What Constitution? People held after Jan. 6 Capitol incident, some not charged with a crime, still being held in solitary confinement

WASHINGTON, DC- When even the most partisan Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Dick Durbin (IL) are railing against harsh treatment of people taken into custody for the Jan. 6 Capitol “riot” you have to know something is seriously wrong.

According to the Tennessee Star, only a short drive from that Capitol is a jail where some 1,500 inmates are confined to their jail cells 22 hours per day, an increase of one hour over what it was last month. They were also prohibited from going outside.

And what of those who were at the Capitol…not necessarily inside the Capitol but at the Capitol? Well, they seem to have it much worse, having been placed in so-called “restrictive housing,” which is another word for maximum security.

For nearly a year, those inmates…in the name of COVID-19…have been subject to what has been referred to as a “medical stay-in-place” policy in order to “mitigate” the coronavirus. Finally last month, some members of Congress began to take notice.

While Rep. James Comer (R-KY) expressed concerns about the overall inmate population, it was actually Warren and Durbin who spoke on behalf of those locked up for the “insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

At a time when Democrats are pushing for statehood for the District of Columbia, the issue of treatment of inmates at the facility is calling that into question, a point not lost on Comer.

“D.C.’s house is not in order, and the solution is not to grant it even more authority through statehood,” Comer said on April 19.

That comment came in response to a Washington Post report which described the jail’s COVID-19 order as “mass solitary confinement.”

In arguing against D.C. statehood in an April 22 speech, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) also cited the same Post report. In that speech, Higgins alleged that the city had been “essentially torturing inmates” for over a year, and noted:

“That is ultimately a violation of the 8th Amendment…is that what we can expect from a D.C. state?”

The Star reported that Comer has requested a briefing from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about the jail conditions, however she has not yet granted that meeting. In response, Comer issued a demand to House Oversight Committee Chairperson Carolyn Maloney to hold an emergency hearing on “these gross abuses that are happening right at our doorstep.”

As to those being held for being present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, many are being held in pretrial detention on charges ranging from knowingly entering or remaining in restricted grounds (trespassing) without authority to conspiracy, assault and obstruction of an official proceeding.

Meanwhile, in cities across the country, including in Washington, D.C., thugs who destroyed businesses, defaced or otherwise vandalized statues and monuments, assaulted citizens, including police officers and engaged in mayhem for months on end have had charges dropped. Most never spent a night in jail after being arrested.

Speaking specifically to those being held relative to Jan. 6, Comer’s office issued a statement which read:

“Reports that January 6 defendants, who have been charged but not yet convicted of a crime, [are] receiving even harsher treatment is equally appalling.”

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Neither Bowser nor Maloney have responded to requests made by Comer’s office, nor have they responded to media outlets seeking comment.

One media outlet, Just The News, reached out to a Department of Corrections official for comment via email, but they refused to answer questions or speak on the record in a phone interview.

Marty Tankleff, an attorney who represents some of the Jan. 6 defendants told Politico that he would speak to any lawmakers who had questions about the disparate treatment given to Jan. 6 defendants.

However Tankleff, who himself was exonerated after spending decades in prison relative to a wrongful murder conviction, said nobody has contacted him three weeks later.

One of those whom Tankleff represents, Ryan Samsel alleges that a prison guard beat him so badly that he has suffered permanent eye damage, while another, Edward Jacob Lang, described as “an observant Jew,” claims guards disparaged him as a “false prophet” as he prayed for other inmates.

Unbelievably, a U.S. District Judge in March denied a petition from the Jan. 6 defendants who sought removal from the restrictive housing, saying the D.C. attorney general had so housed them “for their own safety and the safety of the jail,” Politico reported.

That ruling was made by Judge Royce Lamberth, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

In April, Sen. Warren told Politico:

“Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” saying she feared the Jan. 6 defendants were being singled out either to “punish” them or to “break them so that they will cooperate” with federal prosecutors.

Such tactics would seem to be more akin to a Soviet gulag, or a prison in Latin America, not in the United States.

In the case of Durbin, he also expressed surprise about the restrictive housing, noting it should be a “rare exception” with a “clear justification,” he told Politico, noting it should only be used in “very limited circumstances.”

News media reached out to Durbin’s office to get an update on their efforts to get better treatment for those arrestees, however got no response.

They also reached out to members of the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees, which have jurisdiction, again receiving no response. Likewise D.C. Delegate Eleanor Norton Holmes refused to answer if she planned on seeking better treatment for the inmates.

One can imagine if the script was flipped and Donald Trump was president, with Biden supporters being locked up in solitary confinement, tortured and beaten, and held without charges that the media would be losing their minds.

Ironically (or not), there is no definition of “restrictive housing” with the exception of a DOC policy document, last reviewed in August 2019, which calls for “single occupancy,” with no other restrictions listed.

The policy document says it is reserved for inmates who are “sexual predators,” engage in “assaultive behavior”, or are “likely to be exploited or victimized by others,” or have any “other documented special need.”

 One caveat for those in restrictive housing was explained in a May 3 statement from the Department of Corrections, which says inmates are not allowed to have digital tablets in order to conduct legal research. Instead, they are required to submit paper requests and are given a two-day turnaround.

Aside from Tankleff, Attorney Steve Metcalf also represents those locked up, and noted their clients had been placed in two different forms of 23-hour solitary confinement, including “the box,” where inmates are typically sent for disciplinary infractions.

The other is called “administrative segregation,” which is supposed to be “non-punitive.” The lawyers however say that it is non-punitive in name only, with Tankleff noting that clients received no notice or the opportunity to challenge the designation, a move he called unusual.

In addition, Metcalf said the attorneys have also faced roadblocks in trying to meet with their clients, noting a “contact visit” requires an inmate to quarantine for 14 days afterward in a space that includes new inmates. “It’s not the safest place for staying COVID-free,” he said.

During the “non-contact” visits, lawyers are not permitted to bring phones or computers which Metcalf says makes it practically impossible for the Jan. 6 defendants to see the evidence against them, including “recordings from thousands of people’s cell phones.”

He noted that in essence, inmates are virtually unable to participate in their own defense. He said in other jails, he has been able to bring in a laptop that isn’t connected to the internet so show clients.

“Your ability to participate in your own defense” isn’t available to the Jan. 6 clients, a detail he says is an obvious ground for appeal.

Tankleff also said the design of the facility makes it impossible to maintain confidentiality.

“There isn’t even a solid wall” in the area where clients and attorneys meet, noting at one point, two cubicles down from a meeting “we heard everything” another lawyer was saying.

He also questioned the fact that defendants arrested elsewhere have to be transferred to D.C. when all hearings are virtual by default. “What was the purpose of transferring them?”

That seems to be obvious…degrade and humiliate them.

Metcalf said that this was the first time in his career he has seen such an influx of defendants being received from other jurisdictions. “It was a well-thought out strategic plan” to get them to D.C., he said, noting that by putting them all in the same space they can be “mic’d in a cage.”

If you’re familiar with the program “Prison Break,” this facility in D.C. is reminiscent in some ways of Sona, the jail in Panama which is a true third world prison and where the characters in the Fox program found themselves.

 According to The Star, the D.C. jail is considered an “outlier” among jail systems in the area, noting that inmates in Montgomery County get 2-1/2 hours outside their cells, while those in Prince George’s County get three.

For his part, Comer realized the significance of putting people, many not even yet charged with anything, in such conditions.

“This is something to be expected of authoritarian governments such as Russia—not the local government that serves as the center of the free world,” he wrote to Bowser.

In response to the magnifying glass being aimed at the facility, the DOC suddenly made some policy “adjustments,” which included increasing “out of cell time” from one to two hours, allowing 90 minutes of outdoor recreation starting May 15, and restoring some “limited video visitation” by June 7.

This is Biden’s America, where political opponents are not only punished but they are crushed.

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Author: Pat Droney


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