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Inside America’s Most Notorious Prisons and Jails (Video)

Guantanamo Bay: The Push to Close

President Obama aimed to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by early next year. The uncertainty around the transfer of prisoners raises concerns. One potential destination is the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Colorado, a secretive facility already housing over 40 terrorists. ADX, known as Supermax, is where America incarcerates its most dangerous criminals. Former Warden Robert Hood described it as a “clean version of hell.”

Inside the Supermax

Located 100 miles south of Denver, the ADX lies sprawling by the foothills of the Rockies. It opened in 1994 and holds fewer than 500 prisoners. The facility is highly secretive, and the general public has never seen it in operation. Rare footage from a court case showed the stringent measures in place. Inmates spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells, with limited exercise in solitary recreation pens.

Life for Terrorists in Supermax

Supermax houses over 40 convicted terrorists, including Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, a would-be 9/11 hijacker. Notorious terrorists like Ramsey Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, are confined here. Former Warden Hood recalled Yousef’s strict adherence to his beliefs, including refusing strip searches for recreation. The prison has also seen frequent hunger strikes, leading to involuntary feedings.

Rikers Island: A Volatile Environment

Rikers Island in New York City, holding about 10,000 inmates, faces significant challenges. Up to 80% of the inmates are awaiting trial, and over 40% are mentally ill. US Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation revealed a “culture of violence” and neglect. The case of Bradley Ballard, a mentally ill inmate who died after being denied medication and basic care, highlighted severe systemic failures.

Brutality and Isolation

Surveillance footage captured brutal incidents, such as the beating of Jose Bautista, an inmate who attempted suicide. Reports show that mentally ill inmates face severe injuries and inadequate care. Dr. Daniel Selling, former executive director of mental health at Rikers, described it as one of the largest mental institutions in the nation, emphasizing the need for better training and care for inmates.

Federal Bureau of Prisons: A System in Crisis

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) oversees 122 prisons, housing 157,000 inmates, including dangerous criminals. Recent investigations found the BOP dangerously understaffed, with widespread abuse in women’s prisons. Colette Peters, the sixth director in six years, aims to reform the system, prioritizing staff mental health and inmate rehabilitation.

Inadequate Staffing and Training

The BOP faces a critical shortage of correctional officers, relying on augmentation where non-correctional staff fill in. This practice compromises safety and essential services. Both the union and management agree on the need for more trained officers to ensure the system’s integrity.

Sexual Abuse in Women’s Prisons

A Senate investigation found rampant sexual abuse of female inmates by male officers in two-thirds of women’s prisons. FCI Dublin, known as the “rape club,” had numerous abuse cases involving high-ranking staff. The BOP is working to address these issues, but allegations of ongoing abuse and retaliation persist.

The Story of Muhammadu Salahi

Muhammadu Salahi, imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for nearly 14 years, authored “Guantanamo Diary,” detailing his experiences. He was subjected to severe torture approved by top US officials. Salahi’s story highlights the controversial use of enhanced interrogation techniques and the complex legal challenges in prosecuting detainees. Despite his ordeal, Salahi maintains a positive outlook, focusing on rebuilding his life in Mauritania.


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