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rape 77

A disposable population

How prison employees get away with sexually assaulting inmates

by Chris Cotelesse, The Renegade Press

March 30, 2015

Barbara tried to push James Johnson away, “but he would just act like she was playing with him,” according to Sergeant Brandee Thomas’ report from July 2011. Barbara said Johnson bruised her legs when he had sexual intercourse with her and gave her 10 tablets of hydrocodone, promising at least 10 more and an ice cream cake for her birthday two days later.He had been touching her since May of that year, penetrating her vagina with his fingers and rubbing her clitoris. He kept her quiet by threatening to tell her fiance and making presents of prescription drugs and candy—even asking her friend Tina and others to make sure she stayed silent.

“[H]e would get mad if I wouldn’t let him,” Barbara said in a written statement. “Then when I would he would finger me real hard in the lower bathroom” of her cell block at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in Shelby County.

Johnson, a former KCIW guard, confessed to some of the crimes, and a confidential informant provided recordings of Johnson discussing others. He eventually pleaded guilty to sexually abusing three inmates, including Barbara, and felony drug trafficking. But under the terms of the plea agreement—which the prosecutor would not discuss with Renegade Press—he’ll avoid any jail time and the most severe charges will be dismissed if he follows the rules during his seven-year probation.

Efforts to reach Johnson were unsuccessful, and Barbara declined to comment on the details of her abuse. Renegade Press omitted Barbara’s last name to protect her anonymity.

American-Me-prison-rapeJohnson could have faced a felony rape charge and been required to register as a sex offender, but his charges were watered down. Paul Wright, founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center in Lake Worth, Fl., said light charges and “sweetheart deals” are the nationwide standard for prosecuting prison employees who are accused of sexually abusing inmates.

Wright has been advocating prison reform for 25 years, suing prisons for public records and publishing reports on the darkest truths of the United States prison industrial complex.

The last anthology he co-wrote in 2008 preceded investigations by national media outlets into the corporations that profit from privately-run prisons.

He said local authorities cut deals in staff sexual abuse cases to protect their reputations. They avoid public trials rather than air the sordid details of institutional abuse and conceal “a de facto prison policy of sexually assaulting inmates.”

“When nothing is done about it and it continues year after year after year, it’s not an unusual conclusion to draw that this is how [prisons] do things,” Wright told Renegade Press. “Prison in this country is really about breaking and destroying people.”

The Department of Justice estimated that prison employees were accused in 4,300 acts of sexual abuse and sexual harassment against inmates from 2009 to 2011. A separate 2011-2012 survey suggests that up to ten times as many acts go unreported, but Wright said the statistics understate how completely prison guards control the daily lives of inmates and the extent to which they can abuse their power.

“They don’t just rape a person once; they do it a whole bunch of times,” he said. “They don’t just rape one person; they rape a whole bunch of people.”

Prisons and police departments dismiss most allegations for lacking evidence. The cells, walls and gates that separate inmates from the public and each other also hide crimes from witnesses and security cameras. Victims usually have only their own sworn statements as evidence that they were assaulted.

But even when allegations were substantiated by prison administrators, 44 percent of staff involved were prosecuted. Only one percent of substantiated allegations ended in conviction, and 15 percent of staff involved remained employed at correctional facilities, according to the 2009-2011 report.

Wright said abuse is seldom punished because inmates are “a disposable population.” The general public ignores prisoners’ claims as victims because of their status as criminals. Neither voters nor their elected representatives care about them, he said, and as a result, national efforts to stop sexual abuse in prisons are only half-hearted.

Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, receiving praise from the United Nations Committee against Torture, but after more than a decade, prison employees are still hardly held accountable for serious and sometimes violent crimes.

Among other things, the law provides grant money for training staff to prevent, investigate and respond to sexual abuse. States are also now encouraged to automatically terminate employees who engage in sexual abuse, but the penalty for states that fail to comply cannot exceed 5 percent of the federal funding they receive from the Department of Justice.

Only two states have adopted all of the Justice Department’s guidelines. Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Texas and Utah have refused to do so. No states have yet been penalized.

hqdefaultWright and the Human Rights Defense Center have fought to strengthen the law since 2006, when the Department of Justice began developing the regulations. In a 2011 letter to the Justice Department, Wright criticized Congress for limiting the new rape prevention measures to those that do “not impose substantial additional costs” upon state budgets.

“Congress…placed cost considerations above efforts to stop the sexual abuse and rape of prisoners. Consequently, the DOJ’s proposed rules reflect the fact that we get only what we are willing to pay for,” Wright wrote.

Meanwhile, members of the most vulnerable population, inmates who are mentally ill, were up to five times more likely to say they were victimized by staff, according to the 2011-2012 survey. Incarcerated juveniles also reported higher rates of sexual victimization. In some juvenile detention facilities, such as the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Georgia and the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio, nearly one-third of the youths reported being sexually abused by staff members.

So far, facilities are reformed only after something horrible is discovered. Circleville has since adopted a number of progressive policies, and Paulding closed its doors in 2013 after the Department of Justice published its latest report on juvenile facilities. However, at the time, senior officials in the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice told WSB-TV that the facility was being closed to save money.

Most jurisdictions resolve sexual abuse allegations against state and municipal employees as quietly as they can. In Shelby County, Ky., Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Melanie Carroll spared Johnson a 36-year maximum sentence despite substantial evidence. Carroll negotiated with Johnson’s attorney in closed meetings for three years, delaying a jury trial twice in order to extend negotiations. And when she offered the deal on Aug. 18, 2014, the sum of her years-long efforts existed in two sentences.

“The [Commonwealth] has no objection to [the felony drug charges] being diverted for 5 years. [The sexual abuse charges] to be conditionally discharged for 2 years,” according to the Commonwealth’s offer on a plea of guilty.

Carroll’s rationale for the deal she made with Johnson may never be disclosed, because she isn’t required to give one. And she refuses to talk about it.

“I’m not going to discuss any of the decision-making process that went into the plea agreement,” she told Renegade Press.

She also declined to discuss how she argued the case to a grand jury and the resulting charges of misdemeanor sexual abuse. Sexual intercourse with an inmate, as described in the report that Thomas prepared for KCIW, is a felony offense in Kentucky, but Carroll deferred to the jury’s indictment accusing Johnson of “sexual contact,” i.e., digital stimulation of Barbara’s vagina.

“Those were the charges that suit the facts of the case as decided by the grand jury,” Carroll said.

r-rap10Grand jury proceedings are sealed by state law, and the Kentucky State Police Department denied requests made by Renegade Press for transcripts of witness interviews, saying the records are part of an ongoing investigation. However, Kentucky State Police could not cite a single arrest they have made as a result of the interviews in more than three and a half years since conducting them.

The evidence that Carroll submitted to a Shelby County court, the only information available to the public, says that Barbara gave two additional interviews after telling Thomas that Johnson had had sexual intercourse with her.

KCIW Capt. Kevin Dean spoke with Barbara the same day as Thomas, but he never filed a report in the case against Johnson. Dean’s interview is mentioned only in a letter from the Kentucky Department of Corrections notifying Johnson that he had been terminated.

The only other report of the crimes was filed by Kentucky State Police Detective Richard “Mitch” Harris, but Dean set the course of that police investigation by defining the crimes before Harris had asked any questions.

Within minutes of Barbara’s statements to Thomas, Dean was on the phone with Harris, briefing him on the details of the case. He told Harris that Johnson had been suspended three months earlier for allegedly working under the influence of drugs, although he was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal investigation. Afterward, Dean convinced another inmate to wear a concealed microphone during conversations with Johnson, who was recorded talking about sex acts with prisoners and bringing drugs into the prison.

Then, Dean “advised that [Johnson] had not penetrated [Barbara] with his penis; he was using his fingers and kissing her,” according to Harris’ report.

That’s the last mention of sexual intercourse in the court documents. Harris interviewed Barbara and then Johnson, but if he asked either of them about sexual intercourse or the threats Johnson allegedly made, then he didn’t include it in his report.

Harris charged Johnson with misdemeanor sexual abuse, and those were the charges Carroll asked the grand jury to consider.

Harris and Dean have since been fired from the Kentucky State Police Department and KCIW, respectively, for undisclosed reasons. In September, Harris was the subject of an internal investigation for allegedly collecting overtime pay for shifts that he didn’t work.

But as long as local authorities are able to investigate and prosecute these cases without oversight or transparency, Wright said, prisoners will continue to be sexually abused. And he’s not optimistic about reform.

“No one really cares about the fact that it’s happening to prisoners,” Wright said. “Just like [prisoners are] a disposable population, [they’re] also an invisible population.”


Chris Cotelese is a web developer, social media director, and writer for the Renegade Press. His work has appeared in  the Plain Dealer, the Columbus Dispatch, the Akron Beacon Journal, Crain’s Cleveland Business, the Vindicator and the Warren Tribune-Chronicle.



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deadly force in south carolina


You’ve probably already seen this—it has already had a couple days to go viral—but it is proof of what happens all the time.



Slager, 33, has been charged with murder and arrested, but this outcome would probably never have happened if it were not for the fact that a bystander filmed the murder on his cell phone.

Authorities said the decision to charge Slager was made after they viewed the video footage, which differed significantly from Slager’s account of the incident. Slager tried to claim that Scott took his Tazer, but if you look at the video carefully, you can see that Slager dropped the Tazer next to Scott’s body to substantiate his lie.

Police officers rarely face criminal charges after shooting people, a fact that has played into nationwide protests over the past year over how the police use deadly force. “It wasn’t just based on the officers’ word anymore,” said Chris Stewart, an attorney for Scott’s family. “People were believing this story.”

Walter Scott’s father, on seeing the video, said it looks like the officer was shooting a deer in the woods. My reaction was that Slager was using the opportunity do do a little target practice. From the way that Slager strutted across the scene, he didn’t appear to be experiencing any remorse or shock at having just murdered someone in cold blood.

On Tuesday authorities pointed to the video as a turning point in this case and apologized to the family for the shooting. “When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey said at a news conference. “If you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield…you have to live with that decision.”

Summey and Eddie Driggers, the city’s chief of police, said at the press conference that Slager, 33, would be charged and arrested. Slager had already been fired. He was subsequently arrested by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the agency investigating the shooting, and booked into the Charleston County jail shortly before 6 pm on Tuesday. He faces a possible death sentence or life in prison.

The way this incident played out has forced the authorities to do the right thing. It is interesting to note the way that Slager brazenly initiated his cover-up attempt by dropping the Tazer after his colleague had arrived on the scene. It has not yet been revealed whether his fellow police officer backed up Slager’s claim that Scott had stolen the Tazer. The answer to that question will be an indication of how widespread the corruption is in the North Charleston Police Department.


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update: my grandson’s custody

lawrence county custody

It is so telling that this young man would rather be held in detention than be placed with his mother.


by Dave Thomas

Since my original post, Good Ol’ Boys, much has happened.
A stay of Judge Motto’s order to return my grandson (“C”) to the mom was requested from Motto until the appeals were heard.  Motto agreed to a 10-day stay, but shortened it to less, and then denied the stay altogether. He adjusted the date mandated for C’s to return to the mom accordingly. A filing for a stay of the order to PA Superior Court was made and granted for a few days, then vacated, with the result that C had to be returned to the mom’s custody by his dad on April 3rd.
At the appointed hour, several cars were stopped along the road in front of mom’s residence. She ran out into the roadway screaming at the people in the cars that she was going to sue them because they had no business being there, and she was apparently recording tag numbers. Her father ran to his car and appeared to race after one of the vehicles leaving.
At the court-ordered time, C got out of his dad’s car and walked around the mom’s house. His dad had reminded C he was not permitted to return to their former home nearby (which they still had access to) because Motto forbade it. C said, “I know Dad.” and kept walking. The mom by now was standing in her front door and shut the door as the child walked by.
It was 50* with a soaking rain.
C walked 2 miles to the New Castle State Police Barracks, where a trooper gave him some dry clothes and then called the local police to come to the barracks to get him. The Neshannock Township officer decided not to return C to the mom as Motto’s order decreed because, after talking to the mom, he was concerned that he would be putting C in peril. So the officer opted to take C to the Krause juvenile detention center, where he spent Easter. On April 3, Judge Hodge (the original Lawrence County judge, who finally recused himself because he was a longtime friend of the maternal grandfather) signed the order placing C in detention.
By doing so, as I understand, Lawrence County PA Children’s and Youth Services has now become custodian for my grandson and is mandated to have a hearing to determine what they are going to do with him—keep him as a ward of the State, give custody to the dad and remand C to his dad’s custody etc.—the list goes on.
His dad was permitted to see C for only 1 hour. So he took fresh clothes and had lunch with him on Easter.
To my knowledge, the mom hasn’t attempted to see C even after all the bluster that she wants custody and wants to prevent the dad from having any type of custody or relationship with C.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Dave Thomas is a retired electric utility operations manager, has been married for over 50 years to a woman who has served as a church secretary for over two decades. They presently live in Florida after living in same Pennsylvania community for 33 years. He is a former member of the Rotary International, Chamber of Commerce, and various state and national professional organizations.


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travis montgomery

travis montgomery.
Travis Montgomery allegedly stabbed his mother and father on Sunday, November 10, 2013, when he was 16 years old. His mother was killed and his father was paralyzed. Born in 1997, Travis is now 18 years old, charged as adult, and is awaiting trial in Marion County in northwest Alabama for the murder of his mother and the attempted murder of his father.
Rather than trying him while he was still a juvenile, he has been held in jail for almost two years so his adult trial would seem more reasonable to an uninformed public. He is now working with a public defender and his case is set for trial this September. As we know, and with all due respect to overworked public defenders, they aren’t really well-equipped to handle capital murder cases, not to mention juvenile parricide cases.
At one time, Travis believed he was going to get the death penalty if convicted, which is not true since he was a minor at the time of his alleged offense. But according to Alabama law, he faces a minimum of life with parole after 40 years and a maximum of life without parole if convicted of capital murder. Excessive, even if the state’s case were true.

Here is his story in his own words (edited only for clarity):

“Since I became conscious, the only memories I have of my mother are of her abusing me. I’ve been nearly drowned, burned, beaten by not only her hands, but with objects such as plastic bottles, bats, a hot frying pan, and she even smashed my head on rocks and brick walls. She sold my body to older men, threw me out of a moving vehicle, and verbally abused me constantly. My mother was a drug addict.

“Before all this my parents had split up for 8 months, my mom was back for the weekend, and they were fighting. Saturday night I got in trouble with police for the first time ever. I got drunk at a party and was walking to my girlfriend’s house when a police officer picked me up for public intoxication. I didn’t typically drink, but I had just had enough of the abuse, the fighting, and being depressed; I wanted to drown my sorrows with a half-gallon of vodka. Once they called my parents to get me, I told them what my mom was doing to me. But the police didn’t believe me and called me a liar.

“Once my parents arrived we got into a huge argument and they told me they wanted me gone and never wanted to see me again. The police told them that they would beat me if they were my parents and they wanted me to be taken to the Jasper AL emergency room. When we arrived at Jasper, they wouldn’t believe me either, and they wouldn’t even take me for treatment because I was intoxicated. So they called Children’s Hospital, and I spoke with someone from Children’s and all I told them was that I need to be as far away from home as possible. They said I refused treatment. So my parents took me home and I hid myself in my room for the next 24 hours until I heard my parents fighting again.
“After my dad went to bed I went in to apologize to my mom. She attacked me with a knife. I caught it by the blade and she almost cut my finger off. But I took the knife from her and she had me pinned down trying to force me to stab myself, saying that everyone would think it was suicide. She picked up the knife and tried to kill me. I had to defend myself.
“After I got her off me I ran to my father for help, and she yelled for him to help her. My father never knew about the abuse. I followed him back into the bedroom and closed the door behind me. My mom told my dad to get me and he threw me on the bed swinging at me and he tried to hold me down. My mom came in and lunged the knife at me and missed because I moved my head. Instead, she slightly cut my face. I managed to grab the blade and took the knife from her, almost cutting off my finger again. Both my parents were trying to kill me.
“I was scared and I had to defend myself. But I didn’t get either one of them more than four times. When they finally stopped so did I. I ran for my phone but it was dead. When I asked my dad for his phone he said he already called 911 and the police were coming for me. He was in the bedroom and mom was in the bathroom. Both were moving and talking. No one was fatally injured. My dad gave me the keys to the car and told me to leave. The next day after I was arrested I learned that my mom was dead and my dad was in the hospital.
“The police told me that my mom was in the hallway and my dad was at the other end of the trailer. He claimed to have had a stroke and was paralyzed on his right side, and said that he crawled to the other end of the house and into a rocking chair where he screamed for help for 6½ hours. He said he found my mom dead in the hallway. My dad was the only one without shoes on that night and he never went past the bathroom while I was there. But there were bloody footprints running through the house several times and a lot of blood all over the place. Both were said to have way more wounds than what they sustained while I was there, and there was blood in places where no fighting had taken place while I was there.
“Further, my dad was laughing and joking with the paramedics when they got there, has told seven different stories, and made an immediate recovery. There were three stab wounds on each side of his neck that my aunt said were so fresh that it looked like he did them himself. He never showed any remorse for my mother’s death and hooked up with her best friend right after everything.
“I think my dad killed my mother after I left. I am scared that my dad is going to get away with murder by blaming me, and I that am never going to see the outside of a level 4 prison.
“Several reports were made to DHR and custody of my nephews was taken from my parents when I was 14. But they left me. I feel like I am doomed to always suffer and be forgotten. I don’t know what else to say.”
If Travis is to be believed, he is innocent of this crime. Why haven’t the police analyzed the blood evidence to determine whose feet are responsible for the footprints? Given Travis’ many appeals for help and his parents’ shameful history of treating him as expendable, why hasn’t he been believed by the authorities and exonerated by a competent police investigation? The state alleges that the trouble between Travis and his parents originated because Travis did not want to attend an anger management class scheduled for him the following Monday. But if Travis’ history of abuse were true, what healthy person whose appeals for help were ignored wouldn’t be angry? Even if he were found responsible for his mother’s death, who would blame him for self defense, given the horrors of his youth?
I think that Marion County AL has proved that it is incapable of sorting out the truth from the lies. Someone from the outside who is competent, experienced and honest has got to become involved, or justice will never be done.
You know that the guilt or innocence of kids is less important to me than giving kids with terrible home lives a chance to make something of their lives. Yet this appears to be a case like Jordan Brown’s where a young person has been wrongfully accused of a crime of which he is innocent.
Will you please help us provide Travis with a competent defense? We have already received the promise of a $10,000 lead gift to make this a reality, but your help is desperately needed to help put us over the top.

donate hands

To make a contribution to the Redemption Project, please use the link at the top of this page or click here. Thank you!


If you want to learn more about Travis’ case, here is a police report.
And a fairly comprehensive news report.


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jail = hell


How your local jail became hell: An investigation

by Ryan Cooper, The Week

March 31, 2015

When she was arrested on July 23, 2013, in Hawthorne CA, Sierra Zurn told the cops that she suffered from ulcerative colitis and had been prescribed Paxil for major depression. She says she brought up her medical conditions again when she was booked at the El Segundo police department. She mentioned it once more when she was transferred to the Century Regional Detention Facility. No fewer than eight different people, including a pharmacist, two nurses, and a nurse practitioner, were made aware of this fact, according to her medical records, which Zurn provided to The Week. “DEPRESSION” was stamped on her jail bracelet.

But the jail did not even give her any toilet paper, she told The Week, let alone her meds. In a grim irony, her very depression was cited as the reason she could not self-medicate.

Paxil, or paroxetine, is a powerful psychoactive drug with a short half-life in the body. Zurn had not had a dose since the day before her arrest. So when she got to the jail, she began experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms. Delirious, dizzy, paranoid, and sobbing uncontrollably, she says she was placed in solitary confinement, as is common for mentally ill people. Alone for 23 and a half hours a day, and still without toilet paper, Zurn refused to eat. After two days, she was released. It was her birthday. “It was the worst two days of my life,” she told The Week.

All this, and yet Zurn had not even been convicted of a crime. Zurn, you see, was in post-arrest detention, more commonly known as jail. She had been pulled over for a routine traffic stop, then arrested when the police found some marijuana in her car and accused her of transporting it to be sold.

When she was released, she thought that would be the end of it, since no charges had been filed and no judicial determination of probable cause had been presented. But a month later, she was officially charged with felony transportation of marijuana, which carries a potential sentence of four years in jail. Distraught at the prospect of more incarceration, Zurn attempted suicide.

After recovering, she went to court. The case had 16 continuances, two of which involved the arresting officer failing to obey a court order to appear, which dragged the process out for months. Finally, more than a year later, in October 2014, the case was dismissed “in furtherance of justice” after Zurn did some community service. In the meantime, she had filed an official complaint against the jail, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded that, after a “thorough inquiry,” it had found no evidence to back her claims. She is now suing the department for abusive treatment. (The LASD did not respond to a request for comment; in response to a public records request, the department said there were no public records regarding Zurn’s time in jail.)

With little recourse, Zurn turned to the one place that would hear out her complaint: She posted a review of her experience of the LA County jail system on Yelp. That’s where I found her.


You might think that Zurn’s story, while unfortunate, is relatively uncommon. You would be wrong. The modern American jail—which is distinct from prison, the place where those convicted of crimes go—primarily houses the legally innocent. There are 731,200 people inside American jails—substantially more than the population of Washington DC—and three out of five of those inmates have not been convicted of anything at all.

The American jail is a support apparatus that serves the needs of the rest of the criminal justice system. That vast network of institutions—the police, the courts, state and federal prisons, parole boards, and so on—rests on this foundation. Before anyone goes to an arraignment, a trial, or state or federal prison, they go to jail.

Jails are locally administered. They are usually fairly small. And there are a lot of them. There are over 3,200 jails in the U.S., a vast archipelago spread across the nation. All but the smallest counties have at least one, and many municipalities have them as well.

Technically, only dangerous criminals or flight risks are supposed to be detained before trial (which is an important service, to be sure). But the titanic machinery of the War on Crime, combined with sweeping cuts to public services, particularly in areas of mental health, have changed American jails into “massive warehouses primarily for those too poor to post even low bail or too sick for existing community resources to manage,” according to a comprehensive new report from the Vera Institute of Justice.

Of course, not being convicted of a crime does little to change the character of time spent in jail. And because jails attract almost no media attention, because they are often run by corrupt or incompetent local officials, and because skinflint local governments often refuse to provide the money for decent conditions, in many cases jail time can be as unjust or brutal as that spent in state or federal prison—if not more so.

How jails abandoned “innocent until proven guilty”

The incarceration machine—or what scholars call the “carceral state”—started with Nixon’s war on crime and drugs, which drastically increased the harshness of American sentencing practices, particularly for nonviolent offenses. Reagan got even tougher in 1984 with the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which included the Sentencing Reform Act. The law created a commission to recommend uniform federal sentencing guidelines, ironically championed by Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts as a way to promote fairness and good government. But Reagan stacked the commission with hardliners, who drafted draconian rules strictly mandating harsh sentences with little room for nuance or mercy.

While those guidelines were softened by a Supreme Court decision in 2005 that made them largely advisory, for more than a generation district judges were straitjacketed into handing down extremely harsh sentences, regardless of mitigating factors.

As a result, the incarceration rate more than quadrupled from 166 per 100,000 Americans back in 1970 to 716 today, the highest in the world, save for tiny Seychelles. (Compare that to Great Britain’s rate of 147, or Norway’s 72.)

Jails were sharply affected by this development, according to Temple University’s Melanie Newport, who studies the jail system. Jails were the first contact with a new flood of people being arrested, charged, and tried, and so were forced to increase capacity. “The number of jails doubled after World War II,” she says. (It has technically been fairly stable since the 1970s, as smaller jails were consolidated into larger ones.)

State prisons form the biggest part of the American incarceration system, housing 1,362,000 inmates, according to a 2014 study by the Prison Policy Initiative. But jails are the second-biggest, with almost three-quarters of a million people incarcerated, more than triple the 209,000 convicts inside federal prisons.

The average jail term is quite short, which means that there is colossal churn in and out of the system—vastly increasing the number of people ground through the incarceration machine. There are 688,000 people released from all prisons annually, but nearly 12 million jail admissions each year.

Many of those people are mentally ill. The “deinstitutionalization” movement of the 1960s decimated state psychiatric hospitals by the mid-1980s. While this was a benefit to many people with minor mental problems or disabilities, very many of the seriously mentally ill were simply left without treatment.

A huge fraction of those people end up in jails or prisons. More than 40 percent of people with a serious mental illness have been arrested at some point. A 2006 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 64% of jail inmates have some kind of mental illness. Roughly 20% have a serious mental illness, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. That makes almost 150,000 such people in jail, more than four times as many as in state hospitals.

Jails and prisons are now the major American institutions for handling the mentally ill—which often means locking people like Zurn in solitary confinement for being a nuisance.

All of this was exacerbated by the Bail Reform Act of 1984. A previous bail law mandated that only flight risks could be detained before trial, with the idea of minimizing pre-trial detention. But the law turned this idea on its head, making it much easier to detain people for fear of future crimes.

Conditions for bail grew only more stringent, as non-financial bail conditions were rolled back and bail amounts were jacked up over time. Per the Vera report, back in 1990, 60% of felony defendants were released before trial on non-financial conditions. By 2009, it was 38%. Between 1992 and 2009, average felony bail amounts increased from $38,800 to $55,400, adjusted for inflation.

Today, money is what matters most when it comes to who gets stuck in jail:

“[Thirty-eight] percent of felony defendants will spend the entirety of their pretrial periods in jail. Yet, only one in ten of these defendants is detained because he or she is denied bail. The rest simply cannot afford the bail amount the judge sets. For example, in New York City in 2013, 54% of jail inmates held until their cases had been disposed remained in jail because they could not afford bail of $2,500 or less—with 31% of the non-felony defendants held on bond amounts of $500 or less.” [Vera Institute of Justice]

The result of all these factors and historical trends is the mass incarceration of the legally innocent. Of jail inmates, fully 62% have not been convicted of a crime.

The jail system had effectively criminalized poverty. It was housing hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people. And it was plagued by chronic institutional incapacity, all with little to no oversight or media coverage. The stage was set for a systematic violation of constitutional rights.

The pervasive awfulness of jail

The brutality of the prison system is well known, and usually gets all the media and pop culture attention. But jails can be just as bad. Take the Los Angeles County jail system, where Zurn was locked up. It has been embroiled in scandal for the last several years. In 2011, an extensive ACLU report revealed a cabal of corrupt deputies who regularly and violently abused prisoners in their custody.

The resulting federal investigation was stoked by dozens of articles in The Los Angeles Times detailing hundreds of wrongful incarcerations, rampant violence, and other abuse. Seven deputies were eventually convicted for obstruction of justice.

Similar stories abound. In 2011, the Department of Justice accused the Maricopa County jail system of inmate abuse and systematic racial profiling and illegal arrest of Latinos. The department filed a civil rights suit against the county that is still ongoing, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (yes, that one) recently admitted to violating a court order to stop profiling Latinos. (The sheriff’s office refused to comment for this article.)

Valencia County, New Mexico, was sued by a woman with bipolar disorder for keeping her in pretrial solitary confinement for two years. The county eventually settled for $1.6 million.

All horrifying stories. But at least someone noticed. Smaller jails rarely get the attention of local media, let alone the national media. A few years ago, for example, the Warren County Regional in Bowling Green KY was sued for confiscating the cash and personal checks of arrestees admitted to the jail.

Kentucky law stipulates that convicts must help pay for the cost of their incarceration, as “required by the sentencing court.” So the jail’s officials “would stamp the back of the check with ‘Warren County Jail, Inmate Account,’ and take it to a local bank they have a relationship with,” Kentucky attorney Greg Belzley told The Week. Add some stiff paperwork for clawing back one’s property, and “they basically end up keeping the money.” The system to request one’s property back was so opaque that, to Bezley’s knowledge, no one had ever even tried.

Belzley represents former inmates who are suing the jail for violation of the inmates’ constitutional rights. A circuit court judge ordered the jail to stop depositing arrestees’ checks without approval, but agreed that the jail could confiscate cash to offset confinement costs. Belzley is appealing the decision. (In a written statement, a lawyer for the jail said the practice was legal, though it has been discontinued.)

This is actually one of Belzley’s less awful cases. There are so few lawyers focused specifically on inmates’ rights in Kentucky that he and his wife (they own a small firm together) typically “focus on wrongful death and serious injury” in jails and prisons.

David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prisons Project, says the rare cases that earn media or legal attention are just the tip of the iceberg. He says that any “place that houses politically powerless, unpopular people” with little to no oversight is going to have corruption and abuse.

Privatization makes everything worse

The incarceration machine has not escaped America’s privatization mania. Indeed, jails and prisons are perhaps the worst targets for privatization, because the incentives are so perverse.

The very idea of a private prison service is at direct odds with the ostensible justifications for privatization, argues the ACLU’s Fathi. A private prison offers none of the mechanisms by which free markets are supposed to work. Prisoners have no consumer choice. They have no political power. Their ability to take legal action is limited, and there is little oversight of the market in question.

Private probation companies—which run on the backs of probationers, what they call “offender-funded justice”—often serve to keep people in jail, not out of it. They profit from loading up probationers with fees, which can then be increased with penalties if they can’t pay up, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that a probationer cannot be incarcerated for simply lacking the money to pay. That profit motive, combined with cash-strapped local governments relying on fees and fines to fill budget holes, has brought back the debtor’s prisons of Dickensian infamy in many places—but this time as jails.

Meanwhile, private video-conferencing companies have been lobbying to shut down face-to-face visitation across the country in favor of webcam visits that would charge up to $1.50 per minute.

And while privatizing ancillary services like food or laundry might result in merely poor service, privatizing health care has been an utter disaster, because there is a structural incentive “to deny care to powerless people to increase profits,” says Fathi.

Corizon Health, the biggest inmate health care contractor in the country, is responsible for 345,000 inmates in 27 states. The company recently settled the largest wrongful death case in California history for $8.3 million. In Arizona, a local media investigation alleged inadequate care by Corizon. In Alabama, where it has been sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for inadequate medical care, a state auditor repeatedly gave the company failing marks. (Still, the company’s contract was recently renewed.)

In New York City, a state watchdog cited Corizon, as well as local correctional and health agencies, for “gross incompetence” when a mentally ill inmate at Riker’s Island was left alone for six days and died. In Florida, the company was fined $22,500 for contract violation in quality of care. The Allegheny County Controller in Pennsylvania recently released a blistering report on Corizon’s management of the county jail there, accusing the company of multiple contract violations that endanger inmates and waste money.

(In a written statement, Corizon insisted that it provides the “best possible care to our patients,” noting that of the hundreds of lawsuits filed against the company that have been closed, 87% were dismissed, administratively closed, or judged in Corizon’s favor. About one-third of the lawsuits remain open.)

Belzley says the situation in Kentucky is little different. Health care contractors in the state, which include Corizon, have such a skewed nurse-to-doctor ratio that he has filed several wrongful death or serious injury lawsuits in which the supervising physician had never even met the alleged victim.

The only question is why people would be surprised jail contractors would do this. Why wouldn’t they? It pays.

Why jail can be worse than prison

Many county jails, especially newer ones, are built like a single wing of a maximum-security prison. A full prison would have several “pods” arranged around a central yard, but small jails often are composed of a single pod. Inmates in such a place often have no access whatsoever to outside air, and no windows of any kind. They are often not even allowed to meet face-to-face with visitors, with whom they have to interact via an expensive webcam.

Such a facility is very expensive to build, of course. There is always money for bigger and stronger cages. But money for treatment or rehabilitation programs is practically nonexistent. Often, jails are virtually devoid of diversions at all, save for a television and a tiny “library” of a few dozen books.

Even in places with some diversions, they are often reserved for longer-term inmates. The Breckinridge County jail in Kentucky, for example, has both county and state inmates. According to Christopher Travis, who spent 45 days there for violating a domestic violence order, the “ones that were sentenced to five years plus…get all the activities.” County-side inmates, while they do get a small church and recreational time, are “locked down 23 hours per day.” Even the Alcoholics Anonymous chapter is closed to county inmates, he says. (In an emailed statement, the Breckinridge County jailer disputed this story, saying that, generally speaking, “all inmates [in] both state and county are afforded the same opportunities.”)

“Send me to federal prison any day instead of county [jail],” says another former inmate who spent time in both places for robbing a gun store. He asked not to be identified. “The food is better in prison, company is better, and there are less fights.”

In jail, there is “much less programming or constructive activities,” the former inmate says. It is “a much more volatile place,” adds the ACLU’s Fathi. People in prison have had time to adjust, and they know what’s coming. Prison officials at least know something about the people they’re overseeing. But people in jail have typically just been arrested. They’re often traumatized by recent violence, detoxing from some substance or the other, or, like Sierra Zurn, simply denied the meds they need.

Even when jails do have protective measures, it doesn’t guarantee their use, according to David Collingsworth, who by his own account has been “in and out of jail for 30 years.” (He’s now a producer for the Prison Show, a radio program about inmate issues.) Decades ago, “there was no such thing as a safe jail,” but now there are all manner of monitoring and surveillance techniques that ought to make running a safe jail easily possible. But in the Harris County jail, the largest in Texas, “people are dying, people are being ignored…there’s no reason for it,” he told The Week.

The Department of Justice is investigating the Harris County jail for the second time in six months over an inmate’s death. From 2001 to 2006, there were 101 inmate deaths there, at least 72 of whom had not been convicted of a crime. From 2007 to today, there have been an additional 106 deaths. (In a statement, a Harris County Sheriff’s Office representative pointed out that average deaths per year have fallen from over 16 to 11 since the new sheriff took office, and that the jail’s suicide rate is below average for a jail of its size.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, suicide rates are extremely high in jail. Even a short time in jail can be highly dangerous. “The highest-risk time [for suicide] is the first 24 to 48 hours after a person is arrested,” says Fathi.

As of 2012, the rate of suicide among the general population was 12.6 per 100,000 people. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, the suicide rate among state and federal prisoners is somewhat higher, at 16. But in American jails in 2012, the rate was 40.

What is to be done?

The local nature of the American jail is at the heart of why the system is such a disaster. “This is a federalism problem,” says Newport of Temple University.

At every level, local control exacerbates the hell of jail. Local sheriffs often have little to no experience in jail management, let alone mental health or rehabilitation. Local media systematically ignore jails, and local polities are less likely to pony up the cash to provide reasonable conditions.

There is a silver lining here. The overall size of the jail system, like that of the whole incarceration machine, may have already peaked. While a suicide rate of 40 is still far too high, it has fallen from 129 in the early 1980s. Crime has also plummeted since the peak of the great 20th century crime wave more than two decades ago: The property crime rate is down 41%, the violent crime rate down 49%, and the murder rate down 49%. This both eases the political pressure to crack down on crime and makes the staggering expense of jails less easy to justify. Of the $60 billion spent annually on the whole incarceration system, a third is spent on the local level—an increase of 235% from 1982 to 2011, according to the Vera report.

That has inspired some initial steps towards reform, especially in the larger jurisdictions. New Orleans has experimented with issuing summons instead of arrests for minor offenses, sharply reducing jail intake. Several communities have tried diverting minor offenders away from the criminal justice system and into community services. One New York district attorney last year simply stopped prosecuting all minor marijuana cases.

Other state-level laws allowing for compulsory psychiatric treatment in some circumstances, like Kendra’s Law in New York and Laura’s Law in California, also provide a framework to keep the severely mentally ill out of jail. Initial steps in this direction are ongoing.

There is also at least one change that can be made at the federal level. The 1984 Bail Reform Act made it far too easy to detain people before trial. Detaining those who are a flight risk or likely to commit more crimes is one thing, but it is absolutely indefensible for any person to be incarcerated because of an inability to pay. Poverty is not a crime. And as previous research from Vera demonstrates, the size of bail has little impact on preventing flight or new offenses. Ironically, relying on increased bail sometimes backfires, since it can free high-risk people who have the means to pay.

There is something of a bipartisan coalition building to reform the criminal justice system—a project that is still in its infancy, and mainly focused on state and federal prisons so far. But the main area of agreement between left and right—that the incarceration machine is way too expensive—raises the hackles of jail experts. The money question is “the most terrifying reform conversation,” says Newport, because plain old stinginess is a big part of the problem in the first place. She argues that it is and should be “expensive to provide constitutional detention.”

However, this monetary framework does have its benefits. Every expert I interviewed agreed that the first principle of jail reform—and of saving money on incarceration—is keeping people out of jails. Even progressive measures that cost money upfront can save money in the end. For example, the police in Portland, Oregon, have partnered with local mental health professionals to give appropriate care to addicted, intoxicated, or mentally ill people who end up in jail. It saved the city $16 million from 2008 to 2010 alone, per the Vera report.

But if those benefits are to be realized, the rights of the incarcerated must be at the top of the list of priorities. We won’t get people out of jail “if human dignity isn’t first and foremost,” says Newport.

Media has a part to play as well, by bringing public attention to abuses. It’s often only after scandals become public that reforms are made. In Los Angeles County, where Sierra Zurn was incarcerated, scathing media reports and the federal investigation led to a number of reforms in the jailing system. Last year, the suicide rate dropped by half.

But media alone does not have nearly enough power or reach to closely monitor thousands of jails. The above reforms all depend on the whims of local jurisdictions, the vast majority of which simply don’t pay attention to their jails. Indeed, whether jails should remain in local hands “ought to be part of the policy conversation,” says Newport. For reform to happen, “there has to be political pressure, because jails are a political institution.”


Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Tom T. Hall performing “A Week In A Country Jail”


Weather Report

80° and Clear, then Cloudy


happy easter


I celebrate this season, not as a religious holiday, but as a delivery on the hope for renewal.

We are having a glorious spring at Estrella Vista. The desert is carpeted with yellow wildflowers, more lush than I have ever seen before. Since the return of the predominance of light with the Spring Equinox on March 20th, life in this harsh place has become easier, softer, more gentle. I am spending less money to heat the house. I am having to run the generator less often, sometimes running for days at a time on sun power alone.

My greatest source of anxiety has been whether we can raise the legal fees to fund the legal appeals on behalf of our four Texas inmates, as well as for the defense of a young man from Alabama, Travis Montgomery. Last week I received a letter from Travis accepting our offer of legal help. And last Friday night, I received a call from my most loyal donor promising a substantial gift—$10,000—within two weeks to help pay our anticipated legal expenses of $50,000 for these five cases. That call transformed my forebodings and fears to optimism that we will be able to succeed in our immediate mission.

I am preparing a new post to introduce you to Travis and his plight. It will probably appear next week. I know that when you hear his story, you won’t let him down. He seems to be a very fine young man.

In the meantime, please enjoy this season of rebirth. It happens every year, but is never quite the same. This year’s reawakening has followed a particularly wet and difficult winter—but it accounts for the present desert bloom. It goes to prove that, contrary to what I had almost grown to expect:

“The best is yet to be!”


Groove of the Day

Listen to Charles Groves & the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performing Sibelius’ “Spring Song”


Weather Report

69° and Clear




It seems the more digging one does, the more the history of the world is not what we’ve been told.

Case in point: Winston Churchill was not the great war hero and champion of peace as he is depicted. He was a bellicose bungler, a dysfunctional drunk, and the cause of most everything we’ve been told were the greatest tragedies of World War II.

It wasn’t as if it was any secret that Churchill was a risky choice as Prime Minister when he took office following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on May 10, 1940.

During World War I it was his half-baked planning that led to the British disaster at Gallipoli in 1915-16. The Battle of Gallipoli was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Powers to control the sea route from Europe to Russia. Lack of sufficient intelligence and knowledge of the terrain, along with a fierce Turkish resistance, led to the failure of the invasion.

Spearheaded by Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty, the naval attack on Gallipoli began with a long-range bombardment by British and French battleships on February 19, 1915. In large part because the battle was going so badly, Churchill resigned his post May 25, 1915, leaving others to deal with the mess he’d helped create. By mid-October, Allied forces had suffered 140,000-200,000 casualties and had made little headway from their initial landing sites. Evacuation began in December 1915, and was completed early the following January.

DinnerWithChurchill-1Similarly, it was on his second watch as First Lord of the Admiralty (September 3, 1939–May 11, 1940) that Great Britain embarked on its hasty and ill-planned invasions of Narvik in Norway from April 9 to June 8, 1940—another British disaster. Intended to prevent the country from being occupied by Nazi Germany, the operation’s failure saw a German invasion and led to the downfall of prime minister Neville Chamberlain, Churchill’s predecessor in Downing Street.
Hitler nursed great hopes that Germany and England could achieve a peace between them and perpetuate the world order established by the two great white races of Europe. Indeed, he wanted only peace and friendship with Britain.
In his book The Other Side of the Hill, British military historian Sir Basil Liddell-Hart quotes German General von Blumentritt on Hitler’s stop order at Dunkirk: “He (Hitler) then astonished us by speaking with admiration of the British Empire, of the necessity for its existence, and of the civilization that Britain had brought into the world. He remarked, with a shrug of the shoulders, that the creation of its Empire was achieved by means that were often harsh, but ‘where there is planing, there are shavings flying.’ He compared the British Empire with the Catholic Church, saying they were both essential elements of stability in the world. He said that all he wanted from Britain was that she should acknowledge Germany’s position on the Continent. The return of Germany’s colonies would be desirable, but not essential, and he would even offer to support Britain with troops if she should be involved in difficulties anywhere…”
The “miracle at Dunkirk” was in fact an extraordinary peace overture to England.
In his book Churchill’s Deception, Louis Kilzer quoted Hitler: “The blood of every single Englishman is too valuable to shed. Our two peoples belong together racially and traditionally. This is and always has been my aim, even if our generals can’t grasp it.”
476449411-british-prime-minister-winston-churchill-cigar-troop-visitAccording to Kilzer, Hitler offered to pull out of France, retreat from the Low Countries, retreat from Norway and Denmark, and give up much of Poland (except East Prussia) in exchange for peace with Britain. Except for ethnically-German territories, all of occupied Europe was to have its sovereignty restored. Hitler wanted an alliance with Britain to be free to fight Bolshevik Russia.
So until the summer of 1940, not one bomb had fallen on an English town.
Churchill had to provoke it somehow.
On July 20, 1940, Churchill received an intercepted German embassy telegram from Washington to Berlin. Hans Thomsen, the German ambassador, reported to Berlin that he had been secretly approached through a Quaker intermediary by Lord Lothian, the British ambassador to the US, to find out what kind of peace offer the Germans might make. Peace was the one thing Churchill could ill afford, because it would probably be the end of his career. So Churchill immediately sent telegrams to Lord Halifax, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Lord Lothian to put an end to any further contacts between Lothian and Thomsen.
On the same day (July 20, 1940), Churchill sent for air marshal Sir Charles Portal to ask what the earliest date was when a “savage attack” could be launched on civilian targets in Berlin? Portal urged that such action not take place until later in the year when the nights would be longer and the new Sterling heavy bomber planes would be in service; in any event, he warned that the Germans would likely retaliate—and so far, they hadn’t bombed a single city. Their entire attack was being devoted to military targets, not the towns or cities.
Churchill’s only reaction to this warning is that his eyes just twinkled. This was exactly what he wanted.
On August 4, 1940, Churchill was visited by General Charles DeGaulle, who witnessed a curious scene. There was Churchill, standing in the middle of his lawn, shaking his fist at the sky, saying “Why don’t you come?” Hitler had given the Luftwaffe strict orders that there was to be no bombing of civilian targets.
Finally, on August 24, 1940, one German plane strayed from its target of oil tanks and accidentally bombed the East End of London. The damage was minimal—a large number of chickens, broken windows, and flattened Dickensian tenement buildings—but Churchill had the pretext he had been waiting for. The next day he personally ordered the Bomber Command—bypassing Halifax and the Parliament and every other venue for debate—to put a minimum of 100 bombers in the air over Berlin to retaliate for “this savage series of raids” on the civilians of London. Berlin was bombed that night with a loss of civilian life. Over the next ten days, Bomber Command repeated this raid six or seven times—yet even so, the Germans refused to retaliate.
churchill and bottlesOn September 4, 1940, Hitler instructed his legal advisor Dr. Ludwig Weissaur to contact  the British ambassador in Sweden, Victor Mallet, through Swedish supreme court judge Ekeberg (Weissauer’s acquaintance), to make it known to the British that the Germans had a peace offer. Again, on Churchill’s order, the German offer was rebuffed by Mallet before it could even be presented.
That same day Hitler sent for his Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess, and asked him to contact German general, geographer and geopolitician Karl Haushofer to make contact with his English friend, the Duke of Hamilton, who in turn was to contact King George VI.
On September 4, 1940, Hitler also delivered a final warning speech that he would be forced to retaliate if Britain persisted in its bombing raids on Berlin. That same afternoon, Churchill called Hitler’s bluff with yet another raid against civilian targets, and on September 5th Hitler lifted his ban on the bombing of London civilian targets. In the promised retaliation on the evening of September 6-7, a thousand Luftwaffe bombers dropped their payloads on the East End of London, killing over 1,000 British men, woman, and children—directly attributable to Churchill’s provocation.
You will recall that eight months later, on May 10, 1941, Hess made a flight to Scotland in order to meet with the Duke of Hamilton and make one last, desperate attempt to achieve peace with England. Hess was unable to land his plane, so he made the first parachute jump of his life and was captured. Hamilton met alone with Hess the next day, then made arrangements through the Foreign Office to meet with the Prime Minister. He accompanied Churchill back to London the following day, where they both met with members of the War Cabinet. Hamilton also met with the King. So finally Hitler’s peace overtures got through.
But it ended there. The luckless Hess was bundled into permanent solitary confinement, incommunicado. Churchill called Hess his “personal prisoner.” The British public never learned that the Germans had wanted to sue for peace. They never learned what Germany was willing to concede or what pain they could have avoided if Churchill hadn’t interfered.
Just as Churchill had fought against a negotiated peace with Germany before he’d become Prime Minister, he now obstinately resisted any suggestions of peace negotiations with Hitler under any circumstances. This, more than anything, is supposed to be the foundation of Churchill’s greatness—that he bravely stood alone against Hitler against all odds—irrational though it seemed.
All the while, Churchill was free to crank up the war machine for another four disastrous years during which the greatest wartime atrocities occurred. The so-called Hess incident justifiably looms over any assessment of Churchill’s true place in Britain’s history. Churchill’s stature as a national war leader could only grow in Hitler’s shadow.

Still, while Hess was left to rot in Spandau prison as a “war criminal” for over 45 years, the real war monger puffed big cigars and wrote his version of how, with a certain amount of help from the Americans and Russians, he had saved the world. In 1987, when it appeared that Gorbachev was about to drop Soviet objections to his release, Hess was murdered at age 93 by British agents disguised as American jailors. They couldn’t risk the truth getting out and the inevitable questions being asked about whether it was worth it.

churchill-eisenhow_3177791cIf there was ever one constant about Churchill, it was his love of war. Even as a boy he had a huge collection of toy soldiers—1,500 of them—and he played with them for many years after most boys turn to other things. For Churchill, the years without war offered nothing but the “bland skies of peace and platitude.”
And oh yes, there was one other constant: Churchill was a drunk, a raging alcoholic. It appears to have been a lifelong affliction.
In 1899, when Churchill was a 25-year-old correspondent covering the Boer War for the Morning Post, he took with him to the front lines 36 bottles of wine, 18 bottles of ten-year old scotch, and 6 bottles of vintage brandy. In World War I, when George V set a personal example to the troops by giving up alcohol, Churchill declared the whole idea absurd and announced he would not be giving up drink just because the King had.
Even as Prime Minister, Churchill refused to moderate his drinking. He believed Europeans liked leaders who could hold their liquor, so he did nothing to discourage rumors about his alcoholic excess. Churchill admitted he relied on alcohol. He always had a glass of whiskey by him, and he drank brandy and champagne both at lunchtime and dinner.
Churchill promoted the myth that he was none the worse for his constant drinking. Raised as an aristocrat, he claimed that drunkenness was contemptible and disgusting, and a fault in which no gentleman indulged. When he was deprived of his alcohol, though, he became downright surly and rude.
Plus, some of Churchill’s most famous speeches during World War II were recorded for radio broadcast not by Churchill, but by actor Norman Shelley impersonating Churchill—supposedly because Churchill was too drunk at the time to deliver them.
Winston-Churchill-visits-FDR-7When Churchill became Prime Minister, Franklin Roosevelt commented ungenerously that he “supposed Churchill was the best man that England had, even if he was drunk half of his time.”
Some believe Churchill’s heavy drinking caused his decline as Prime Minister.
His doctor Lord Moran commented: “It makes his speech more difficult to understand and fuddles what is left of his wits; and yet he does not attempt to control his thirst.” In The British Medical Journal, Ian Robertson described him as the ‘drunk in charge': “Churchill reputedly put away a bottle of spirits a day and often had to be carried dead drunk from the War Rooms. On the other hand, maybe that’s not so comforting when one remembers the hundreds of thousands of German civilians he burned alive in the firestorms of Dresden and elsewhere, during air raids of questionable military value. Alcohol causes aggression, depression, and very disordered thinking: were these factors in some of Churchill’s excesses?”
I think that the alcohol is just a lame excuse. There are some who describe Winston Churchill as a deeply flawed man: “overweeningly ambitious, bumptious, slapdash, reckless, and a monster of egotism,” according to Brooke Allen in The Hudson Review. I tend to believe them.
Was it worth it?

By the end of the war in Europe, over 49 million people were dead, millions more were homeless, their cities were destroyed, the European economy had collapsed, and much of the European industrial infrastructure had been destroyed. Churchill’s actions made the Holocaust more deadly and severe. The British Empire was bankrupted, and the way was cleared for America to become top dog in the world.

I’m sure the British people are eternally thankful to Churchill… those who are pissed out of their minds.



Groove of the Day

Listen to Alfred Piccaver performing “There’ll Always Be An England”


Weather Report

57° Windy and Cloudy


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