What does it say concerning the humanitarian situation of US prisons and jails when one of many United States’ closest allies refuses to extradite an individual for worry that American jail circumstances would drive him to suicide?
That is precisely what occurred on Monday when a British court docket dominated in opposition to america’ extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange resulting from issues that his well being and security can’t be assured in US custody.
The USA fought vigorously to extradite Assange in order that he can stand trial for alleged violations of the US Espionage Act, in addition to different alleged cyber crimes.
We have been dismayed by Choose Vanessa Baraitser’s apparently sympathetic method to america’ authorized arguments, and we’re upset that the court docket didn’t reject the unconventional concept that overseas publishers will be prosecuted for publishing US secrets and techniques. The job of nationwide safety journalists is to publish the federal government’s secrets and techniques. Criminalizing that could be a risk to press freedom and democratic accountability, and these expenses must be dropped.
However, in her ruling Choose Baraitser denied extradition because of the vital threat that Assange can be positioned in solitary confinement, which she concluded would doubtless result in his loss of life by suicide.
Assange has a protracted and documented historical past of psychological sickness, and psychiatric specialists testified that, throughout his present incarceration in the UK, periodic visits from his partner and youngsters, in addition to cellphone calls along with his household, are vital elements stopping him from making an attempt suicide or self-harm.
These are issues that might nearly actually be denied Assange in US custody.
Extended solitary confinement – outlined because the apply of confining individuals for 22 to 24 hours per day with out significant human contact for a interval of greater than 15 days – can quantity to torture, in keeping with the United Nations.
Solitary confinement is especially harmful for people affected by psychological sickness, in addition to kids, nursing moms and pregnant individuals. The United Nations’ Nelson Mandela Guidelines prohibit extended solitary confinement, and limit using solitary confinement for these high-risk people.
A rising variety of international locations have carried out the Mandela Guidelines as a part of a world motion in opposition to the continued use of this inhumane therapy, however these prohibitions haven’t been adopted by the US Bureau of Prisons or any American state – with the partial exception of Colorado.
Based on the Jail Coverage Initiative, an estimated 37% of individuals incarcerated in US state and federal prisons have a identified psychological sickness, as do an estimated 44% of incarcerated individuals in native jails. And research have proven that roughly half of all suicides and incidents of self-harm in American prisons and jails happen amongst individuals held in solitary confinement.
In 2011, the ACLU’s Nationwide Jail Challenge launched the Cease Solitary marketing campaign, which advocates for the abolition of extended solitary confinement and the nationwide implementation of the Mandela Guidelines. Previous to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the variety of individuals held in solitary confinement in america every day was estimated to vary from 55,000 to 62,500. After a decade of gradual however regular progress by advocates to scale back using solitary confinement, current occasions have made the scenario worse.
As of June 2020, the Unlock the Field marketing campaign estimated that as many as 300,000 individuals have been being held in solitary confinement in response to Covid-19 – a virtually 500% enhance from pre-pandemic numbers. The elevated use of solitary confinement, which is happening in state and native prisons and jails in addition to federal amenities, is being justified as a response to Covid-19, regardless of overwhelming public well being proof that solitary confinement is a harmful and counterproductive response to the illness.
Julian Assange is way from the one individual vulnerable to critical damage or loss of life by the circumstances which characterize US prisons and jails. The courts should be as involved concerning the therapy of the tons of of 1000’s of people that have been held in solitary final 12 months as they’re about this man with a world following.
“It’s stated that nobody really is aware of a nation till one has been inside its jails,” Nelson Mandela famously acknowledged.
So what does america’ continued over-reliance on a apply that’s internationally acknowledged as tantamount to torture say about us?
We actually can do higher.