Is this harsh treatment really necessary?

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.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … we have not been told that she is a suicide risk…

    But she may very well be a “suicide” risk. Who’s watching her guards?

  2. dean56 says

    “What they are doing looks like torture to me and that is wrong, whatever one might think of her. ”
    For many workers in the system the view is
    ‘person A has been tossed in here’ --> ‘person A is evil’ --> ‘person A does not deserve any humane treatment’

  3. says

    “Not allowed to sleep” sounds like the same hyperbole and whining when she was first detained (re: suicide-proof clothes and cell, the same food as other prisoners). Her lawyer doesn’t care if other prisoners are subjected to this, so it’s clearly not concern about human rights in jails. It’s about a privileged rich white woman unused to not having privilege and luxury.

    Lights on 24/7 is a common form of abuse and mental torture in US prisons, and she’s only getting a light on and off every fifteen minutes. In Jackson County Jail in Mississippi, lights have been on 24 hours per day since November 25. That’s five entire months, and nobody has done anything about it.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 Intransitive
    I am not sure but lights on continuously may be better than intermittent light. In either case it sounds like low-grade torture.

    IIRC, Maria Butina, the Russian gun-nut caught up in the Russia-gate fiasco reported the same 15 minute flashlight treatment when in solitary. In her case it looked like deliberate torture to get her to accept a plea-bargain.

  5. John Morales says

    Pretty obviously a deliberate thing, since infrared cameras are quite cheap and quite advanced, these days. Subject could experience lights-out whilst still being observed — and at all times, not just four times per hour.

    Intransitive, you’re being hyperbolic, and resorting to “whataboutism” here.

    It’s about a privileged rich white woman unused to not having privilege and luxury.

    No, it’s about the treatment being meted to a privileged rich white woman unused to not having privilege and luxury, and its putative basis.

  6. John Morales says

    PS I suspect she is becoming used to not having privilege and luxury, based on this information.

  7. publicola says

    Why can’t she just roll over and face the wall? With all the young lives she has helped destroy, I simply can’t muster any sympathy for her.

  8. ardipithecus says

    @7 Marcus

    Torture is to encourage confession, plea bargaining, betraying cronies, that sort of thing, so of course it is before conviction. After conviction, the only reason to torture is for the lulz.

  9. mnb0 says

    @8 Publicola: then you’re guilty of the same mentality as her: cheap revenge is your first priority.
    Do you want better people instead? Then start treating them well, ie by supporting the human rights of people you don’t like.

  10. jrkrideau says

    @ 7 Marcus
    See my reference to Maria Butina @ 4.

    Her treatment seems to have been deliberate and prolonged low-grade torture clearly designed to extort a plea bargain. I doubt that this sort of treatment is unusual though in Maxwell’s case it may just be a hatred of child sex traffickers and not intended to force a plea bargain

    That she has not been convicted of anything is irrelevant. Obviously she would not have been charged if she was not guilty. /sarc

    American “justice” is sick shit.
    Talk to the 40 men still in Guantanamo.

  11. says

    Oh, no, the HORROR of being checked up on to make sure you haven’t offed yourself! Nobody is “forbidding” or “preventing” her from sleeping, she’s just a whiny, privileged d-bag.

  12. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    I’m gonna side against torture here.

    @WMDKitty, I’m particularly ashamed of you. You’re better than this.

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