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American “Corrections”

At SCI Pittsburgh in Woods Run, Pennsylvania, prisoners and guards alike made the phenomenon of imprisonment more hellish than usual.

That’s because, according to at least one broadcast report, men at the medium- to minimum-security lock-up, particularly those convicted of sexual assaults against children, were raped by other prisoners – and by several guards – with ranking staff turning a blind eye.

While the radio report was unconfirmed, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections did the unprecedented. They fired the prison’s warden, two deputy superintendents and even the major of the guard – something virtually unheard of in this business.

Eight prison guards were suspended without pay earlier this year (although seven have not been publicly identified).

An Allegheny County grand jury is presently investigating the sexual assault charges. No state government official has commented publicly on the claims, but certainly the firing of the prison’s highest-ranking staff suggests that “something is rotten in Denmark.”

What makes these incidents particularly poignant is that SCI Pittsburgh, which was closed back in 2005 because of security and budgetary concerns, isn’t the maximum-security prison it once was. It reopened in 2007 as a treatment center, a kind of medical unit for men suffering from addictions, age-related physical ailments or serious psychological issues. That’s why it was reclassified as a medium-minimum security facility.

That these men, who were promised medical treatment, were treated so basely by other prisoners – and reportedly by guards as well – gives us some sense of precisely how poisonous American “corrections” has become.

Is there any wonder that American soldiers, many of whom worked as prison guards stateside, behaved so badly in Iraq and abroad? From whence did the violence and violations of Abu Ghraib arise, if not from the experiences learned and perfected in American prisons?

During the depredations of the Iraq War, ex-President George W. Bush famously inveighed against the “rape rooms” of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and used such reports to justify the invasion and occupation. Here, in the U.S., rape rooms are also present – in our prisons.

Should invasion and occupation be expected here as well?

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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