JDI IN THE NEWS - ARCHIVED

Betty Deutsch, Cahill Speaks to Amnesty Group on 'Torture in the American Gulag, Advocate-News, Oct. 8, 1998.

"The rape of prisoners, including children, in U.S. correctional institutions is such a gross violation of human rights that it is among the blackest marks on the soul and history of the country," says Tom Cahill of Ten Mile. He is the featured speaker at the local kickoff of a seven-month, worldwide campaign of Amnesty International focusing on conditions in U.S. reformatories, jails and prisons.
The public is invited to the Community Room of the Fort Bragg Library, Oct. 15, starting at 7 p.m. when Amnesty International local group #135 of the Mendocino Coast will join others throughout the world in helping lift the iron curtain of secrecy surrounding the American Gulag. Amnesty International has put aside its long-standing policy of only helping prisoners abroad. This may be an indication of just how bad conditions have gotten in U.S. correctional institutions especially since President Reagan greatly escalated the War on Drugs.

"It's mostly young, male, small-framed, non-violent, low-income first offenders jailed for possession of a little too much pot who fit the victim profile,'' says Cahill who will share unbelievable yet unchallenged statistics. Cahill, a former industrial and agricultural journalist and photographer, is now a nationally recognized authority on and survivor of prisoner rape. He may be traveling the country if not the world as part of Amnesty International's bureau of speakers with knowledge of specific aspects of life behind bars in the U.S.

"Prisoner rape has long been epidemic in the U.S. It has dangerous and expensive side effects for all Americans," says Cahill. "And every elected official and an overwhelming majority of the electorate have long-known about this barbarism and have done little if anything to stop it," insists the 61-year-old president and former director for ten years of Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. (SPR is funded by the controversial billionaire, George Soros, who also funded the successful Medical Marijuana Initiative in California last year.)

"This torture is even used as a 'management tool' not only by prison officials but others in the criminal justice system," he adds.

Cahill is a long-time activist for labor, civil and human rights. While still a teenager in the U.S. Air Force in 1956, he tried to organize a union of fellow intelligence analysts disgruntled because of worsening living conditions. A few years later as president of the student council of a South Texas college, he tried but failed to start a chapter of the NAACP on campus. His underground newspaper, Inferno, ceased publication when he was beaten, gang-raped, and otherwise tortured for hours while jailed for civil disobedience Oct. 14/15, 1968. (Memos from his FBI files indicate it may have been the Bureau that set him up to be "neutralized" because of his "anti-Vietnam War activities.")

In the mid-seventies, Cahill operated a business in Mendocino with his ex-wife who is now a Bay Area psychotherapist and author. They made vintage costume portraits in what is now the Mendocino Jams and Preserves shop at the end of Main Street.

There will be no door prizes to lure the public to hear Cahill's grim reports but there will be refreshments to help lighten spirits afterward. And there will be specific, simple, and tax-saving proposals to end these violations of both human and constitutional rights.

 

Rebuttal: ADVOCATE-NEWS (Fort Bragg, CA) - October 29,1998

EDITOR - This is in rebuttal to the article about Cahill submitted by Betty Deutsch in your Oct. 8 issue.

I would like to express my revulsion and disgust at what Mr. Cahill describes as gross violations of human rights in reformatories, jails, prisons and the term "American Gulag."

He is in error in his description of the victim. In this society seldom is a first time offender is sentenced to a state prison. Generally, the person has made several trips through the court system, receiving warnings, fines, probation, and county jail time before landing in a state penitentiary.

Mr. Cahill seems to express the notion that "a young male, small-framed, non-violent, low income, first time offender" should be excused of any consequences of his crime because of his characteristics. This indeed would be "the blackest mark on the soul and history of this country" if people are allowed any actions of choice, disdaining the law, without restraints and consequences. If their economic status, race, gender, or size of frame impairs them while they are incarcerated, perhaps they should have considered the consequences more thoroughly.

I do not deny that rape happens in prison, although a higher ratio of rapes occur outside prison walls, many heinously perpetuated against children. I have worked in the prison system for 26 years, including positions ranging from death row to the camp system. I can, at most, remember five or six actual rapes. Most of the reported "rapes" have been sexual encounters between homosexuals who, becoming angry at their partner, seek revenge.

The statement that rape is used as a management tool is so ludicrous and ignorant, that it is not worthy of being addressed.

A prison is not supposed to be a happy comfy place to live. It's intention is to be a place you wouldn't care to return to. Breaking the law is a choice. If you chose to do the crime, then do your time -- don't whine.

James Brown
Susanville

America -- is it a banana republic?
ADVOCATE-NEWS (Fort Bragg, CA) - November 5,1998
Community forum

Submitted by
TOM CAHILL
President and Director, S.P.R.

James Brown, a guard at the prison in Susanville, had good reason to express his "revulsion" and "disgust" in his rebuttal to my charges of gross human rights violations in U.S. correctional institutions. In his letter to this paper Oct. 29, he was protecting his reputation and that of his fellow correctional officers. I have no doubt Mr. Brown is a decent human being and I have no information that the prison in Susanville is one of California's hell holes.

But there are other guards and other prisons in California and across the country that make America look like a banana republic. Since politicians make laws, it can be said the U.S. has the best criminal justice system money can buy.

Then there are those who interpret the law often sentencing the most violent to far less time behind bars than, say, pot smokers. At the bottom of the justice system totem pole are the police and guards who have to clean up after the politicians, judges and attorneys. Is it any wonder so many are dehumanized.

Since I have limited space here, I refer only to one California prison in the news recently. Invesitigating the "booty bandit" of Corcoran State Prison in which five guards are currently under indictment for setting up rapes of prisoners, two Los Angeles Times reporters uncovered the reason the state has not only ignored but covered-up many charges of brutality committed or condoned by guards in a number of California prisons including Frontera and Pelican Bay especially over the past decade.

Since 1989, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association -- perhaps the most powerful union in the state -- contributed nearly $1 million to the campaigns for office of Gov. Pete Wilson and Attorney Gen. Dan Lungren. Because of this exposure only months ago, Lungren began aggressively prosecuting the Corcoran guards and in response, the C.C.P.O.A. switched their endorsement to Gray Davis for governor. And . . . about this time, the San Francisco Examiner charged Lungren with being soft on white collar crime.

But, back to torture in American correctional institutions. Since Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. was founded in 1979, victims of sexual assault behind bars have been winning substantial monetary damages based on a "failure to protect standard" upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Wade (1983). What's more S.P.R. has been lobbying federal and state governments to enact a law similar to one introduced in the Delaware Legislature establishing a seven-year prison sentence for guards who "accommodate the sexual molestation of prisoners. "

People in Delaware aren't any more concerned about the human and civil rights of prisoners than those in other states. But what they are beginning to see is the waste of taxes incurred by prisoner rape and its side effects -- suicide, murder, AIDS, psychosis, recidivism, etc.

I would be willing to conduct a seminar on prisoner rape for the guards at Susanville or any other prison. Among other things, I will demonstrate how correctional officers are being made scapegoats by a highly politicized criminal justice system that is run like an industry that must expand or go bankrupt.