The infamous "tent city" jail where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has housed inmates since 1993. (photo: AP)
But racist Trump A.G. Sessions makes circus out of federal prison system
06 April 17
heriff Paul Penzone of Maricopa County, Arizona, a Democrat who defeated the notorious birther and race baiter Joe Arpaio in last November’s election, said on Tuesday that he was closing Arpaio’s infamous “Tent City” prison, where prisoners live in the desert’s searing heat, are fed only twice a day, and are forced to wear pink underwear solely for humiliation. Penzone told the media, “Starting today, the circus ends, and the tents come down.” Arpaio, meanwhile, is under federal indictment for three counts of contempt of court for failing to end racial profiling in the county.
Penzone’s actions are a breath of fresh air in the American penal system. But this is the exception, rather than the rule. With Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department, conditions in federal and state prisons already are deteriorating.
Sessions will likely do nothing to improve the federal system, and he’ll do nothing to pressure governors or state attorneys general to improve state prisons. And to make matters worse, Sessions has implemented a policy of backing off of investigations into police and prison misconduct.
Just last week, a Florida state prosecutor declined to file any charges against guards at Dade Correctional Institution after they dragged prisoner Darren Rainey into a shower that they had modified to punish prisoners, where they scalded him for two hours. Eyewitnesses said that Rainey had been “boiled like a lobster.” Official photos showed that there was “extreme” damage to Rainey’s skin, he was burned over his entire body, and significant sections of his skin were missing altogether, revealing muscle, fat, and blood vessels. This, apparently, does not constitute a crime in the state of Florida.
Medical officials at the Idaho State Correctional Institution so ignored and maltreated chronically ill, disabled, and elderly prisoners there that many had to have limbs amputated, some were infected with—and not treated for—flesh-eating bacteria, and others died of neglect, sepsis, and other preventable maladies. Prisoners currently have a federal suit pending against the Idaho Department of Corrections. Sessions is siding with the prison.
The Idaho State Correctional Institution’s medical unit is run by the private prison company Corizon, the same prison healthcare company being sued by the family of Denise Forte in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and which does millions of dollars of work for Sessions’ federal Bureau of Prisons. The 53-year-old Forte was arrested on drug charges and taken to the Gwinnett County Jail, run by Corizon. She had chronic lung disease, and was told during her intake, “You’re on the list to be seen by a doctor this week.” Her medical records at the prison indicated that her condition was “serious.”
In fact, though, Forte was never seen by a doctor even as her symptoms worsened as soon as she arrived at the jail. Within days, she was dead.
This is an ongoing theme with Corizon. There are dozens of malpractice lawsuits pending against the company all across the country.
That doesn’t seem to phase Sessions, though. In February, he rescinded an Obama administration order directing the Bureau of Prisons to begin phasing out private prisons, despite the fact that private prisons have more safety and security problems and worse healthcare than prisons run by the government. The likes of Corizon will have more work, not less. How can we even being to tally the human misery?
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act - a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.