Nail in the Coffin

The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law

Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895)

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Eighth Amendment, United States Constitution

Then look at how the system treats a remand prisoner:

23-hour/day solitary confinement; barred even from exercising in his cell; one hour total outside his cell per day where he’s allowed to walk around in circles in a room alone while shackled, and is returned to his cell the minute he stops walking; forced to respond to guards’ inquiries literally every 5 minutes, all day, everyday; and awakened at night each time he is curled up in the corner of his bed or otherwise outside the guards’ full view

In addition the prisoner is now stripped of his clothing nightly and forced ‘to stand outside his cell naked during a morning inspection’.

The prisoner has not been convicted of anything, and yet has served a period on remand harsher than many custodial sentences.

What’s worse, this is supposedly being done for his own good. It is brought in under the Orwellianly-named “prevention of injury watch”. Against the recommendation of the prison psychiatrist.

This will sound quite abstract. Imagine it this way:

Go to your bathroom. Turn all the lights on. Take any reading materials you may have out. You can have one book or magazine, but that’s it. Put a mattress on the floor. Put your phone and laptop away. This is your world.

Get a stranger to lock you in. Have him open the door every five minutes to make you respond. Now sit there. Don’t do anything. Wait until you’re let out, cuffed, to another room where you live. Walk around in a circle for an hour. If you stop, you go back to the bathroom. If you speak, you go back to the bathroom. After an hour, you go back to the bathroom. Sit there. Don’t do anything. Respond to the stranger when told. When he tells you to go to sleep, take off all your clothes and give them to him. Sleep on the mattress. On your back only. If you change position you will be woken and forced back onto your back. The stranger will continue to open the door to check on you through the night. You will be woken at 6. You will stand outside the bathroom naked. The stranger will ‘inspect’ you. You get your clothes back. Back into the bathroom you go. Now sit, and let the process repeat itself.

Think you’d keep your sanity?

Is this the treatment of a presumed-innocent man by authorities genuinely concerned for his safety?

The prisoner’s name, not that it matters, is Bradley Manning.

10 thoughts on “Nail in the Coffin”

  1. Beautifully succinct summary, thank you. No further description needed, the case against this inhumane treatment has been made. Now (1) what is being done to end this outrage, by whom, and (2) what can WE do to help? Positive comments invited. Will respond.

  2. You’ve expressed the state of affairs rather powerfully – thank you. And Martin, if you’re in the UK the thing to do is to write to your MP and ask that Bradley – a UK/US dual citizen – receives the consular assistance he is entitled to. There’s more information on the UK Friends of Bradley Manning website.


  3. ‘What’s worse, this is supposedly being done for his own good. It is brought in under the Orwellianly-named “prevention of injury watch”. ‘

    The Nazi state used the phrase “protective custody” to describe the internment of its enemies and other “undesirables” in concentration camps. Very close parallel here, I suggest.

  4. I just don’t think it’s comparable to Nazi Germany. “Protective custody” was much more widespread, extrajudicial and deliberate. This is more akin to either abuse of the law or incompetence.

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