Supermax America

While in London last week, I read an article in the Metro newspaper by Fred Attewill called “Hell that awaits Abu Hamza” that condemned (pun intended) American prison’s use of solitary confinement. Spinning off a list of statistics decrying what a horrific and barbaric thing solitary confinement is, Attewill conveniently neglects to mention what kind of people are being placed there. It’s not innocent civilians, pulled off the streets and thrown into a tiny, windowless room to spend a few years, these are criminals. Some are so depraved that they are more animalistic that human. Abu Hamza, the recently extradited terrorist and title character of the article, is facing time in a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. Attewill calls Abu Hamza a “radical cleric.” A kind title for what he has done. In addition to the 15 UK offenses he has been charged with, Abu Hamza was also found by the US to be:

  • Guilty of 6 charges of soliciting to murder
  • Guilty of 3 charges related to “stirring up racial hatred”
  • Guilty of 1 charge of owning recordings related to “stirring up racial hatred”
  • Guilty of 1 charge of possessing “terrorist encyclopaedia”
  • Not guilty of 3 charges of soliciting to murder
  • Not guilty of 1 charge related to “stirring up racial hatred”

Not only that, but according to BBC news, “on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he co-organised a conference at the mosque praising the hijackers.” Can we so easily forget the more than 3000 innocent people killed by the terrorist attack that Abu Hazam praises? This is a man who not only praises the killing of people who choose not to believe the same religion as him, but openly encourages the further murders of every single person who is not a devout Muslim.

Attewill’s article highlights that the solitary confinement cells are 2m x 2.78m (6 ft 6in x 9ft 2in). I’ve seen a good many bedrooms smaller than that. And what, exactly would Attewill like for the convicts? A five-star hotel room, perhaps? They already have their meals prepared for them, are allowed books, and sometimes even television. Attewill also highlights that “It is estimated that between 1/3 and 1/2 of inmates in isolation in the US have some form of mental illness.” But he seems to forget that these are violent offenders. People entirely in their right minds usually don’t go on killing sprees or soliciting others to murder.

It’s true that British prisons don’t have nearly as much of a problem with prisoners, but America also roughly the size of the entirety of Europe. Which means that more population means proportionally more criminals. Of course the UK doesn’t have nearly the prison problem the US does, it’s an 1/8 of the US’s size.

While I realize this is a bit more of a rant than usual for me, I believe that the old cliche is true, that you shouldn’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in the other person’s shoe. Perhaps if Attewill took a turn as a prison guard in a US jail -or any jail of violent offenders, he might just have a change of heart. The reality is, this criminals are in jail for a reason. They get put into solitary confinement for a reason. So rather than judge the system that tries protect the innocents from these people, Attewill might do well to remember that people like Abu Hamza, would gladly kill Attewill given chance, and do so, not only without remorse, but with celebration.

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