While I am glad attention is being brought to an American form of torture in our prisons, isolation, I am about to start screaming due to the ignorance of those writing about it. Having Aspergers my favorite form of screaming is using all caps. The real story here should be that thousands of people in the United States are being held in even worse conditions than Bradley Manning. His incarceration is not unusual, except for not allowing him to exercise in his cell, yet he has other privileges such as TV that are not generally allowed.

From Mother Jones:Europe's eyes were on the curious competing theories at Sing Sing and Eastern State. A celebrity at the time, Charles Dickens visited Eastern State to have a look for himself at this radical new social invention. Rather than impressed, he was shocked at the state of the sensory-deprived, ashen inmates with wild eyes he observed. He wrote that they were "dead to everything but torturing anxieties and horrible despair...The first man...answered...with a strange kind of pause...fell into a strange stare as if he had forgotten something..." Of another prisoner, Dickens wrote, "Why does he stare at his hands and pick the flesh open...and raise his eyes for an instant...to those bare walls?"

"The system here, is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement," Dickens concluded. "I believe it…to be cruel and wrong...I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body."

In the late 1800s, the Supreme Court of the United States began looking at growing clinical evidence emanating from Europe that showed that the psychological effects of solitary were in fact dire. In Germany, which had emulated the isolationist Pennsylvania model, doctors had documented a spike in psychosis among inmates. In 1890, the High Court condemned the use of long-term solitary confinement, noting "a considerable number of prisoners...fell into a semi-fatuous condition...and others became violently insane." http://motherjones.com/politics/2009/03/solitary-confinement-brief-natural-history

Over the last week or so I have read several articles with the theme that Bradley Manning is being held in unusual conditions and the article on the Huff Post today entitled Bradley Manning's Confinement Conditions Are 'Not Customary' triggered my PTSD and has set me off as the last straw. This is disrespectful to all those who have been and still are in solitary confinement. He doesn’t get sheets, but he gets a pad to sleep on, he gets to read the news, he gets to watch TV, and he gets regular food. I was told that at Wildwood I would not be allowed to receive newspapers because it was too much of a hassel for staff. Manning has things people in solitary confinement don’t always get, especially TV. Are they even making him wear one of those suicide outfits with Velcro?

When will people wake up and smell the roses, the information is out there. Before writing a piece about prisons it would be nice if people could do a little reality research. It is really starting to get on my nerves that so many are writing that Manning is being held in unusually harsh conditions. He is not. His conditions are harsh, inhumane, horrendous, and against everything this country is supposed to stand for, but this is what goes on in prisons all over the United States. It is the norm, military or civilian. When the hell is America going to wake up and smell the roses? When is President Obama going to do something about this? The mainstream news media says almost nothing about the fact that our country’s incarcerated make up about 25% of the world’s prison population. I guess it goes along with continuing to have secret prisons and extraordinary renditions, or decreeing the assassination of American citizens rather than arrest and trial. It also goes along with the massive surveillance of all of us and raids by the FBI against peace activists.

NPR: 1829 - The first experiment in solitary confinement in the United States begins at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It is based on a Quaker belief that prisoners isolated in stone cells with only a Bible would use the time to repent, pray and find introspection. But many of the inmates go insane, commit suicide, or are no longer able to function in society, and the practice is slowly abandoned during the following decades.

This practice is back and they often will only allow inmates to have a Bible, several inmates at Hiland Mountain told me of this practice in admin. seg. (only Christian propaganda was available, I even asked, they had nothing else). If I had known Palin had them run off the Wicca lady I most likely would have asked for Wicca material even though I am not Wiccan.

To say the conditions of Manning's confinement are "not customary" is false, except for the prevention of exercises in the cell. Often people are not taken outside for exercise or sunlight from solitary confinement. People are held in these conditions all over the country, not just in military prisons. This is what supermax prisons are about and many prisons have supermax wings. The private prison industry is swinging towards massive solitary confinement because they can run the prisons with less staff and less skilled staff. Solitary confinement also prevents access to the outside so the inmate can’t communicate about conditions in the prisons and lies that are being told about them in the news media.

In prisons in the United States people are put in solitary confinement, called administrative segregation to punish them for writing grievances due to violations of their civil rights, poor conditions, lack of medical care, because they are mentally ill (staff are not trained to deal with them), and demands for access to sunlight or exercise, complaints about abusive treatment by corrections officers (along with nursing and medical staff) and demands to use the law library. I experienced it myself when I was wrongfully imprisoned for a short time in Alaska and then began researching what goes on. It is horrifying. I am glad light is being shined on this horrendous practice, but for the most part Manning's confinement is NOT unusual. This is also a typical practice for detainees who are illegal and sometimes legal aliens.

NPR: 1890 - In an opinion concerning the effects of solitary confinement on inmates housed in Philadelphia (Re: Medley, 134 U.S. 160), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller finds, "A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community."

The effects of solitary confinement have been known for a long time. People are being harmed purposefully. If released they will be right back in prison because they can long longer function on their own, it destroys them.

The staff in the mental health unit tried to get me put in administrative segregation after being held in solitary confinement in the mental health unit at Hiland Mountain. I wrote grievances which were disappeared. I wrote a lot of them and none of them ever seemed to surface nor was there a hearing in response. The only hearing was the one with a parole officer to decide if I should go into admin. Seg. When I told her my story and what had gone on she had tears in her eyes and without even asking her I knew she had heard this story one too many times. She made me a level one (least security risk inmate) and recommended I go to open population so I could get phone calls to people and get bailed out to save my cat, save my property and start working on my defense (the public defenders never came to see me). They then held me for two more days in the mental health unit after her recommendation. The last day I was there they made me go to a group. A question was asked of everyone regarding how a situation with a difficult person was handled? I then gave my answer using psychological terms and evaluation of a person who is an abusive, borderline, lifelong alcoholic. I knew it was going to piss them off. This upset them immediately and I got wide eyed glaring from staff. I had also told them I just wanted to stay in my cell and never come out as I enjoyed the solitude, etc. This was very disturbing for them as they could no longer use it as leverage to punish me or attempt to get me to follow along with their program of points for certain behaviors to earn more time out of the cell. My ass was out of there in about two hours. But they did not send me to open population, they put me in the orientation unit where an officer told me he could hold me for months because I complained he prevented me from going to the law library. He did a lot of other unethical things as well. But the officer who was on opposite him is crazy as a bed bug, so most of the inmates like him just because he is not her. I heard they closed that unit two days after I left the prison.

NPR: 1989 - California builds Pelican Bay, a new prison built solely to house inmates in isolation. By most accounts, it is the first Supermax facility in the country. There is no need to build a yard, cafeteria, classrooms or shops. Inmates spend 22 1/2 hours a day inside an 8-by-10-foot cell. The other 1 1/2 hours are spent alone in a small concrete exercise pen.

This saves the government and private corporations money.

When I was first arrested I was taken to Wildwood and placed in the holding area or drunk tank area for about three days. I am very familiar with the appropriate procedures for such a unit having worked in them in a psychiatric facility for mentally ill legal offenders as well as the infirmaries on McNeil Island and Purdy (Washington Women’s Correctional Facility). These corrections officers in Alaska have no idea what really dangerous units are and I worked without the special equipment these pussies use.

I had a mat in that cell about the thickness of a high school gymnasium exercise mat which was placed on the cement floor of a freezing cold cell which was full of spiders which would crawl on me, occasionally biting. No showers, tooth brush, soap or towel were allowed. I did get a blanket. The corrections officers thought the spiders crawling on the inmates was really funny, “They are pretty bad, he he he.”  They goofed off, psychologically torturing me mainly due to my insistence that not only was I innocent, but the conditions were illegal. Through the food slot they told me I was a criminal, a scum bag and more. I occasionally got my medications from a very nasty nurse and ignorant nurse during my three day stay there (in less than thirty days I was in four different facilities a tactic used to prevent communication with the outside world) who made me take high doses of Trazadone and Gabapentin at the same time when I told her they would make me throw up if taken together. Then she said I threw up on purpose. She also held them in retaliation at times and I would be willing to bet documented I refused them. This and many other things she did are a violation of the nurse practice act under AAC 44.760 and AAC 44.770.

The person in the cell next to me in Wildwood went into at least a respiratory arrest and they did not notice for a while due to screwing around, junior high school behavior. She was most likely intoxicated and should have been closely watched both by corrections officers and nursing staff, most likely the reason she was in that unit. Then it was the keystone cops when they finally found her. She left Wildwood intubated on a cart with paramedics. I would like to know what happened to her. I was yelling to be let out of my cell as I spent years as a nurse doing CPR on people and experienced CPR providers decrease brain damage and increase survival. Of course they just covered my little cell door window.

NPR: 1990s - The building boom of Supermax or control-unit prisons begins. Oregon, Mississippi, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and a dozen other states all build new, free-standing, isolation units.

I slept on a metal bunk at Hiland mountain without a sleeping pad for two nights, had to beg for toilet paper, was refused a towel and soap, and fed a starvation diet of lettuce, carrots and a slice of nitrate filled lunch meat for all three meals (I lost eight pounds in less than a week). They did give me a blanket, but no pillow. They claimed a shortage of pillows, yet gave inmates who came in after me pillows. I am severely allergic to wool and had constant unrelenting itching. The blankets are made of wool and designed so it is not obvious they are. I was mainly concerned about my cat who I knew would be abused, my property that I knew was being stolen and trying to make contact with the incompetent and uncaring public defender agency, as well as not thinking right due to abrupt med withdrawal or I would have realized right away the blanket was wool. The staff knew the blankets were wool and that was why I had itching so severe I was scratching until I bled, yet they let it go on for days until I finally realized what the problem was. What kind of idiot would buy wool blankets anyway when so many are allergic? The obvious solution was to give me a different kind of blanket, but instead they told me the only solution was for me to smear lard all over myself. This was designed to degrade me more.

They had also abruptly and dangerously stopped my medication for the PTSD and Aspergers Syndrome causing me great suffering and mental confusion (BTW, a telephone hearing was held in the Nome Court during this time of confusion). Their psychiatrist after talking to me for about three minutes not only told me I did not have Aspergers, she also told me autistics do not have diarrhea, just to give you an idea of her level of expertise. This was right after the psychologist told me I had no mental illness, I was just "arrogant and nasty". The psychiatrist also made this statement to me, “I’ve seen more people with Aspergers than you ever will.” I doubt that very seriously as I used to attend an Aspie support group in L.A., and worked with autistic people at a large state facility. I also worked with mentally ill legal offenders who were autistic. They told me I had no mental illness when it was very clear I was extremely disturbed and did have a severe case of complex PTSD, yet they continued to hold me in the same conditions. Those conditions they held me in while I knew my cat was being harmed, my property was being stolen, I was innocent, and the inhumane treatment I experienced and observed have harmed me irreparably. This is not something that can be fully recovered from.

They also claimed I might be dangerous because I was outspoken and angry. I was angry and had a right to be. I have a right to be outspoken about the abuse by DA Earthman and Judge Esch that got me wrongfully incarcerated, the lies told to them by the serial workplace bullies at Norton Sound Health Corporation, the lies told to me by the public defender agency to manipulate me, the lack of response of state senators and especially the office of half-governor Sarah Palin, the incompetence and corruption of the Alaska State Troopers, the violations of my rights that were going on at the prison (as well as the violations of the rights of very mentally ill inmates). I always will be angry about it and I should be.

I was denied medical care because the midlevel I finally saw two days before I was released ignorantly told me Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ Myalgic Enchephalomyelitis is not a real illness. There were other inmates who also had it and were told the same thing. The stress I went through caused a flare up that made me very ill. CFS/ME is very much like AIDS. The retroviruses which are associated with it are activated by the stress hormone Cortisol, any stress can do it psychological or physical. This is a type of willful medical ignorance I find all over Alaska, but is done in the prisons to deny health care. Just like the psychiatrist who had no idea what a female Aspie was because she had not read any further than the limited and deceptive DSM-IV male oriented description of it.

NPR: 1999 - A report by the Department of Justice finds that more than 30 states are operating a Supermax-type facility with 23-hours-a-day lockdown and long-term isolation. The study finds that some states put 0.5 percent of their total inmates in this kind of facility, while other states lock up more than 20 percent of their inmates this way.

The reasons for my treatment: staff at prisons think all inmates are lying so when I said I was innocent it pissed them off, they were retaliating because I told them what they did was violating civil rights, I demanded medical care, I told the psychiatrist she did not know what she was talking about, I refused to participate in the behavior point system in the mental health unit and I wrote one grievance after another. One of the reasons for these conditions is to purposefully cause psychological harm, often just for revenge of prison staff who have their own psychological issues which are very similar to the workplace bullies I had gotten my original PTSD from.

It is not a secret to those who manage systems of corrections that solitary confinement and cruelty cause mental illness. They are also fully aware of the conditions that are supposed to be upheld in the prisons, yet are allowed to get away with violating them. The DOJ has done a few token prosecutions of prison guards who were abusive under Eric Holder, but it is very limited. They put inmates in administrative segregation on purpose to break the them, they even told me this is what they were doing to me. It causes people to loose their spirit, get PTSD, and become dependent. It is very devastating to someone who had a mental health problem before the solitary confinement, like myself with the PTSD. I was fortunate to only be in that situation a short time. I was also fortunate to have the knowledge base to know what they were doing was wrong and I did not deserve the way they treated me. I think those who are brainwashed into believing they deserve the horrid treatment in the prisons are the ones who never get better over time. Many have been permanently destroyed. There are people who have been in these conditions eight or twelve years, or longer. Some of them have even been later exonerated of the charges they were confined for.

I think the worst part of this whole sad story about our prisons is finding out that the propaganda we have all been fed about what the United States is turned out to be completely false. Our court systems are not the shining examples of justice that we are told they are. Government agencies along with private prison corporations/private intelligence corporations/private security corporations are using people like slaves for profit. Inmates are used for no pay or very low pay to help corporations make huge profits off their products, a kind of in-sourcing. This is why I am so broken hearted about the United States.

When will the citizens of this country wake up and realize that something is seriously wrong when huge numbers of our people are being incarcerated for profit. It is not just the private prison corporations (helped out by lobbying of corrections officers unions) who are making a profit off of prisoners, the corporations sell products and services to the prisons and there are businesses around them that profit from mass incarceration. Most people have no idea the federal government pays community jails and state prisons to hold immigrants in “detention”.

People who have been held in conditions like this can no longer function in society and many commit slow suicide with drugs and alcohol.

NPR: 2005 - Daniel P. Mears, an associate professor at Florida State University, conducts a nationwide study and finds there are now 40 states operating Supermax or control-unit prisons, which collectively hold more than 25,000 U.S. prisoners.

25,000 in 2005, I would not be surprised if the number has more than doubled by now due to the explosion of private prison corporations and other issues in the U.S. Certainly no one can say the conditions of Manning’s incarceration are unusual, he in fact has many “luxuries” others in solitary don’t have, including large numbers of people who speak out for him and actively try to pressure the government to change his conditions. Inmates who are isolated and have no contact with the outside loose everyone they had in their lives and can’t get media or legal attention. Just like the Department of Correction’s regulations in Alaska that are just there for show, the military regulations are there for legal protocol purposes. They do as they damn well please and will continue to do so unless those of us on the outside put pressure on them. Yes, what they are doing to Manning is wrong, but it is wrong for the thousands of other inmates as well.

American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons By Mark Dow


onething said...

Very upsetting to hear about this.

Anonymous said...

Have you gone to Washington,DC to plead your case on prison life? You have a story to tell. You would make a good advocate.

Celia Harrison said...

@Annonymous 9:20 P.M., I would love to talk to anyone who could implement changes and this year intend to make some contacts. I believe there is a reason a person who had experience working in corrections with psychiatric experience ended up going through the experiences I have had. It takes time to heal enough to get the strength to fight and I am just about there. Thanks for the encouragement.

Harry James Krebs, Jr. said...

Hello Celia,
Good to read your post... most articulate. Sorry that you have had such pain. I wish for you happiness and good health, always.
Harry formerly of Homer.

Celia Harrison said...

Hi Harry, I hope you are doing well in the lower 48. Thanks for the good wishes and I wish the same for you. I am healing from the trauma and getting ready to go into fight mode, in 2011 I'm putting on the boxing gloves.