Tuesday, December 07, 2004

# Posted 8:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

A PIECE I'D LIKE TO READ, IF SOMEONE'D LIKE TO WRITE IT: Sickened as I was like other observers by the scenes which appeared over the summer from Abu Ghraib, I'm left by the onset of Charles Graner's trial by court-martial in Fort Hood, Texas with a sense that there ought to be more coverage in the press on the reflection Abu Ghraib casts on American prisons at home. The Washington Post's profile of Spc. Graner (June 5, David Finkel and Christian Davenport) touched on the fact that Graner's day job in Pennsylvania was, actually, as a prison guard, and that images from the Fayette County Prison and State Correctional Institution-Greene rang eerily familiar to the images of Abu Ghraib; but I'm not aware of any further journalistic coverage of the point since. On the broader subject of execrable, and illegal, violations of inmates' rights in prisons, Human Rights Watch has written a report on the subject, and Slate touched once on prison rape (Oct. 1, 2003, Robert Weisberg and David Mills), but my impression is that the subject is generally not given due attention, and the Graner trial seems like it might provide an appropriate moment.

Note to editors: the piece that I have in mind would probe a bit deeper into the stateside penal institutions Graner served in, by tracking down prisoners and guards from Graner's time there for interview; review the evidence to hand about abuse in prisons in general and assess competing possibilities, and past attempts, of reform; and argue prison abuse in America doesn't receive necessary attention - whether because of notions prisoners deserve what comes to them, reluctance of civil rights organisations to associate themselves with prisoners' causes, or simpler problems of lack of resources.

Speaking as a liberal hawk, whose cautious support for American and British war aims in Iraq has been closely premised on their humanitarian rationale, it's not clear that we can separate the reformist impulse for a public order of human dignity at home from its counterpart abroad. Abu Ghraib makes it painfully clear that on both counts, there's much more to be done.

P.S. Low posting due to blogger being down. (i.e., the program, not me.)
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