Ideas for an Open Society: From Abu Ghraib to America
Since the infamous photos of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq first came to light, much has been said about the role that the U.S. military and CIA have played in connection with the human rights violations. But reports of similar abuse in the United States are all too common, which suggests that America's dehumanizing prison culture has now been exported elsewhere in the world.
In the October 2004 issue of Ideas for an Open Society, Judith Greene, a Soros Justice Fellow and criminal justice policy analyst, points out specific instances of abuse in U.S. prisons and jails—deaths resulting from excessive force, degrading and humiliating strip searches, inadequate and sometimes rotten food, and denial of medications, medical care, and mental health treatment.
Greene also explores how the Iraqi prison was "restored to operation by Lane McCotter, a U.S. prison consultant handpicked by the U.S. Department of Justice for the job," although he had "resigned as director of the Utah Department of Corrections amid controversy following the death of a mentally ill man who had been strapped in a restraint chair for sixteen hours."
"Experienced observers of conditions in U.S. prisons are quick to recognize that the Abu Ghraib photos reek of the cruel but usual methods of control used by many U.S. prison personnel," Greene writes. "Our vengeful penal philosophy and harsh prison culture has led to a dreadful level of brutality and human rights abuses in our own prisons, and now this maliciously punitive mentality has been exported to Iraq by U.S. prison personnel."
Greene also offers recommendations for improving prison conditions but says what is ultimately needed is "a thorough overhaul of the harsh sentencing laws and policies that have driven the prison system to this unmanageable scale."
Ideas for an Open Society: Examining Our Harsh Prison Culture (440.22 Kb pdf file)
Download the complete report.
Honoring a Legend
Honoring a Social Justice Legend
Following 25 years of service, Herb Sturz retired from the Open Society Foundations in July. He leaves behind a legacy of work that lifted up lives, from the townships of South Africa to the classrooms of New York City.
How Racism and Inequality Are Influencing the Rise of Legalized Cannabis in the United States
As the legal cannabis industry in the United States continues its explosive growth, a new documentary raises challenging but vital questions about the interaction between drug policy, racism, mass incarceration, and justice.
Ending mass incarceration
What a Soccer Star Teaches Us About Criminal Justice
Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the World Cup–winning U.S. women’s soccer team, told a story about her brother’s struggles with addiction and incarceration. Here’s what we can learn from his story—and why prison breeds violence rather than making communities safer.