The truth free

We all know that prisons are built to restrict the free flow of people. But that restrictive nature goes for information about how things really operate on the inside, as well. Getting communication out of prison from inmates is so difficult in California that a bill is being proposed to make communication between families and inmates, and the media, less difficult.

History tells us that when there is no communication about what happens behind the walls, nothing good happens. The cruelty and torture in Abu Ghraib were known to the Red Cross and Paul Bremer, and yet they were allowed to continue, because the negative information was locked down behind the walls. The physical and psychological coercion taking place in Abu Ghraib was practiced for months after the Department of Defense knew about it, and it wasn’t until the media grabbed hold of the pictures that international outrage descended. So, now some remedies will be sought, and a few soldiers will endure show trials.

The situation was ripe for abuse and a clampdown on information. Secretive intelligence types were ordering around untrained soldiers in a war zone. As the president had said, we won the war, and who in power would be there to argue against the torture of the defeated? And it happened behind walls where there were no embedded network-television reporters.

Certain people gravitate toward law-enforcement and prison jobs, many of them with experience in the military, where ordering people around and abusing them verbally is a way of life. There also is a tendency not to report problems to the people outside the chain of command, thereby allowing commanders to cover up problems and keep the abuse from view.

That mentality was taken to the extreme in California as the Department of Corrections used an unspoken set of rules to keep its own employees in line. (See “The code of silence.”) We hope to set the information free.