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Monday, October 16, 2017

SYRIA WAR REPORT – OCTOBER 16, 2017: GOVERNMENT FORCES LIBERATE CITY OF MAYADIN FROM ISIS

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have liberated the strategic city of Mayadin from ISIS terrorists in the province of Deir Ezzor. The SAA has also taken control of Buqrus Fawqani and Buqrus Tahtani northwest of the city.
Mayadin had been one of the key ISIS strongholds in the Euphrates Valley. Without it, the terrorist group has little chances to resist government troops securing the western bank of the Euphrates between Deir Ezzor and Mayadin.
According to pro-government sources, the SAA is now preparing to cross to the eastern bank of the Euphrates near Mayadin and to advance towards the Omar oil fields, which are also a target of the advance of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Meanwhile, the SDF officially reached a deal with ISIS in Raqqah city. SDF spokesman Talal Selo, 275 Syrian ISIS fighters along with their family members left the city under the deal. According to another SDF spokesman, Mostafa Bali, “the final batch of fighters” left the city via buses overnight into October 15.
Selo added that “no more than 200-300” foreign ISIS members remained in Raqqah. They will not be allowed to evacuate.
Following the official statement, SDF-linked media changed the narrative saying that the SDF didn’t allow ISIS members to left the city and they will be interrogated and prosecuted. However, it is not clear if the media refers the evacuated group or another group of ISIS members that could surrender to the SDF.
On October 15, the SDF declared a final phase of its offensive in Raqqah and captured al-Barid district. According to pro_SDF experts, Raqqah will soon fall into the hands of the US-backed force.

SYRIAN FORCES CLEARING EUPHRATES BANK BETWEEN DEIR EZZOR AND MAYADIN FROM ISIS (MAPS)

16.10.2017
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces and their allies are clearing a bank of the Euphrates between the cities of Deir Ezzor and Mayadin.
According to pro-government sources, the Tiger Forces liberated the villages of Zabari, Sa’lu and Tub from ISIS and deployed in a striking distance from al Muhassan.
As soon as government troops secure this part of the eastern Euphrates bank, they will likely start developing its advance on the western bank of the river with a clear aim to capture the strategic Omar oil fields north of al-Mayadin.

SYRIAN ARMY TAKES CONTROL OF AL-HUSAYNIYAH AND SAFIRAH AT-TAHTANIYAH NORTH OF DEIR EZZOR, ADVANCES INSIDE CITY

16.10.2017
Syrian Army Takes Control Of Al-Husayniyah And Safirah at-Tahtaniyah North Of Deir Ezzor, Advances Inside City
FILE IMAGE: mod.gov.sy
The Syrain Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have liberated the village of Al-Husayniyah from ISIS north of Deir Ezzor city, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, the Syrian Defense Ministry said on October 16.
Separtely, pro-government sources claimed that the SAA and the NDF have liberated the village of Safirah at-Tahtaniyah on the eastern bank of the river.
If the advance in Safirah at-Tahtaniyah is confirmed, this will be a notable signal of the expected full collapse of the ISIS defense north of Deir Ezzor city.
Meanwhile, government forces have continued advancing against ISIS terrorists inside the city. Especially intense clashes took place near  Deir Ezzor’s Workers’ District. A fighting was also reported in Al-Rusafa and Al-Rashidiyah.

IN MAPS: SYRIAN ARMY’S GAINS NORTH AND EAST OF DEIR EZZOR CITY

16.10.2017
Syrian government forces have liberated the village of al-Husayniyah north of Deir Ezzor city and the villages of Buqrus Fawqani and Buqrus Tahtani east of the city.

BREAKING: Syrian Army captures four ISIS-held villages south of Deir Ezzor

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (7:00 P.M.) – Minutes ago, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored a huge advance on the western bank of the Euphrates River after its elite assault troops overwhelmed ISIS at numerous points adjacent to the M4 Highway in southern Deir Ezzor.
Following the liberation of nearby two villages the day before, troops under the direct command of Suheil Al-Hassan took control over Zabqri, Saalo, Al-Aliyat and Al-Tob on Monday afternoon.
Due to this development, the SAA has isolated a handful of ISIS-controlled villages between Al-Mayadeen and Deir Ezzor Airbase. This pocket is expected to be eliminated by the Tiger Forces in the coming days, sources inform Al-Masdar News.
Meanwhile, heavy clashes engulfed the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor throughout Monday as the SAA began the next stage of the ‘Big Dawn’ offensive.
According to Al-Masdar News field reporter Ibrahim Joudeh, the SAA is making rapid gains inside Deir Ezzor as we speak after breaking through ISIS’ first line of defense in the city.
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Raising Iran to America’s First Enemy … ترفيع إيران إلى مرتبة عدو أميركا الأول


أكتوبر 16, 2017

د. عصام نعمان

أطلق ترامب أخيراً عاصفته المجنونة الموعودة: إيران وحرسها الثوري هي الخطر الداهم.

إيران كانت دائماً، في رأيه، خصماً مؤذياً. ترامب قرّر ترفيعها الى مرتبة العدو الأول والأفعل. خطرها ليس نابعاً من كونها قوة نووية بل من كونها ذات قدرات متنوّعة ومتعاظمة وأنها مقتدرة وقادرة على تحجيم نفوذ أميركا وإجلائه عن البرزخ الممتدّ من شواطئ البحر الأبيض المتوسط الى شواطئ الخليج.

الاتفاق النووي ليس سبباً للعداوة بل ذريعة لتعظيمها. ثمة تحريض «إسرائيلي» متوقّد، وكذلك خليجي، لكنهما ليسا الدافع الأول لترفيع إيران إلى مرتبة العدو الأول. الدافع الأول اقتناعُ ترامب والمنظومة السياسية والعسكرية الحاكمة establishment بأنّ الإدارات الأميركية المتعاقبة، منذ جورج بوش الأب الى باراك أوباما، أخفقت في حربها الناعمة soft power على إيران وقوى المقاومة المتحالفة معها. لعلّ المظهر الأخير للإخفاق اندحار الإرهاب المتمثل بـ «الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام – داعش».

سواء كان تنظيم «داعش» صناعة أميركية، كما يعتقد كثيرون، أم مجرد ردّة فعلٍ على تغوّل الولايات المتحدة وبعض دول الغرب الأطلسي و«إسرائيل» في استباحة بلاد العرب والمسلمين، فإنّ ثمة حقيقة ساطعة لا سبيل الى إنكارها هي أنّ أميركا وبعضاً من حلفائها الإقليميين استعملوا «داعش» وأخواته من أجل ترسيم خريطة جيوسياسية جديدة لبلدان غرب آسيا ولمواجهة قوى المقاومة البازغة فيها.

انهزام الإرهاب ومن هم وراءه هو الدافع الرئيس للولايات المتحدة، في ظلّ ترامب، إلى تأكيد وتعزيز وتظهير قرار مواجهة إيران وقوى المقاومة المتحالفة معها.

لا بدَّ من التوضيح أنّ قوى المقاومة العربية عموماً متحالفة مع إيران وليست أداةً لها. صحيح أنّ إيران تموّل وتسلّح وتدرّب العديد من فصائلها، وأنّ لها في صفوفها تأييداً ونفوذاً، لكن قياداتها ليست بالتأكيد أداةً لإيران.

إدارة ترامب والمنظومة السياسية والعسكرية والاستخبارية الأميركية حريصة على إضفاء صفة التبعية على قوى المقاومة العربية المتحالفة مع إيران. التبعية تهمة ملفّقة. قيادات حزب الله اللبناني، والجهاد إلاسلامي و«حماس» الفلسطينيتين وغيرها من التنظيمات والفصائل ليست بالتأكيد أدوات لإيران ولا وكيلة لها. العلاقة بين تلك القوى المجاهدة وإيران ليست علاقة تبعية أو ارتزاق بل علاقة تعاهد وتحالف وتعاون في مواجهة أعداء مشتركين. هذا ما يبدو سائداً حتى الآن.

هل من متغيّرات لافتة في الوسائل والغايات بعد إعلان ترامب استراتيجيته تستوجب انتباهاً وتركيزاً خاصاً من طرف قوى المقاومة؟

من الواضح أنّ إدارة ترامب تعتمد مقاربة مغايرة لسابقاتها في العراق وسورية من جهة، وفي فلسطين من جهة أخرى. في العراق، تدعم واشنطن مداورةً مسعود البرزاني على تثبيت وضع انفصالي عن حكومة بغداد المركزية يرمي إلى تمكين الكرد من إقامة دولة مستقلة في كردستان العراق. في السياق، تحبّذ واشنطن نشوء حالة اشتباك بين قوات «البيشمركة» وقوات الجيش العراقي لتوليد حاجة لدى حكومة بغداد لاستبقاء القوات الأميركية المتواجدة حالياً في الشمال، كما من أجل إطالة أمد عدم الاستقرار في البلاد.

في سورية، تدعم واشنطن قوات سورية الديمقراطية «قسد» لإقامة سلطة منفصلة عن حكومة دمشق يُراد لها، في المدى الطويل، ان تشكّل الجناح السوري لدولة الكرد المستقلة في شمال العراق وشمال سورية، وهو مخطط يحتمل واحداً من تفسيرين: إما إقامة دولة كردية بالتفاهم مع تركيا تقتصر على أجزاء من العراق وسورية وتعويض أنقرة بدعم جهودها للسيطرة على الكرد الأتراك في شمال شرق البلاد، وإما غضّ واشنطن النظر عن قيام تركيا بالسيطرة على أجزاء واسعة من شمال سورية بغية تحقيق غرضين: حصر دولة الكرد المستقلة في شمال العراق، وإبقاء شمال سورية رهينة في أيدي الأتراك لحمل حكومة دمشق وفصائل المعارضة السورية على التسليم بإقامة نظام فدرالي ضعيف يراعي أميركا وتركيا ولا يشكّل خطراً على «إسرائيل».

في فلسطين المحتلة، ثمّة مؤشرات إلى أنّ ترامب يحلم بتحقيق ما يسمّيه «صفقة القرن» بين «إسرائيل» والفلسطينيين. مضمون «الصفقة» لم يتّضح بعد، إلاّ انّ القليل مما تيسّرت معرفته يشير إلى تسويق تسويةٍ بين الطرفين تعطي الفلسطينيين كياناً سياسياً يقتصر على أمكنة كثافتهم السكانية في الضفة الغربية، على أن يُصار إلى ربطه بالأردن من خلال نظام كونفدرالي يرعى شؤون القدس الشرقية والحرم الشريف.

الى ذلك، تأمل إدارة ترامب بأن تساعد التسوية المرتجاة على تسهيل وتسريع عملية التطبيع بين «إسرائيل» والدول العربية «المعتدلة»، وفي مقدّمها السعودية ودول الخليج، على أن ترافق هذه العملية مبادرات اعتراف متبادل إذا كانت أوضاعها الداخلية تحتمل «خطوة جريئة» في هذا المجال.

كلّ هذه السيناريوات والتطلعات يُراد لها أن تصبّ تدريجاً في هدف استراتيجي رئيس هو بناء جدار سياسي وعسكري فاصل بين عالم العرب وعالم الفرس. لذلك تحرص إدارة ترامب على إبقاء قواتها، ومن ثم تعزيزها، في العراق وسورية لمنع تواصلهما جغرافياً وسياسياً وعسكرياً والحؤول دون إقامة جسر بري استراتيجي يمتدّ من طهران وبيروت عبر بلاد الرافدين وبلاد الشام.

باختصار، ممنوع على إيران أن تصل البحر المتوسط أو أن تكون لها قواعد ومرتكزات في سورية ولبنان. هذا الأمر هو مطمع ومطلب أميركيان و«إسرائيليان». من هنا يمكن تفسير تبرّم ترامب ونتنياهو بالإتفاق النووي. ذلك أنّ إقراره في مجلس الأمن أعطاه بُعداً دولياً وأدّى إلى رفع العقوبات عن إيران ومكّنها من توظيف المزيد من الموارد والطاقات في صناعتها الصاروخية، وبالتالي في إنتاج صواريخ متقدمة يتجاوز مداها «إسرائيل» ويطاول جميع القواعد الأميركية في منطقة غرب آسيا.

أميركا، كما «إسرائيل»، تعرفان أن ليس لدى إيران قنابل ذرية وأنها ليست جادة في امتلاكها، وان لا سبيل اصلاً الى استعمال السلاح النووي نظراً لخطره الكارثي المدمّر على الاطراف التي تستعمله برغم التفاوت الكمّي لصالح بعضها في هذا المجال. لكن أميركا و«إسرائيل» تعرفان ايضاً انّ إيران قادرة على تعويض نقصها في الأسلحة النووية بكمية الصواريخ الضخمة التي تمتلكها، للمدى المتوسط وللمدى البعيد، وبالقوة النارية الهائلة التي يمكن أن تتولد عن استعمالها، ولا سيما اذا ما تمكّنت طهران، بالتفاهم مع دمشق، من إقامة قواعد معدَّة لإطلاقها غير بعيدة من «إسرائيل».

هكذا تتضح أسباب نزوع ترامب والمنظومة السياسية والعسكرية الأميركية إلى ترفيع إيران وقوى المقاومة الى مرتبة العدو الأول والأفعل لأميركا و«إسرائيل»…

وزير سابق

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EU Offers Support to Reunite Gaza Strip and West Bank

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and PA’s Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo: WAFA, file)
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said on Friday that the EU is ready to help the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to reunite under “one single and legitimate Palestinian Authority.” Mogherini made her comment after the main Palestinian factions – Fatah and Hamas – announced an agreement ending the 11-year-old political division.
“The agreement signed by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo on 12 October can become an important step towards a full return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, and for making genuine progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation,” explained the EU official, noting that the union “will closely study” details of the agreement.
“We welcome the continuing engagement of Egypt, and we expect all Palestinian factions to move forward in good faith in further process, in order to enable the legitimate Palestinian Authority to resume full control in Gaza,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mogherini stressed that it “is essential that the agreement delivers on the ground and that the situation of the people of Gaza is improved as a matter of urgency.”
She reiterated that having Gaza and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority is critical for reaching a negotiated two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We will continue to liaise with Egypt, our interlocutors on the ground and our international partners, including in the Quartet, in order to help this process to succeed,” Mogherini concluded.
On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the continuing need to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza urgently, particularly with regard to the electricity crisis, and improved access to and from the territory.
He reiterated that the UN “stands ready to continue working with the Palestinian authorities and the region in support of the Government in assuming its responsibilities in Gaza.”

Netanyahu positively salivating over the thought of the USA attacking Iran


“Israel embraces this opportunity,” Netanyahu says. And so should every leader responsible for “the security of the world.”
So it is clear as ever who is against the deal. Israel and its lobby. That’s all, folks. The other night on NBC, Andrea Mitchell said that Trump would gladden “his base” by decertifying the deal, but this is simply a lie. Trump’s base of disaffected white voters in red states don’t care about Iran. The pro-Israel wing does. Trump’s “billionaire donors”– three rightwing Israel supporters– care. The media’s evasion of this central question is more transparent than ever.
The leading Israel lobby group AIPAC was quick to adore the president on his speech. “POTUS policy objectives: Confront Iran’s regional aggression and fix dangerous flaws in the nuclear deal.”
Too bad that Susan Rice didn’t openly confront AIPAC when she had power, as national security adviser to Obama, and ambassador to the U.N. Though Obama tried to call out Israel, in his great, I’d be abrogating my constitutional duties speech, when he said he couldn’t defer to Netanyahu.
Israel runs through all arguments on the deal. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is funded by Paul Singer, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus and is all about Israel, stole Netanyahu’s line on PBS last night–“Fix it or nix it”– without crediting the Israeli p.m. The Republican Jewish Coalition promptly declared that Trump has bolstered Israel’s security. The Israel Project at least tells us what the real problem with Iran is: It helps Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel’s pesky enemies. That’s an existential threat to the west?
While supporters of the deal also have to salute Israel in order to seem plausible. Rob Malley cited “Prime Minister Netanyahu” approvingly last night on the News Hour– Netanyahu described Iran’s “existential threat” back in 2014 and we have addressed it. Fred Kaplan invokes “the vast majority of Israeli military and intelligence officers.”  Trudy Rubin cites Ami Ayalon and other Israeli “security experts.” So does J Street: “Killing the JCPOA would also increase the threat to Israel – which is why the majority of the Israeli security establishment believes the agreement should be maintained.”
So Israel’s security interest is what matters– the establishment agrees. South Korea and Japan should have it so good when it comes to North Korea. But they don’t.
The lobby’s friends in the Senate are very happy. Tom Cotton wants regime change.  While Marco Rubio says the deal is “Munich” for the 21st century. Iran is going to take over Europe, cracks Ben Rhodes. We really are going nuts.
Thanks to Max Blumenthal and James North

Come and get it, Russia Ready to Give Crushing Response to illegal israeli Air Attacks on Syria

Russia Ready to Give Crushing Response to Israeli Air Attacks on Syria
Russia has deployed more S300 and S400 anti-aircraft systems in Syria to defend the country’s airspace against any aggressions, including Israeli air raids on the war-hit country, Russian media outlet reported Saturday.
The Arabic-language website of Russia’s state news agency, Sputnik, reported that the modern Russia-made S300 and S400 anti-aircraft systems with a tracking range of 300 km and 400 km respectively have been deployed in the town of Masyaf Southwest of Hama.
The Arabic Sputnik quoted some experts as saying that Russia’s move to deploy the modern anti-aircraft systems is aimed at giving a crushing response to repeated air raids on Syria’s Masyaf by Tel Aviv, including the one in September 7, 2017. 
The General Command of the Syrian Army announced in a statement in easrly September that the Israeli warplane’s airstrikes on army positions in the Western parts of Hama city killed 2 Syrian soldiers.
The statement said that the Israeli fighter jet launched missile attacks on one of the Syrian army bases near Masyaf region in Southwestern Hama through the Lebanese airspace, killing two Syrian soldiers.
It added that the attack was a desperate attempt to heighten the lost morale of the ISIL terrorists after the Syrian army’s major victories against the terrorism in several regions.

“israel’s war on Palestine’s food supplies: israeli Navy Abducts Four Fishermen In Gaza” is locked israel’s war on Palestine’s food supplies: israeli Navy Abducts Four Fishermen In Gaza

15 Oct  8:55 AM
Israeli navy ships attacked, on Sunday morning, several Palestinian fishing boats, in the Sudaniyya Sea area, northwest of Gaza City, fired many live rounds at them, and abducted four fishermen.
The WAFA Palestinian News Agency has reported that the navy fired dozens of live rounds at the boats, while were fishing less than four nautical miles from the shore, and boarded two.
It added that the navy abducted four fishermen, who were on the boarded boats, and took them to Ashdod port.
The attack is part of frequent Israeli violations against the Palestinians in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip.
Such attacks have led to dozens of casualties, including many fatalities, in addition to resulting in scores of injuries, the destruction of boats and property, and the illegal confiscation on fishing boats.
In May of this year, a fisherman, identified as Mohammad Majed Bakr, 25, was killed by live Israeli navy fire, after  the navy ships fired dozens of rounds at fishing boats less than four nautical miles from the Gaza shore.

When it comes to gulags, the USA has taken over from Bolshevik Russia

Portrait of a young man in jail
Photo Credit: CURAphotography / Shutterstock
A travesty of our criminal justice system.
There are nearly 100,000 people being held in solitary confinement today in America’s prisons. They are locked up in cramped, often windowless cells for nearly 24 hours a day. They eat alone. They exercise alone in small fenced-in areas known as cages or dog runs. They are almost completely segregated from the mainstream population and there are no programs available to them. Most aren’t allowed to make phone calls to loved ones. And they are often subject to extreme and excessive punishment, euphemistically called “cell extractions.” Robert Hillary King, an Angola 3 member who spent 29 years in solitary confinement, has called this isolation a matter of “moral depravity.”  
Forensic psychiatrist Terry Allen Kupers knows this moral depravity all too well. He has spent 40 years evaluating prisons and jails and testifying in class action suits revolving around prisoners’ rights issues such as overcrowding, sexual abuse and the lack of decent mental health treatment.
In his new book, “Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It,” Kupers describes how long-term solitary confinement destroys the minds of those imprisoned. He also explains how prisons became warehouses for the mentally ill, which set the stage for a 30-year boom in supermax prison construction and the placement of a large number of prisoners in solitary confinement.
Here, in his first extensive interview since the September release of “Solitary,” Kupers discusses private prison practices, the role of race in solitary confinement and why he does this painful work.
Describe what you look for when you investigate a prison.
I tour the facilities, noting things like crowding, gymnasiums converted into impromptu dorms, prisoners lying in their bunks in the middle of the day because there is nothing productive to do, excessive use of force [by guards] and filthy isolation cells. I talk to prisoners about the conditions and their medical and psychiatric treatment. I review cartons of documents, including prison policies, medical charts and reports of audits and accreditation inspections. I would like to talk to staff in depth about what they do, but usually the attorney general will not permit that. I have to learn the staff’s perspective by reading depositions they give in the case.
What role do you play in court cases?
I am a psychiatric expert witness, or sometimes I serve as monitor after the case is settled and I assess the state’s performance in carrying out the court’s orders. I testify about inhumane and unconstitutional conditions of confinement, including solitary confinement, inadequate or harmful mental health services and sexual abuse. After I have done my investigation, the county or state’s attorneys depose me under oath. Some large class actions are settled at that point. Some go to trial, and then I testify in court as a psychiatric expert. After I describe unconstitutional and abusive conditions and practices, I am asked what remedies I would recommend, and that’s when I have an opportunity to share with the judge or jury the proven effective alternatives to prison crowding and solitary confinement.
How do private prisons play into all this?
Private prisons are the sites of some of the worst human rights abuses. After all, the way corporations make a profit is to cut corners on staffing costs and drastically cut down on rehabilitative programs. Private prisons, which tend to be more crowded than those run by the government, rely a lot on solitary confinement to manage prisoners. They pay staff lower wages and provide them less training than in government facilities. President Obama favored moving away from private prisons and solitary confinement in the federal system, but the Trump administration favors the private prison corporations, especially in the realm of immigration detention. The stock of the private prison corporations rose precipitously in value immediately after Trump won the election.
What motivated you to get involved in prison work?
Back in the day, I was the physician for the Black Panther Party’s Bunchy Carter Free Clinic in South Central L.A. In 1971, COINTELPRO and the LAPD Red Squad attacked the Panther office—the building where the clinic was located—and shot the 13 Panthers sleeping there. I went to the L.A. County Jail Hospital Ward and demanded to see my patients. The conditions and treatment in the jail were horrid, and I reported that to the press.
How did you end up testifying in class action cases?
A couple of years later, the ACLU sued the L.A. County sheriff over unconstitutional conditions and inadequate treatment at Men’s Central Jail and asked me to be their expert witness. I went back in and this time reported the appalling conditions to the federal judge. The psychiatric community was just beginning to discover that a large number of individuals suffering from serious mental illness were behind bars. Once I learned of the horrors that regularly occur [in jails and prisons] I felt compelled to investigate, testify and generally holler about the massive abuses.
I understand there are 100,000 prisoners in solitary confinement today. How did that happen?
In the 1980s, prisons were overcrowded [due to] longer sentences and the War on Drugs, and they were out of control with a lot of violence. The choice was to either downsize the prison population through sentencing reform while upgrading rehabilitation for prisoners, or to lock up “the worst of the worst” in solitary. The powers that be decided on [the isolation option]. This was a historic wrong turn, and we entered the age of supermax. There was no improvement in the violence or gang problems, but there was massive human damage.
What role does race play in solitary confinement?
It’s all about race, of course. It starts with who goes to prison: While approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population is African American, over 40 percent of prisoners are Black. Latinos are equivalently overrepresented in prison. In terms of consignment to SHU (Security Housing Units), there is an unfortunate national trend to send White prisoners to mental-health treatment for the same rule-breaking behaviors that get Blacks placed in SHU.
Can you given me an example?
In New York, according to a 2014 study by the New York Advisory Committee to The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, African Americans make up almost 18 percent of the state population but nearly 50 percent of the state’s prisoners and 59 percent of those kept in extreme isolation. For prisoners under age 21, Black youths constitute 66 percent of those in solitary confinement.
In other words, the racial disparities and discrimination that permeate our society are multiplied and exaggerated behind bars. The racial discrimination of officers is well known, and that includes corrections officers.
Why are there so many people with serious mental illness in our jails and prisons, and why do so many of them wind up in solitary confinement?
With deinstitutionalization, the War on Drugs and the de-funding of social welfare safety net programs, a lot of people with mental illness ran afoul of the law. In prison, they are victimized or they find it difficult to follow all the rules and they get singled out for punishment with solitary confinement. Just about everyone in solitary develops dreadful symptoms, including massive anxiety, mounting anger, despair, paranoia, repetitive behaviors such as pacing, and, too often, suicide. When individuals suffering from mental illness are consigned to SHU, it exacerbates their mental health problems. They develop worse disabilities and prognoses.
What effect is the Trump/Sessions regime having on prison reform, and, by extension, solitary confinement?
Before Trump, there was a bipartisan effort to put radical sentence reform on the legislative agenda. Obama, [Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy] and many influential people were calling for a move away from solitary confinement, and we were on a path to reform. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions insists on the harshest sentences and Trump likes waterboarding. I worry that the progress of recent years will be reversed. The scenario that scares me the most is the detention of millions of immigrants in [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention centers, where the feds ask the states and counties to incarcerate the overflow and prison crowding returns with a vengeance. Correctional authorities [will] once again make the wrong decision and put a lot of prisoners in solitary.
I imagine that the correctional authorities insist they need solitary confinement to keep prisons safe. How do you respond to that?
Research shows no improvement in the violence rate in prisons, the gang problem continues unabated, and a huge number of prisoners are very damaged from their stints in solitary. Actually, prisoners who spend time in solitary are more difficult to manage after they are returned to general population, and that’s why the violence rate is not improved.
Tell me about some of the court cases you’ve been involved with.
I have testified in dozens of court cases. Among the most significant is Coleman v. Wilson, which was about mental healthcare throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This case resulted in an order from the Supreme Court to downsize the state’s prisons. Then there was Presley v. Epps, which was about conditions and inadequate treatment for prisoners with serious mental illness at the supermax unit within the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. And Ashker v. Brown was a case that came out of hunger strikes at Pelican Bay State Prison in California. It addressed conditions and due process in the SHU.
Do you think class action lawsuits an effective way to reform the criminal justice system? What about legislation and social activism? What is needed at this point?
Lawsuits alone will not change things, but they permit us to enter the prisons and assess the damage. Only with social activism, starting with calls for radical sentence reform and massive downsizing of the prisons, will we see progress. Some legislatures are responding to advocates, including prisoners’ families, and they’re passing sentencing- and prison-reform legislation.