Pvt. Brad Manning: Seven Months of Solitary So Far

(originally published on Dec, 16, 2010
Private Manning has never been tried for a crime.  He has never been convicted of a crime.  Yet he has spent the past five months in solitary confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, VA, and the preceding two months in prison in Kuwait.There are no sheets or a  pillow on his bed.  He is not permitted to exercise in his cell, and closed circuit television monitors him to make sure he doesn’t sneak in a prohibited push-up or sit-up.

For one hour a day he is allowed out of his cell, perhaps to exercise or watch television, though whether or not he is allowed to watch the news is in dispute.

He is being given anti-depressants to offset the effects of solitary confinement. It must be that the officials at the brig at Quantico are aware that the facts are in concerning the cruel torment that solitary confinement is, and the long-term mental health problems it induces: it drives people mad.

WiredScience.com interviewed psychologist Craig Henley who has studied the long-term effects of such incarcerations.   Asked if it is torture, Craig relied, “For some people it is.”

“First let me note that solitary confinement has historically been a part of torture protocols. It was well-documented in South Africa. It’s been used to torture prisoners of war.

There are a couple reasons why solitary confinement is typically used. One is that it’s a very painful experience. People experience isolation panic. They have a difficult time psychologically coping with the experience of being completely alone.

In addition, solitary confinement imposes conditions of social and perceptual stimulus deprivation. Often it’s the deprivation of activity, the deprivation of cognitive stimulation, that some people find to be painful and frightening.

Some of them lose their grasp of their identity. Who we are, and how we function in the world around us, is very much nested in our relation to other people. Over a long period of time, solitary confinement undermines one’s sense of self. It undermines your ability to register and regulate emotion. The appropriateness of what you’re thinking and feeling is difficult to index, because we’re so dependent on contact with others for that feedback. And for some people, it becomes a struggle to maintain sanity.

That leads to the other reason why solitary is so often a part of torture protocols. When people’s sense of themselves is placed in jeopardy, they are more malleable and easily manipulated. In a certain sense, solitary confinement is thought to enhance the effectiveness of other torture techniques.”

I’m quite sure the authorities would like Manning to be malleable when they try to learn more about his part in the downloading of classified documents he then uploaded to Wikileaks.

This pdf was prepared for the 2005 Commission on Prisons, formed to inquire into the safety and abuse of US prisons.  Psychologist Stuart Grassian, M.D. reports on various mental responses to long-term solitary confinement including delusions, psychotic breaks and the inability to integrate into society afterward.

The US is one of the few nations that permits such isolation of prisoners; the poster child for this form of imprisonment is the Supermax Facility at Florence, CO.  There the inmates are subjected to fluorescent lighting in their cells for 24 hours a day, and other inhumane conditions, and it’s said that Florence houses ‘the worst of the worst.’  I know that’s not strictly true, but that’s another story.

Private Manning has not been tried.  Private Manning has not been convicted. Call or email the White House if you think this is just plain wrong, just plain ugly, and just plain inhumane.  Call the White House at 202-456-1111, or email the President at   http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact   This is simple revenge.  This is being done by this administration that is still prosecuting whistleblowers who leaked damning information on the Bush regime that lied us into war, approved torture and rendition, and set up an entire national system of wire-tapping and monitoring our communications.

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