by Paul Wright
In this month’s cover story, we report on misconduct and abuse in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Despite being the largest prison system in the United States, and one of the largest in the world, the BOP does not receive much in the way of scrutiny or oversight. PLN has been reporting on the BOP since our inception in 1990, and our readers are certainly aware of the abuses, corruption and brutality that occur within the BOP with monotonous regularity. Yet the public perception seems to be that the BOP is, overall, better-run and managed than many of its state counterparts. I suppose if the comparison is with state prison systems in Alabama or Florida or Mississippi that may well be true.
I would like to think that the bar would be somewhat higher, but apparently it is not. I have noted before that when I read the Department of Justice is suing a state prison system for excessive brutality or poor medical care, all too often the same case could be brought against the BOP. Yet that will not happen. While the BOP may not be better-run, it does seem to do a better job at keeping bad news down to a minimum, and it is much more difficult to sue than its state and local counterparts.
The BOP’s lack of oversight is one of its more serious problems. It also makes reform and change extremely difficult. The BOP has a new director, Colette Peters, who formerly directed the Oregon prison system. She is the first BOP director to come from outside the agency in a long time. Whether she is able to improve things remains to be seen. But she definitely has a lot to do.
HRDC has successfully moved its office, and we got a little behind on things during the move but are back to normal as this issue of PLN is going to press.
In the near future, HRDC will be venturing into multi-media, producing two video shows. One, State of the Police State, will report on news and abuses in American prisons, jails and police misconduct. The second show, Wages of Sin, will feature interviews with criminal defendants of interest – primarily those accused or convicted of crimes against the government or corporations. We hope to air our first shows by the middle of April. We will begin advertising the shows as soon as they start airing. We had planned to produce the shows last year but decided to wait until we had a dedicated production studio. My co-host for both shows will be John Kiriakou. He is a former CIA agent who was imprisoned for blowing the whistle on the Bush administration’s torture of political prisoners. To date, he remains the only person to go to prison on charges related to the American government’s torture program – and that was for exposing it to the media. The torturers themselves and the officials who ordered them have all escaped justice to date.
As this issue of PLN goes to print, I am in El Dorado, Arkansas, the day before a jury trial against the Union County jail, where we are challenging a ban on books and magazines. It will be our first jury trial on a censorship case; all previous cases have been bench trials. I will report the outcome in next month’s issue.
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