Contrary to what weekend marathons of “Lockup: RAW!” would have you believe, prison is not just a hep and happenin’ place to meet the future same-sex lover you will eventually abandon once your bid is up. It is, in fact, a rather unpleasant place to spend one’s time, scientician research has shown, especially when all of your time ends up being in solitary confinement for, oh, like decades at a stretch. In America, where “cruel and unusual punishment” is a cornerstone of our governing Articles of Confederation, solitary confinement is widely considered salutary for the small-c constitution. In other countries, though, whose Big-C Constitutions don’t even contain the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment,” indeterminate stretches of isolation from other life forms are frowned upon, on prissy humanitarian grounds. So now our more fragile and delicate indefinite detainees in California are actually begging non-Americans to come and save them from their countrymen. Wipe that tear from your eagle’s eye and join us after the jump.
Okay, okay. Truth be told, these complainy West Coast prisoners are kind of making us look horrible:
An attorney for hundreds of California inmates held in solitary confinement in the nation’s largest prison system because of their gang ties said Tuesday that he will petition the United Nations to intervene to stop the practice and launch an investigation into their living conditions and mental and physical health.
The petition, which asks the international body to allow an independent party to interview prisoners and review their medical files, comes after about 6,000 inmates at 13 prisons statewide went on a hunger strike last summer. They have since staged smaller and more intermittent strikes to protest what they call inhumane and torturous conditions in the so-called segregation housing units, or SHUs.
“It’s one thing to place a person into solitary segregation because they’ve assaulted another prisoner or threatened another person with violence. We’re not arguing with that,” [Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law] said. “What we’re arguing is the vast majority of people… are being put in solitary and the key thrown away merely because they’re alleged to be a gang member or maybe even just an associate of a gang member. The punishment is barbaric compared to the allegations.”