US Prisons: Human Rights Hell

The judge said “Son, what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else, then you won’t have to die.”
I spoke not a word though it meant my life,
For I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

— “Long Black Veil”, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, originally recorded by Lefty Frizzel in 1959, later by numerous artists including The Band in 1968

When Judge Christina Argyres told accused thief Isaiah Gay that he would become “somebody’s bitch,” and “raped every day,” if he went to prison, she defined one of the human rights violations which routinely occur in US prisons.  The only thing shocking about it is that a judge should openly admit it.

Law enforcement officers are known to threaten suspects that if they don’t talk, they will be sent to prisons where they will be repeatedly raped.  Hollywood movies routinely joke about this.

In much of the civilized world the American prison system is seen as a human rights horror in which prisoners are sometimes kept in solitary confinement for years at a time.  Since the 1990s, the U.N. Committee Against Torture has repeatedly condemned the use of solitary confinement in the U.S., but currently there are more than 80,000 men, women and children so isolated in prisons across the USA.

In order for American-style capitalism to function, 6,899,000 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2013 (the latest year for which data is available) – about 2.8% of adults (1 in 35) in the U.S. resident population – the world’s largest prison population.

This is because a huge number of unemployed people is maintained by those who run the American economy, in order to drag down wages so that plutocracy is better enabled.  The USA has the most billionaires of any nation, with the most homeless and hungry among major industrialized nations.

If people want to feed their children, many are forced to sell illegal drugs or participate in other criminal activity, since there is always an acute shortage of jobs paying a living wage.  When people begin to find jobs the Federal Reserve Board raises interest rates to bring unemployment back up to its normal two digit numbers (always about twice the bogus official unemployment rate).

With so many people suffering, corporations are able to hire workers at much lower pay than they would if more jobs were available and workers had bargaining power.

What makes this all possible is the most corrupt election system imaginable, in which candidates are purchased by the highest bidder, combined with a controlled mainstream media to promote it.  Candidates are selected by the money from the Democratic and Republican parties, and anyone representing the public interest is completely ignored.  Most Americans are not aware that Jill Stein is running as the Green Party candidate and representing their interests, even as the Democrats and Republicans sell them out lock, stock and barrel.

I’ve spent a great deal of time visiting Plowshares activists in prisons and jails, and have found that our prisons contain mostly nonviolent people, most for minor drug offenses.  I’ve documented this in my book, An Attack on the National Security State.  Plowshares activists in prisons have told me they’ve met a number of people who they consider to be political prisoners, some who’ve blown the whistle on embarrassing activity in our government, such as Private Manning and John Kiriakou.

What makes it all work is our corrupt mainstream media, who rarely allow an iota of public interest information to get to the American people.  I’ve written in the past about what must be done to counter this, the people need to have their own media.

That a society exists with a need to incarcerate millions of its people for the sole purpose of supplicating billionaires is horrible enough without it being made invisible by the corporate media.  If ever an iota of democracy should break out, the people who run the mainstream press should be put on trial alongside of those who commit the barbaric human rights horrors, wars and other crimes against mankind.

Jack Balkwill is an activist in Virginia. He can be reached at Read other articles by Jack.