Tag Archives: Brubaker

Without trial

It happens, and most often it is some American source that gives us the alleged goods. I state here alleged, because I am not now, not ever willing to take the media at their word, there have been too many events where the media goes free because someone whispered to them ‘as far as we can tell’, or ‘an anonymous sources close to the matter at hand told us’, the media hs had too many of these events. Yet when Reuters give us goods, it is time to take notice, mainly because Reuters does not go out on a limb that often. So when I became aware of ‘Why 4,998 died in U.S. jails without getting their day in court’ (at https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-jails-deaths/), I woke up pretty quickly. 

Apart from the images, the article starts with “The U.S. government collects detailed data on who’s dying in which jails around the country – but won’t let anyone see it. So, Reuters conducted its own tally of fatalities in America’s biggest jails, pinpointing where suicide, botched healthcare and bad jail-keeping are claiming lives in a system with scant oversight”, I get why the US government wants to keep a lid on it, yet 5000 deaths is not something that goes unnoticed. So what is going on? The setting only gets worse when we see “Death rates have soared in those lockups, rising 35% over the decade ending last year. Casualties like Hill are typical: held on minor charges and dying without ever getting their day in court. At least two-thirds of the dead inmates identified by Reuters, 4,998 people, were never convicted of the charges on which they were being held”, as such we see an institution that has failed on several levels, 35% over a decade is quite the increase, when we look at lives lost, any percentage change that is a mere one digit is seen as disastrous, so how does this happen? I am asking because the institution that we can laughingly call the Human Rights branch of the UN, seems to have no problems going after Saudi Arabia, and when we are told “Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Saudi Arabia. The country performed at least 158 executions in 2015, at least 154 in 2016, at least 146 in 2017, at least 149 in 2018, with possibly 184 executed in 2019”, as such can someone explain why the UN has such loud trumpets on the 791 death, all whilst the US put 4998 to death without a trial. With the Saudi allegedly ending the lives of close to 15% of what the US might categorise at ‘Business as usual’, ‘the cost of doing business’ or even ‘workplace accidents’ (with the optional oops! At the end). Yet this is not about Saudi Arabia, it is to some degree about Reuters (the good part) and to a large extent about the United Nations (the bad part) where we heard an essay writer and French Human Rights expert and the Special Rapporteur for the UN how she shouted (debatable) events, she never gave us the 4998 inhumane endings of life, did she? So as Reuters treats us to “The U.S. Constitution grants inmates core rights, but those provisions are hard to enforce. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees fair treatment to pre-trial detainees, but “fair” is open to interpretation by judges and juries. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel punishment forbids “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners,” but proving deliberate negligence is difficult. The Sixth Amendment assures speedy trials, but does not define speedy”, we see the larger picture and we understand and get that some events cannot be anticipated, but 4998 losses that continue to go on is a much larger stage. It is optionally a stage where we see that the debts of the US are now the almost given guarantee to loss of life in the US, all whilst there is a larger stage where there is a chance that the largest percentage of these 4998 losses are not criminals, they are people caught in a bad setting and awaiting a chance to explain themselves. All this, in a stage where people in the US are calling Saudi Arabia bad, all whilst they are in a setting where they have killed 631% more people, all innocent people, you are innocent until proven guilty and these 4998 people never got their day in court, all whilst the 791 executed people, were proven to be guilty in a Saudi court of law.

So who represents the larger failure (apart from the UN who never acted, perhaps because their HQ is in New York). Yet Reuters is nowhere near done. When they give us “Many jails are not subject to any enforceable standards for their operation or the healthcare they provide. They typically get little if any oversight. And bail requirements trap poorer inmates in pre-trial detention for long periods. Meanwhile, inmate populations have grown sicker, more damaged by mental illness and plagued by addictions”, it is my personal view, yet a stage where we see “not subject to any enforceable standards”, a stage that merely escalates bad situations quickly towards what could be regarded as ‘worse nightmares’. There is however a small gem there too, but you will miss it when you read the article too quickly. The quote “Reuters was not able to identify the race of 9% of inmates who died”, you see this is a stage with a much larger frame of mind. In my personal opinion, this either sets the stage of a shoddy administration, or optionally a party wanted to make the identification of 9% of the cases close to impossible. There is the case of multi-racial stage, but to admit to such a failure gives rise to an inmate registration failure that should have been fixed well over two decades ago, as such I see a much larger stage, yet with the limited information available I cannot say which is the more accurate one.

The article is much larger and it has several sides that make this dynamite on several levels and to see this in Reuters and not in the Washington Post or the New York Times is a larger stage. So the last part I will look at is “The Justice Department has grown more secretive about the fatality data under the Trump administration. While BJS never has released jail-by-jail mortality figures, it traditionally has published aggregated statistics every two years or so. The 2016 report wasn’t issued until this year”, the stage has a few items that are debatable and optionally a larger stage that has issues all over the board. The lack in mortality figures is the largest and most visible one, you see, this stage was much larger in the 70’s and Robert Redford gave us the low down in the movie Brubaker in 1980, a movie that is a gem on several levels. So 40 years ago there was a clear stage where mortality rate was a visible issue (11 years after the fact), a large one and someone swiped that issue OFF the table. The movie was based on a fictionalised version of the 1969 book, Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal by Tom Murton and Joe Hyams, detailing Murton’s uncovering of the 1967 prison scandal. The unsettling stage of something that came to light when he had the wardenship of the prison farms of Arkansas. 

It is when we consider this stage we see the largest failure in the US, a stage where side entries into society (criminals) are set to a stage off the board making them marginalised. There is one little issue, the 4998 people were innocent, they were never convicted, they never had their day in court and the system failed them close to 100%. And even if we give credibility to Michelle Deitch, she might be right on her turf, the setting of “these gaps make comprehensive nationwide statistics all the more important. “You can’t have good policy without good data,” she said. “Data tells us what is going right and what’s going wrong.””, the fact that racial info was missing in 9% of the cases give rise to a faltering system that has never properly overhauled, or the system is fault due to possibilities of data manipulation, that part is given a level of clarity when we realise that out of these cases the racial data of 450 people could not be ascertained. It is not a flaw or a data gap, it should be seen as a systemic failure. When a person is arrested, from the arrest (2 people) to local arrangements, to transport, to arrival into a jail, well over a dozen people missed it, and more important, they missed it 450 times. This is a systemic issue from day one and no one has rung the bell, at least not to the degree that this bell should have been rung. 

Well done Reuters!

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