Jaw-dropping fact of the day

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From Ezra Klein:

The size of our workforce dedicated to imprisoning mostly-non-violent Americans is not merely equal, but significantly larger, than the workforces of our country’s most massive three employers combined.

Ezra is commenting on this article and, more specifically, this little nugget:

Other industrial democracies, even those with significant crime problems of their own, are much less punitive: our incarceration rate is 6.2 times that of Canada, 7.8 times that of France, and 12.3 times that of Japan. We have a corrections sector that employs more Americans than the combined work forces of General Motors, Ford, and Wal-Mart, the three largest corporate employers in the country, and we are spending some $200 billion annually on law enforcement and corrections at all levels of government, a fourfold increase (in constant dollars) over the past quarter century.

UPDATE: — Be sure to check the comments section, where John Fleck made an excellent point on comparing the different sectors.

Would somebody shut up those uppity wounded soldiers?

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Via Atrios comes this Nitpicker post:

Problems all taken care of at Walter Reed

The problem, of course, being those loud-mouthed wounded.

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Nice to see that they’re taking care of the troops.

If you know what I mean…

For the background on this story, click here.

There just aren’t words

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From the Washington Post:

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I really don’t know what to say about this. So much of this entire Iraq affair has been wrong, and is wrong, and we yet we can’t even get it right back here at home.

Prison Gang Rape in New Mexico

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From the ABQNewsSeeker:

The Gallup Independent is reporting that an inmate at the McKinley County Detention Center was gang-raped by four other inmates on the weekend of Feb. 3-4, and that the inmate reported the incident to jail authorities, triggering a State Police investigation.

Peter Olson, state Department of Public Safety spokesman, confirmed that the State Police was looking into the alleged incident but said no information, including the original incident report, would be released until the investigation is completed, the Independent reported.

The State Police told the Independent on Monday that some documents in connection with the case could be released upon written request and not for at least three days.

And McKinley County District Attorney Karl Gillson told the Independent on Friday that his office still hadn’t received any information from the State Police about the alleged incident, the paper reported.

This reminded me of a blog post I saw on Ezra’s site yesterday, detailing a former convict’s “experience” in prison:

When I first came to prison, I had no idea what to expect. Certainly none of this. I’m a tall white male, who unfortunately has a small amount of feminine characteristics. And very shy. These characteristics have got me raped so many times I have no more feelings physically. I have been raped by up to 5 black men and two white men at a time. I’ve had knifes at my head and throat. I had fought and been beat so hard that I didn’t ever think I’d see straight again.

There’s more, but Ezra adds this point:

The crime this man committed for us to throw him into a jail where we know he’ll be brutally assaulted, raped, and possibly contract a terminal immune system disease? Drinking and driving.

We spend a fair amount of time talking about detainee treatment and Guantanamo. But there is no greater, or more common, human rights abuses in America than those occurring in our overcrowded, constantly expanding, jails.

I don’t want to say that we shouldn’t punish offenders, but the injustices which occur in this country every day make it easier to spread those injustices throughout the world. Every time we turn a blind eye to a gang rape in a U.S. prison, we set a precedent that that type of behavior is acceptable, when it is not. Ezra had a later update:

There’s no political upside to helping criminals, and the prison guard’s unions are terrifically powerful on the state level. But politically tough as it may be to address, it’s morally abhorrent to ignore. And we have to remember: Every single time we sentence a suspect to jail time, we are tacitly consenting not merely to his imprisonment, but to his savage sexual assault, with all the physical and psychological damage it will bring.

If you want to get involved, or donate money, or learn more, Stop Prisoner Rape is the leading organization on the issue. Their website is here.

The America we’ve become

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I don’t have anything else to add to this:

Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, has been detained for four years without formal charges, much of it in solitary confinement. He is now a broken human being:

Saying that there was ’sufficient cause” to conduct a competency hearing, the government, in papers filed yesterday, urged the judge to do so.

The government itself cited the affidavit of a psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Angela Hegarty, who said that Mr. Padilla did not understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and that he suffered “impairment in reasoning” as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder “complicated by the effects of prolonged isolation.”

Mr. Padilla’s lawyers said he opposed this request that his competency be evaluated. Dr. Hegarty, one of two mental health professionals who examined him, said Mr. Padilla was “fearful of being thought of as crazy.” She described him as “hypervigilant,” his eyes darting about, his face twitching into grimaces, his “startle response” on constant high alert.

The original accusations against him — “about the dirty bomb, Al Qaeda connections and supposed plans to set off natural gas explosions in apartment buildings — appear nowhere in the indictment against him.”

And George gets his way

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Back to the Republican bashing (hat tip to Billmon):

The bad news is that Mr. Bush, as he made clear yesterday, intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation. Under the compromise agreed to yesterday, Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to U.S. courts. The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes.

In short, it’s hard to credit the statement by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday that “there’s no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved.” In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress’s tacit assent. If they do, America’s standing in the world will continue to suffer, as will the fight against terrorism.