We’re glad Bradley Manning’s treatment is getting some attention, but what about the tens of thousands of others who are languishing in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails? According to available data, there are some 25,000 inmates in long-term isolation in the nation’s supermax prisons, and as many as 80,000 more in solitary in other facilities. Where is the outrage–even among progressives–for these forgotten souls? Where, for that matter, is some acknowledgment of their existence?
In that spirit, I'd like to also raise the question of whether or not prisoners at Guantanamo are the only ones in the US to experience indefinite detention. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is clearly no.
McLeod County Attorney Michael Junge left his courthouse office the other night, feeling the weight that comes with a prosecutor's job and thinking about a sex offender named Jonathon Wieland.
Wieland, 20, is scheduled for release from the Lino Lakes Correctional Facility in July. Junge could allow him to walk out of prison and into supervised parole. Or, endorsing a Corrections Department recommendation, he could ask a judge to send Wieland to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, where the young man might spend the rest of his life behind barbed wire.
Lets be clear about this...Wieland had been tried for a crime, convicted, and sentenced to prison. He had done that time and was scheduled to be released. But a prosecutor and a judge could sentence him to indefinite detention for life on the risk that he might re-offend.
The article linked to above says that Minnesota currently has 600 people sentenced to indefinite detention under those circumstances.
Among their ranks are more than 40 elderly offenders, some in wheelchairs; low-functioning adults considered to be little risk of re-offending; and young men without felony records who were hastily committed to the sex-offender program after completing juvenile sentences.
One story from the article is particularly horrific:
...a Rice County man who was convicted of possessing child pornography as a juvenile and ended up at the program's Moose Lake facility when he became an adult.
Sentenced to indefinite detention for life because he was in possession of child pornography as a juvenile?!!!
These are the nameless faces of people without a champion like Glenn Greenwald to make their case. Excuse me if I'm a bit done with the folks who think that prisoner abuse started with the war on terror and that only Bush and Obama are the problem here.
Solving these issues will only happen when all of us as US citizens are willing to look at the system of injustice we have created and, for the most part, feel pretty comfortable with - as long as it doesn't hurt anyone we know or care about.