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Torture in our Prisons and Jails



The news media was focused this week about the CIA, interrogations, and torture. Many Americans are shocked at the actions of the CIA, but you do not have to look at the CIA for examples of torture by Americans. Every month, inmates in the United States suffer from intentional and gross negligent actions of prison guards. On December 9, a female correctional officer at Rikers Island,  is now facing charges relating to the death of  Jerome Murdough. The 56 year old former U.S. Marine was arrested in New York City for trespassing. He was looking for a warm place to sleep at a public housing development. He was incarcerated at Rikers Island on a $2500 bail. On February 14th, 2014, he was found dead in his jail cell. The cell was overheated to 100 degrees or more due to faulty heating equipment.

Mr. Murdough was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication which made him more susceptible to dehydration and heat stroke. He had been placed on suicide watch and the correctional officers were supposed to check him every 15 minutes. An anonymous official stated, “He was basically baked to death.”

The criminal trial of another Rikers Island jail guard, Terrence Pendergrass, started this week. The charges have alleged that the correctional officer intentionally ignored the cries of a dying inmate in 2012, after the inmate swallowed a toxic soap ball.

A mentally ill inmate was  scalded to death at the Dade Correctional Unit in Miami, Florida. In 2012, Darren Rainey, was locked in a locked closet sized shower by prison guards because he defecated in his cell and refused to clean the mess. According to an inmate who worked at the unit as an orderly, the tiny shower was filled with steam and scalding water. According to a witness, Mr. Rainey kept screaming, “I can’t take it no more. I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.’ A medical document regarding his death noted that his skin was extremely burned and had shriveled from his body. 

According to a report by the Miami Herald,the Florida Department of Corrections fired  32 correctional officers on September 19th, 2014, after a number of inmates had died because of criminal misconduct.

Inmates in solitary confinement are often confined to small cells without windows, with little to no access to the outside world for years. Inmates are confined to these cells for 23 hours a day.  Such extreme isolation has serious psychological effects on inmates who will eventually be released to their community. According to several state studies, 50% of prison suicides occur in solitary confinement. The United States leads the world with the most inmates, 80,000, incarcerated in solitary confinement.

Baked to death, scalded to death, choking to death, isolated for long periods of time are cruel examples of torture occurring in our prisons and jails in the United States.It is time to end this madness. This cannot be America.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of

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