The treatment of people caught up in the US penal system is often brutal. One of the results of celebrities going to jail is that we get to hear of harsh treatment that is meted out to detainees that are ignored when poor and unknown people are subjected to it. One such case is Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s close associate, who has complained to an appeals court during a bail hearing that she is not allowed to sleep at all. Recall that Epstein died by suicide in jail though no evidence has been presented that Maxwell is suicidal.
Two of three judges on a second US circuit court of appeals panel in Manhattan expressed concern about light shone in her cell every 15 minutes at night as Federal Bureau of Prisons (BoP) guards make sure she is breathing.
[Assistant US attorney Lara] Pomerantz said it was a routine guards employed to ensure inmates are breathing. She said guards shine light at the ceiling above where Maxwell sleeps rather than at her eyes when they check her breathing.
Her comment was challenged by the circuit judge Pierre Leval, who repeatedly asked if Maxwell posed a suicide risk.
“Routine to shine a light into the eyes of every prisoner every 15 minutes during the night? Are you really telling us that?” he asked.
“Your honor, I can’t tell you what is done as to all inmates, but what I can say is that we have not been told that she is a suicide risk,” Pomerantz responded.
The judges also seemed concerned that Maxwell is not permitted to wear an eye mask that wraps securely around her head.
[Maxwell’s attorney David] Markus said Maxwell puts a sock or towel over eyes so she can sleep at the Metropolitan detention center (MDC) in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
“The government used the word routine to say how Ms Maxwell’s being treated in MDC. There is absolutely nothing routine about it. She’s being treated differently than any other inmate ever in that institution,” he said.
This seems excessive to me. Even if for some reason the prison authorities think she is suicidal but cannot say why they think so, surely there are ways to monitor a prisoner without waking them up by shining a light every fifteen minutes? With a camera in the cell and a dim night light, they could continuously monitor her while allowing her to sleep. What they are doing looks like torture to me and that is wrong, whatever one might think of her.