Punished With Solitary For Refusing a Strip Search
*Editor’s Note: There are graphic pictures included in this article. They are important to the story, however, some might find them disturbing.
“He has refused your visit”. The words smacked me in my ears as the prison receptionist told me that I would not be able to visit with Ammon Bundy after waiting for over an hour. But, it took me only a second to recover. I knew why Ammon had refused to visit with me. Ammon was in solitary confinement at the CCA Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, Nevada because he refused to submit to the strip/body cavity searches at the prison. To punish Ammon Bundy for his refusal to cooperate, the prison staff threw him in a solitary confinement cell.
When a prisoner is taken to visit somebody, they must submit to a strip/body cavity search round trip, as they go out and as they come back in. This happens each time they go to court or visit an attorney, round trip strip searches. What is a strip search? They must undress completely, totally naked and are subject to having their genitals and rectum inspected by bending over, spreading their butt cheeks and coughing. Guards, with rubber gloves, may touch them in their private areas if they deem it necessary and the physical inspection includes mouth, nose and ears or any part of the body they deem appropriate.
The prison justifies this practice under the pretense of security and safety for prison staff to avoid contraband and dangerous items from entering the prison through transport in or on a body. Ammon’s position is that:
- He is not convicted. He has not been found guilty of anything through a trial. Because he has not been found guilty, nor does he have any kind of criminal record, there is no probable cause to suspect him of having contraband.
- He is entitled to the protection of the Bill of Rights, including the 4th amendment which prohibits unreasonable searches and invasions of privacy without probable cause.
- While he is in pre trial detention, he is to enjoy a presumption of innocence and treated like any other citizen with full access to the Bill of Rights and he is to be treated differently than other prisoners who have been convicted.
- Solitary confinement is a horrible punishment, beyond the comprehension of people who have never experienced it. Yet, it is preferable to the personal violation by strip/cavity searches.
In addition to the above, I would add:
- These strip/body cavity searches are sexual abuse. Among the organizations that have branded them as sexual abuse is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). For further analysis of the sexual abuse component of these strip searches, see:
- The prison uses computer screens and phones for prisoner visitations. There is no physical proximity between prisoner and visitor. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PASS CONTRABAND THROUGH A COMPUTER SCREEN. Therefore, the need for a strip search is null and void and the only reason for its use is 1) punishment and/or 2) sexual gratification by prison staff through sexual contact with prisoners and/or 3) control and submission of prisoners through humiliation, manipulation, degradation and displays of prison staff power.
- The prison allegedly has body scanners such as used in airports as an alternative to the strip searches but does not use them.
While Ammon Bundy did not agree to visit with me, his brother Ryan did agree, much to my delight. However, my happiness was short lived as I realized the sacrifice that Ryan had to make to see me, subjecting himself the sexual violations mentioned above. Ryan is also in solitary for an overall refusal to submit to these strip/cavity searches and he described the horrors of being in solitary. A partial list includes:
- No working toilet, they had thrown him a toilet plunger and he got it to work for a short time but it returned to being stopped up. I did not ask him how he took care of his biological needs absent a working toilet.
- No toilet paper. Likewise, I don’t know what he did absent toilet paper.
- Isolation, except for brief (15 minutes per day) outside his cell.
- Restrictions on paper and writing tools for his legal notes and defense.
I did not want to focus on this with Ryan but rather talk about other subjects that would distract his mind from these horrors.
Like the sexual abuse of strip searches, solitary is a prison tool designed to humiliate and control prisoners. Its life long destructiveness to a person, is well documented and much can be found by googling it:
Ryan educated me on the Bill of Rights by pointing out that they are one sided, a one way street, exclusively designed to protect the accused and say nothing about protecting the accuser. There is nothing about “complex cases” or convenience for the prosecution in delaying a trial. It is wholly and exclusively for the benefit and enjoyment of the accused. Nevertheless, the federal team (the judge, prosecutors, marshals) have usurped the constitution and the Bill of Rights for their benefit and convenience.
The horrors and injustices are made possible by the grossest injustice of all, pre trial detention through denial of bail or release on recognizance. Like sinking the Titanic in a sea of icebergs, the discussion about solitary confinement, strip searches and other mistreatment of prisoners, is like straightening the deck chairs and arguing about the orchestra music during the sinking when the real issue is the iceberg that caused the disaster in the first place. In this case, the iceberg is the pre trial detention and the denial of bail. Sadly, most Americans have no idea how bad their rights have been sunk by the iceberg of bail denial and the denial of a presumption of innocence until proven guilty making the strip searches and abuse possible.
For an excellent review of the the process that led to this fundamental loss of a presumption of innocence and to pre trial detention, please see:
WHAT CAN BE DONE
While I was in the prison waiting area, the prison receptionist received a call from a political prisoner supporter. He began to lecture her on what they were doing wrong and she simply replied, “You call me every week, and I give you the same answer, do you want me to transfer you to public relations?” I thought to myself, any calls to the prison is a waste of time. Nothing will change, no matter how many calls are made. Prison staff are not the decision makers nor do they care about lectures on their duty to uphold the constitution. They only care about getting paid and making their mortgage payment.
Please contact the decision makers. The U.S. Marshals division of prison operations, the Inspector General who oversees the Dept of Justice and the Marshals service. Make an appointment with your congress person. Talk to a senior staff member about the horrors being experienced right now, in U.S. prisons. Because, the same thing may happen to you or someone you care about.