Gold star for a journalist
Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2008
One story that we’ve tried to cover is that torture of captives is not an aberration that magically appeared in 2001. It is common in the American justice system. There is a direct line from the American prison system to the torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib:
[Psychiatrist Terry Kupers said that] “The plight of prisoners in the USA is strikingly similar to the plight of the Iraqis who were abused by American GIs. Prisoners are maced, raped, beaten, starved, left naked in freezing cold cells and otherwise abused in too many American prisons, as substantiated by findings in many courts that prisoners’ constitutional rights to remain free of cruel and unusual punishment are being violated.”
Torture techniques used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo are all too familiar in prisons in the U.S. as well. Hooded, robed figures with electrical wiring attached to them have been seen at the city jail in Sacramento, California. Prisoners in Maricopa County jails in Phoenix, Arizona have been forced to wear women’s underwear. And guards in the Utah prison system have piled naked bodies in grotesque and uncomfortable positions.
And there are heroes who have stood up to expose our rotten prisons. Perhaps none is as persistent and as modest as John Conroy of the Chicago Reader, whose 19-year long dedication to exposing police torture in Chicago is described here by Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Romenesko):
As a reporter for the Chicago Reader, John Conroy wrote more than 100,000 words about the police torture scandal between the time he started looking into it in 1989 and when he was laid off last December because of budget cuts.
Although he would tell you he’s only a “bit player,” Conroy was probably as responsible as anyone for keeping the police torture issue in Chicago’s consciousness during that time. He wrote about it and wrote about it, to the point that it probably wasn’t good for his career, because nobody likes a Johnny-one-note.
His editor suggested he move on to the next subject, and he tried. After all, he told himself, he wasn’t having much impact. But he kept coming back.
“It seemed be a matter of life and death,” he explained. “There were guys on Death Row that were going to die.”
I don’t mean to hold Conroy out as a hero. He wouldn’t like that, and I promised him I wouldn’t. He was just a journalist doing a job.
May the road rise up to meet you, Mr. Conroy. As we try to scrub the stain of Guantanamo off of our nation, your nearly two decades of patient work may help us to find and erase the source, which lies within our own hearts.
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