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October 18, 2012

"Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons."

Short version: Hiker who spent four months in solitary confinement and twenty months in prison in Iran says that American prisons are much, much worse. Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons. | Mother Jones
"So when you're in Iran and in solitary confinement," asks my guide, Lieutenant Chris Acosta, "was it different?" His tone makes clear that he believes an Iranian prison to be a bad place. He's right about that. After being apprehended on the Iran-Iraq border, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and I were held in Evin Prison's isolation ward for political prisoners. Sarah remained there for 13 months, Josh and I for 26 months. We were held incommunicado. We never knew when, or if, we would get out. We didn't go to trial for two years. When we did we had no way to speak to a lawyer and no means of contesting the charges against us, which included espionage. The alleged evidence the court held was "confidential." What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement. What would he say if I told him I needed human contact so badly that I woke every morning hoping to be interrogated? Would he believe that I once yearned to be sat down in a padded, soundproof room, blindfolded, and questioned, just so I could talk to somebody? Advertise on MotherJones.com I want to answer his question—of course my experience was different from those of the men at California's Pelican Bay State Prison—but I'm not sure how to do it. How do you compare, when the difference between one person's stability and another's insanity is found in tiny details? Do I point out that I had a mattress, and they have thin pieces of foam; that the concrete open-air cell I exercised in was twice the size of the "dog run" at Pelican Bay, which is about 16 by 25 feet; that I got 15 minutes of phone calls in 26 months, and they get none; that I couldn't write letters, but they can; that we could only talk to nearby prisoners in secret, but they can shout to each other without being punished; that unlike where I was imprisoned, whoever lives here has to shit at the front of his cell, in view of the guards? . . .

October 16, 2012

Video: NYPD officers brutally beat homeless man in synagogue, lie about it afterwards

The pummeling begins at 1:25 and is horrifying to watch. The victim had the rabbi's permission to sleep on the couch, but another staff member didn't know that and called the cops. The cops claimed he assaulted them first, but apparently didn't know there was a surveillance camera in the rec room. By my count twelve cops showed up to arrest this homeless 21-year-old guy. These Are Your Cops on Drugs - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
The video, posted online on Sunday night by CrownHeights.info, shows Officer Vega punching the head and body of Ehud Halevy, 21, and another officer from the 71st Precinct, Yelena Bruzzese, battering Mr. Halevy with a baton for more than two minutes last week as he tries to fend off the blows. According to a criminal complaint, the officers said Mr. Halevy had attacked them, causing one to suffer a sprained wrist, during an encounter on Oct. 8 in the Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults on East New York Avenue in Crown Heights. Mr. Halevy was charged with a felony count of assault on police officers. But the seven-minute video seems to contradict the officers' account: It does not show Mr. Halevy striking either officer, though he does pull away from Officer Vega, using an arm to push off the officer and break free. The video was taken by a surveillance camera in the center's lounge. The incident began because Halevy was sleeping on the couch and employee called the cops on him. But the rabbi who runs the center said it was actually a misunderstanding: In fact, Rabbi Feiglin said in a telephone interview on Monday, Mr. Halevy had permission to stay overnight at the center. He needed "a place to crash for a short period," the rabbi said. Rabbi Feiglin added that it was unclear what had prompted Mr. Zalman to call the police, since Mr. Halevy had been sleeping in the lounge for about a month.