Over 60 inmates at New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility have complained of abuse by prison guards in the wake of the June escape of convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt.
According to a New York Times report, they allege that the prison staff interrogated them by beating them, placing them in solitary confinement, and in at least one inmate’s case, throwing a bag over his head and threatening to waterboard him.
Hearing about the domestic use of tactics so similar to those used by the CIA on suspected terrorists during the Bush administration, the Reverend Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, made the obvious connection.
“Faith and human rights leaders who worked to stop the CIA’s torture program have long feared its corroding influence on our civilian authorities,” he said in a statement. “These events prove that we must fight the torture of Americans here at home just as we have fought the use of torture abroad.”
Stief told The Intercept that the New York State legislature should launch a comprehensive investigation into the behavior of its prison employees, modeled after the Senate’s investigation of the CIA.
“The Department of Corrections needs to stand in and say, ‘You cannot do this ever. Torture is always wrong,'” he said. “It’s not the kind of thing you can use under certain circumstances.”
Stief said the use of solitary confinement — common in some prison systems — is another form of torture.
The National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union has sued many prisons and jails for inhumane treatment of prisoners, including “savage beatings” in Los Angeles County Jails, “grotesquely filthy” conditions in a Mississippi prison, and inadequate access to health care in many locations.