill treatment by prison staff.
a. Does that process include keeping the prisoner informed of the status
of their claim?
b. What remedies have been issued by higher authorities in regard to
claims of abuse?
c. How has the State changed its policies in response to claims of ill
treatment that indicate systemic violations of prisoner rights?
2. What are the conditions under which prison and jail personnel are permitted
to use force against a prisoner? How does the State monitor if force was
used in appropriate situations and implemented in accordance with domestic
and international laws?
3. How many prison or jail staff members have been reprimanded as a result of
complaints filed for prisoner abuse?
Sexual violence
1. What systems are in place to prevent sexual violence perpetrated by guards
as well as by other prisoners?
2. What procedures and services exist to ensure an effective response to
allegations of sexual violence (including accessibility to support services for
victims/survivors)?
Isolation and solitary confinement
1. Does the State anticipate developing and implementing uniform standards for
the use, or restrictions on the use, of isolation?
2. What actions is the State taking to end the overuse of solitary confinement?

27

Political prisoners and control management units
1. Please explain how the State determines which prisoners are to be housed in
control management units, given that thousands of prisoners fit the criteria
outlined in your guidelines for possible CMU placement.
2. Control management unit personnel monitor the activities and
communications of prisoners at all times. Yet extreme limitations on human
contact are still in place. What is the rationale for restricting access to others
given the heightened levels of supervision?
3. How do you respond to accusations that the State is using control
management units to suppress criticisms of the U.S. government and
expressions of free speech?
Psychological torture
1. Please explain the position of the State regarding acts designed to impose
mental suffering, including practices that may rise to the level of
psychological torture.
2. What training is provided to jail and prison personnel regarding non-physical
acts that could result in mental suffering?
Reprisals against prisoners for airing grievances
1. What systems are in place to prevent and respond to reprisals against
prisoners who make complaints?
2. How do the numbers of complaints of reprisals filed compare to the number
of reprimands imposed on personnel?
3. How many prison and jail staff members were reprimanded for reprisals
against prisoners who filed complaints about their treatment? What where
their reprisals?

28

XII. Suggested concluding observations


Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.



Removing a human being from their community, depriving them of human contact,
denying them of stimuli and subjecting them to inhumane conditions is cruel.
Treating others in this manner denies our shared humanity and fails to honor the
Light present in each of us. The use of isolation / solitary confinement must be
ended immediately.



Provide conditions of confinement in jails and prisons that align with U.S. domestic
laws, protect the U.S. Constitutional rights of prisoners, and are in accordance with
international norms and obligations.



The U.S. must permit international observers to enter and evaluate centers of
confinement. For prisons/jails not under the direct control of the federal government,
the U.S. government must actively engage states and localities to facilitate such
access.



Ensure that the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is immediately implemented in
all confinement facilities nationwide to protect those entrusted to their care against
sexual violence.



Prison and jail personnel should only use the least restrictive response to avert harm
to another prisoner or staff.



Chemical agents should never be used in prisons and jails. Limitations on mobility
and lack of ventilation significantly undermine the safety of all exposed to harmful
agents.



The State should honor its responsibility to keep those incarcerated safe from harm.
This includes abuses at the hands of staff and guards, as well as violence
perpetrated among prisoners. A robust monitoring system must be put into place to
honor this obligation that also includes accountability mechanisms for all perpetrators
of abuses.

29

 

 

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