The lonely battle against solitary confinement

Not the post I was planning to make next, but this article, which has just appeared on the Guardian website annoyed me somewhat.

My comment (off the cuff, so please excuse any awkwardness of expression):

Conditions in US supermax prisons are undeniably severe – and the use of solitary confinement in itself may well constitute torture. However, what this article neglects to mention is that the treatment Bradley Manning is receiving at Quantico – in pre-trial detention, remember, he hasn’t been convicted of anything – is worse than the general supermax standard.

Bradley Manning is being kept in what the US military justice system calls ‘maximum custody’; it’s the most severe kind of detention in the US penal arsenal. But, more than this, he is being held under a Prevention of Injury Order (despite having been passed by a military-approved psychiatrist) that means, for example, that his guards are obliged to ask him if he is OK every five minutes of the day. He must answer this question, every five minutes, explicitly and vocally. A nod of the head will not suffice. This treatment is definitely ‘unusual’ and to claim otherwise is highly disingenuous.

Manning’s treatment is clearly designed to break him psychologically and pressure him into accepting a plea bargain. He has now been imprisoned for 238 days without showing any signs of doing the latter – and, without meaning to diminish the sins of the US prison system generally, this exceptional resilience and courage does deserve to be recognised as something quite apart. This article doesn’t help, frankly.

And that’s without even touching on the citizenship question.

Essential reading:

For more info (I’ve only just started this but will be adding more soon):


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