The Hunt For Osama Bin Laden, a secret I didn’t know!


“He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people.” 
― Anton Chekhov, The Lady With the Little Dog and Other Stories, 1896-1904

Did you know? ‘The CIA recruited a respected Pakistani doctor to organise a fake vaccination drive in the town, and in the process collected thousands of blood samples from children in the area children—among them, as it turned out, Bin Laden’s children. Since theirs was a fairly upscale section of town, the campaign began in a poorer area to make it look more authentic, then moved on to the neighborhood housing the Bin Laden compound a month later—without even following up with the required second or third doses in the poor area. The whole thing worked—with consequences.

For one thing, Dr. Shakil Afridi—the doctor involved—has been convicted of treason by the Pakistani government and given a thirty-three-year prison sentence (“Wouldn’t any country detain people for working for a foreign spy service?” one Iranian official helpfully pointed out). For another, the campaign has caused irreparable damage to organizations that carry out legitimate vaccinations. There are deep-seated suspicions in many Middle Eastern regions about those who provide vaccinations, and this gambit to assist in finding Bin Laden has only bolstered those suspicions—particularly in Nigeria, India and of course Pakistan, where efforts to eradicate polio are ongoing ‘(Mike Floorwalker 25 May 2013).

Super Prisons: Saving Money But At What Cost?



‘For all the advances we have made, and are making in education, we still, every year allow thousands more children to join an educational underclass-they are the lost souls our schooling system has failed. It is from that underclass that gangs draw their recruits, young offenders institutions find their inmates and prisons replenish their cells’
– Michael Gove

285, that’s the number of exception reports submitted by government run secure training centres concerning warning signs or serious injuries ,detected during or following the use of physical control in these units ,between 2006 and 2011, on average that works out to 57 incidents a year.
111, that’s the number of incidents of physical restraint per month, in privately run secure training centres, from 2011-2012.
68 per month, that’s the number of incidents of physical restraint which result in injury. These are just the facts I’m quoting here mind,I may need to resort to more emotive language later, but let us continue.

In the financial year 2012-2013, 19,140 prisoners were forced to share a cell designed for one person. A further 777 prisoners were made to sleep three to a cell, in cells designed to accommodate only two prisoners.
The worse affected prison? HMP Wandsworth, followed by Altcourse, Doncaster, Birmingham, Pentonville, Preston, Manchester, Nottingham, Durham and Elmley.
17%, the percentage by which prison officer numbers have dropped in four years. 20,000, the totalnumber of prisoners kept in overcrowded conditions between 2012-2013. So you have a toxic combination of prisoners who didn’t want to be in prison in the first place, kept in cramped conditions, closely overseen by demoralised prison officers who are overstretched because they’re understaffed.

Chris Grayling’s solution to all the statistics? ‘A reconfiguring of the prison estate’ the shutting down of four prisons, HMP Blundeston, HMP Dorhester, Northallerton and Reading prisons. Thus increasing the number of slashed ‘unstrategic and uneconomic’ prison places from 2,800 to 4,200 and in the process reducing the overall prison budget by another £30million a year. A 2,000-place prison is to be built in Wrexham, North Wales and a second ‘super-prison’ may very well be built in the south east. Secretary of State for Wales David Jones has greeted this news with ecstatic approval listing the many commercial benefits that will accrue to Wrexham as a result of one of the UK’s first ever super prisons being located there. Others have been less enthused and here’s why.
Professor Andrew Coyle, a former Governor of Brixton prison has argued that
‘There is clear evidence from the chief inspector of prisons that prisons should ideally hold no more than 500 prisoners in order to function at their most effective.Going beyond that number pretty much amounts to warehousing.’

Imagine an environment in which there are low numbers of experienced prison officers due to Ministry of Justice lay-offs and a large number of experienced
prisoners. An environment in which prisoners who have been wrongly categorised could pass under the radar, until they either harm themselves or assault another prisoner and where once they are referred for help they may find themselves caught up in a vast back log of similar cases. Imagine a regimen which sees a sudden upsurge in prison numbers, because this is after all a ‘super prison’ and it can therefore take the extra capacity; then imagine the resultant problems as levels of sick leave increase amongst the staff who are hardly ‘super-human’. Imagine a situation in which only 10% of prisoners have been allocated a ‘plan’ detailing the steps the prison intends to take in rehabilitating them and eventually getting them ready for a return to some sort of viable existence in the outside world, that excludes the need to committ crime. If you think that this is an exaggeration then read the report written on HMP Oakwood by an independent monitoring board appointed by the Ministry of Justice. The largest UK prison built so far it was originally supposed to house 1,600 prison inmates, it now houses 1,800, a number that the prison staff were never expecting to have to cope with.
‘Say you need 3,000 staff for a super prison. Where do they come from, does it plough jobs into the community or does it become an almost single employer?’ asks Paddy Scriven, general secretary of the Prison Governors Association. And she’s right to ask, for the prospect of one entire section of society becoming entirely reliant upon the incarceration of another section of that same society in order to earn its bread and butter, is disquieting to say the least.

Grayling has come up with a superbly cost-effective way to resolve the increasing cost of UK Prisons, but at what cost to those prisoners relocated vast distances to prisons which their families can’t afford to visit. A story comes to mind of a young man who, on being released from a prison some considerable distance from his community , found that he had missed his baby son being born. His anger was so great, that he committed a series of offences which quickly landed him back in prison. Privately run super prisons may cost society less financially but one wonders about the human cost.

Children Flying Solo – Solitary Confinement & Its Psychological Impact

A range of international instruments provides that solitary confinement should not be
used other than in the most exceptional circumstances. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT 1987) states :-

‘Solitary confinement can, in certain circumstances, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment; in any event, all forms of solitary confinement should be as short as possible’.

The terms solitary confinement, segregation, single separation and isolation are commonly used across the juvenile secure system in England.The practices vary from the possibility of a child spending several weeks in prison punishment cells,to a few minutes alone in a bedroom or office.

On behalf of the Howard League For Penal Reform, The Lord Carlile of Berriew QC carried out an independent inquiry into the use of physical restraint, solitary confinement and forcible strip searching of children in prisons, secure training centres and local authority secure children’s homes. In that inquiry he found that solitary confinement could and frequently did follow the use of physical force.

Between January 2004 and June 2005 the institutions included in his inquiry, used solitary confinement 2,329 times. Only five of the institutions gave information about the number of children segregated, which showed that 519 children had been placed in solitary confinement. Information from one Youth Facility revealed that solitary confinement was used 946 times.The number of self-harm incidents in prison segregation units as a result was a major concern.There were 117 incidents of self injury recorded by prisons (5 July 2004, Hansard, col 552W). Anne Owers (2003), the Chief Inspector of Prisons, has described solitary confinement as a prison within a prison. In her words solitary confinement has a pervasive effect on the entire prison population despite the fact that it usually only directly affects a small number of those living and working in a prison.

Dr Stuart Grassian,a board certified psychiatrist with extensive psychiatric experience in evaluating mental health issues,had this to say about the effects of solitary confinement.

‘Historically the USA had been the world leader in introducing prolonged (solitary) confinement…Their system was emulated in several European nations in the 19th Century. But in the end the incidence of mental disturbances and their severity caused the system to be abandoned.’

When Dr Grassian initially agreed to research solitary confinement in relation to a specific group of prisoners he was sceptical. The results of his evaluations soon assured him of the long term ‘deleterious’ damage inflicted on the prisoner by lengthy periods of time spent in isolation.

“As soon as I got in I started cutting my wrists. I figured it was the only way to get out of here”

-Prisoner A

Significantly, the prisoner who said this couldn’t recall the events of the several days that surrounded his wrist slashing. Nor could he describe his thoughts and feelings at the time.

Dr Grassian concluded that some of the psychological symptoms that arose as a result of time spent in solitary, occurred in no other type of psychiatric illness. Indeed some of these symptoms were present in severe early onset Schizophrenia.

The Howard League for Penal Reform has stated its opposition to solitary confinement as has the ACLU. The European Convention on Human Rights clearly opposes what has been defined as torture. Why then is this method of  retributive punishment being administered to children & adults in prison in this post-industrial and technologically sophisticated,world?