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Abstracts for Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006):
Deaths in Custody and Detention
From H Division to Abu Ghraib: Regimes of Justification and the Historical Proliferation of State-Inflicted Terror and Violence in Maximum-Security
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 15-36 Buy PDF
This article highlights continuities between the deployment of counterinsurgency tactics and brutalizing penal practice in U.S.-run military prisons such as Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq and the historical proliferation of such practices in Western civilian maximum-security prisons. Recent critical contributions have centered on continuities between practices in U.S. military prisons and the U.S. domestic prison system. This article builds on this analysis to provide a comparative critique of the systemic use of violence integral to Abu Ghraib and the Australian state of Victoria's Pentridge Prison H Division maximum-security unit in the 1970s. It is argued that trends witnessed in the U.S. represent an exportable phenomenon evident within prison systems in other Western states such as Australia. The official deployment of denial, discourses of dangerousness, and the defensive construction of regimes of justification as official responses to the public exposure of abusive practices and systemic violence are also subject to examination.
Key words: counterinsurgency, state violence, penal practice, U.S. military prisons, maximum-security, official denial, regimes of justification
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: A Continuing Systematic Abuse
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 37-51 Buy PDF
This article demonstrates that the hundreds of recommendations from the 1991 Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody have been ignored and thus failed to halt Aboriginal deaths in custody. The article examines five recent indigenous deaths in custody, demonstrating that the Royal Commission's recommendations remain ignored, while ongoing problems of indigenous discrimination within the criminal justice system persist. The article also notes that over the last decade in Australia, more punitive approaches to law and order have combined with a move away from the recognition of indigenous rights, including the right to self-determination, ensuring that indigenous people remain grossly overrepresented in custody and, accordingly, deaths inside.
Key words: deaths in custody, indigenous deaths in custody, Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, prisons; prisoners
Fatal Injustice: Rampant Punitiveness, Child-Prisoner Deaths, and Institutionalized Denial -- A Case for Comprehensive Independent Inquiry in England and Wales
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 52-68 Buy PDF
Situated within the wider context of Anglo-American penal expansion, this article focuses more sharply upon the implications of "lockdown" for child prisoners in England and Wales. Since 1997, successive New Labour governments have legislated on more than 50 occasions in the criminal justice sphere and have created more than 3,000 new offenses. Prison places have expanded by 19,000 and, expressed as a rate per 100,000 of the national population, the prison population is the highest among countries of the European Union. Greater use of penal custody for children is made in England and Wales than in most other industrialized democratic countries in the world. Levels of recorded self-harm in prisons holding children have risen by 4,000% since 1997 and, in the period between July 1990 and September 2005, 29 children lost their lives in state prisons and private jails. Against a backdrop of institutionalized denial, this article makes the case for a comprehensive independent inquiry to investigate the politics, policies, and practices that have given rise to penal expansion and its corrosive and fatal consequences for child prisoners.
Key words: child prisoners, damage, deaths, denial, harm, independent inquiry, injustice, punitiveness
The Long Kesh Hunger Strikers: 25 Years Later
This article, researched and written 25 years after the death of 10 hunger strikers in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, focuses on the experiences of survivors of a second hunger strike. It explores the politics of the time within the prison, the struggle for political status of Irish Republican prisoners and the defiance of the British government under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher that led to the deaths of the Hunger Strikers. The interviews also explore the contribution of the Hunger Strike to the war against the British state and to the eventual move towards peace.
Key words: hunger strike; Irish republican movement, political status, criminalization, dirty protest, blanket-men
The Killing of Jean Charles de Menezes: Hyper-Militarism in the Neoliberal Economic Free Fire Zone
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 92-106 Buy PDF
This article describes the fatal police shooting of a Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, on a London underground train in July 2005. He was killed in the immediate aftermath of the London bombings, although not implicated in any way with those attacks. The article describes the circumstances of this killing. It traces the incorporation of "shoot-to-kill," a colonial legacy from the north of Ireland and Israel, into policing in Britain and argues that such tactics are emblematic of preemptive strikes central to the "war on terror." In addition, they argue that the "exceptional" tactics typical of the colonial periphery have "come home" in the form of extrajudicial killing licensed under shoot-to-kill policies, so deepening the institutionalized racism embedded in established domestic policing.
Key words: fatal police shootings, the "war on terror", shoot to kill, policing, police accountability, deaths in custody
Then and Now, Us and Them: A Historical Reflection on Deaths in and out of Custody
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 107-117 Buy PDF
This article provides an account of deaths in custody from the inside. In prison since 1986, he reflects on his fear of dying in custody and the impact of a fellow prisoner's death on him and other prisoners. He contemplates how death stalks prisoners after release, noting the disproportionately high mortality rate of released prisoners. Death and suffering of prisoners is easily forgotten or ignored by the public, illustrated here by comparing the pubic outpouring of grief following the 1996 shooting massacre at the site of the old Port Arthur Prison, Tasmania, and the public silence and indifference over the suffering of those who lived and died within the walls of that prison and the attached Point Puer Reformatory for boys. Although Port Arthur remains in the popular imagination as a tourist attraction, and site of a recent mass shooting by a deranged young man, Minogue's article recalls the adult prisoners who suffered the "vengeance of the law to the utmost human endurance" and the child laborers who were worked to death during Australia's convict days.
Key words: deaths in custody, Australian history, colonial history, prison, punishment, prisoners
"They'd all love me dead...": The Investigation, Inquest, and Implications of the Death of Annie Kelly
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 118-135 Buy PDF
Based on the death in custody of Annie Kelly in the punishment block of Mourne House women's unit within Maghaberry high-security prison in the north of Ireland, this article considers the plight of women in prison diagnosed as "personality disordered." Imprisoned from the age of 15 in the unit, Annie Kelly was admitted to prison on numerous occasions until her death in 2002. Her self-harm and attempts on her own life were "managed" by holding her in a strip cell or in the male prison hospital locked in isolation for 23 hours a day. The article demonstrates how her resistance to treatment was met with ever-increasing force and deprivation and how the Prison Service was negligent in the circumstances preceding her death by hanging. It also considers the inquest jury's narrative verdict. The jury found the Prison Service culpable through the complacency of its prison officers, medical officers, and managers and through the deficient regimes under which women suffered. It exposes how despite the collective condemnation of the jury, of the Prison Inspectorate and the Human Rights Commission the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland refused to accept the institutional deficiencies laid bare by the inquest. Finally, it places Annie Kelly's death in the context of critical research into the gender-specific punitive regimes endured by women and girls, especially those debilitated through mental ill-health.
Key words: women's imprisonment, mental ill-health, personality disorder, punishment block, self-harm, suicide, gender-specificity, inquest
Comment: Deaths in Custody-Truth, Justice and Accountability? The Work of INQUEST
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 136-141 Buy PDF
This article looks at the investigation of custodial deaths in England and Wales in the context of the numbers who have died and in what circumstances. It addresses the role INQUEST has played in bringing political, policy, and judicial attention to the issue; how individuals and their families are blamed for the deaths; the failure of the state to prosecute in such cases; the need for reform of the current investigation and inquest systems and suggests the setting up of a Standing Commission on Custodial Deaths.
Key words: custodial deaths in England and Wales
Detention and Torture in Guantanamo
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 151-181 Buy PDF
Rita Maran's commentary addresses detention and torture at the Guantanamo military prison and how the facility has emerged as a symbol of the Bush administration's drive to chisel away at America's historic laws and statutes, to rebalance the country's tripartite system of governing, and to commit military aggression against populations abroad. The essay systematically surveys conditions at the camp, the relevant principles and treaties in international human rights law, the role of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, U.S. law, three pertinent Supreme Court cases, and the actions of the Bush administration and the Congress. She concludes that torture is morally wrong, and legally a crime; thus, citizens of the U.S. must never again be complicit when its or any government stoops far below minimal human rights in the moral and legal domains.
Key words: Guantanamo, international law, torture, George W. Bush administration
Staff Use of Force in U.S. Confinement Settings: Lawful Control Tactics Versus Corporal Punishment
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 182-190 Buy PDF
In his commentary, Steve J. Martin examines the use of force in U.S. confinement settings to distinguish lawful control tactics from corporal punishment, which is illegal in U.S. corrections. The essay focuses on an insidious pattern or practice of unlawful staff use of force that is cloaked with, or protected by, an air of legitimacy in which ostensibly lawful applications of physical force mask the intentional infliction of punishment, retaliation, or reprisal on prisoners. Such de facto corporal punishment is often used against mentally ill offenders whose behavior, as viewed by inadequately trained officers, is to be punished rather than treated. This pattern is reinforced by the wide range of high-tech, non-lethal weaponry available to correctional personnel, especially with the advent of "super" or "ultra" maximum-security prisons in which to house "super-predators." According to Martin, demonized super-predators are often the recipients of high-tech weaponry, and the rhetoric about them provides an ideological justification for unprecedented levels of force, even though hard-core troublemakers requiring maximum-security confinement are hardly a new phenomenon in corrections.
Key words: maximum-security prisons, corporal punishment, torture, mentally ill offenders
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