Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Alternative sets of procedures

Mark Danner does a useful job on government sanctioned torture (US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites, The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means). One can see the violence inherent in doublethink at work. As George W. Bush asked, 'What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"?'

Less publicized, perhaps, has been the widespread use of solitary confinement in U.S prisons and the ramifications of this practice, which is a form of torture. In his remarkable investigation, Hellhole, Atul Gawande observes:
With little concern or demurral, we have consigned tens of thousands of our own citizens to conditions that horrified our highest court a century ago. Our willingness to discard these standards for American prisoners made it easy to discard the Geneva Conventions prohibiting similar treatment of foreign prisoners of war, to the detriment of America’s moral stature in the world. In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement—on our own people, in our own communities, in a supermax prison, for example, that is a thirty-minute drive from my door

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