My WaPo Op-Ed … on Torture in America

I didn’t think I could add another commitment to my portfolio of concern.
Then I saw an interview with Shane Bauer, one of three Americans imprisoned in Iran for months. He explained that he wasn’t allowed contact with anyone outside, that he was given no access to a lawyer, that he wasn’t told what evidence there was for the charges against him, and that he had no idea if he would ever even get a trial or see freedom.
What left the biggest mark on me was when he said that no part of his experience was worse than the four months he spent in solitary confinement. He admitted that the experience was so unbearable that he wished he could have been interrogated — just to have some form of human contact.
Later, I read an article in Mother Jones by Bauer. In it, he described what it was like to discover that many prisoners in California are subjected to even more extreme forms of solitary confinement than he had been in Iran.
I knew I could not be silent. Solitary confinement might not involve beatings, electric shocks, or water boarding, but it looks, smells and sounds like torture. And people like me — who believe that human beings are created in the image of God, and therefore have innate dignity — cannot be silent about torture, whether in Iran or California.
The issue has gained more attention since July 8, when over 30,000 prisoners in California prisons began a peaceful hunger strike. Now, over 40 days after the hunger strike began, hundreds of California prisoners are still refusing food, and many of them are nearing organ failure and death. They are protesting a number of inhumane conditions, but solitary confinement is the one that many of us can’t stop thinking about.