By Juana Carrasco Martín
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann
I concur with the recent analysis by Spanish journalist Pascual Serrano (¿Y si no hubiera sido en Cuba?, Rebelión, 09-07-2011), where he shows that the media coverage of a given event depending on the place of its occurrence is another eloquent evidence of the media double standard and mass manipulation. And here is an example…
On the 1st of July, several dozen inmates at California’s Pelican Bay state prison began a hunger strike against the inhuman conditions at the Security Housing Unit [SHU, pronounced "shoe"] where one-third of the 3100 prisoners are locked up. In this maximum security facility, near the Oregon state border, convicts are locked in for more than 22 hours a day in windowless isolation cells, and can have little or no contact with other prisoners for years and sometimes decades.
Regardless of the crimes they might have committed, certainly very serious in most of the cases, the prison conditions violate the basic civil and human rights of the prisoners. They have made a statement, delivered through a coalition of groups for prisoners’ rights, denouncing the system as an “extreme torture”. This coincides with a 2006 report by District Attorneys and lawyers ascertaining that long term isolated confinement as practiced in the US can create “tortuous conditions proved to cause mental deterioration”.
Meanwhile, according to the Huffington Post Website, the main nucleus of these men have said none of them wish to die, but they are ready to carry out the strike to its ultimate consequences rather than continue suffering the prison’s conditions. Now 1600 inmates from 8 of the 33 prisons in California have joined in permanently, and on the week end of the 4th of July, US Independence Day, close to 6000 more protested the situation in the same way.
Relatives of the prisoners and civil rights activists are marching in the streets, mainly in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
This action has been caused by more than the Pelican Bay total confinement. A few weeks ago, the US Supreme Court ordered the California authorities to reduce their penal population due to the severe stacking in all the state’s jail facilities which exposes the inmates to very high levels of violence and disease. Judge Anthony Kennedy described these as “intolerable to the concept of human dignity”.
The thing is that this is practically unknown outside the state of California, despite its growing proportions and the controversy it has generated between those who think it’s a mistake to release 33 000 convicts – as the Supreme Court has indicated – arguing this will increase the number of violent crimes.
Another element brought to light has been the high proportion of illegal immigrants locked up in these state prisons. The government budget registers 18,300 prisoners in this group for an 11.2% of the 143,335 population in facilities built for 80,000.
There are also federal and county jails in the system which adds to the number of inmates. The US has 7 million people behind bars, the largest number of prisoners in the world, and is among the greatest violators of human rights. However, the US’ hegemonic power, which includes veto in world organizations, makes it special and immune to international investigations.
Its power over media serves to cover up its capital sins and points the heavy media artillery toward those it wants to present as great human rights violators. The fault is of others, never of the “empire of freedom”.