Sunday, March 6, 2011

Manning's nudity cannot be rationalized

In his write up on the issue of Pfc Bradley Manning being forced to stand naked for inspection and be without clothese every night on the supposed basis that he may harm himself with his prison clothing, Glenn asks:
There's no underwear that can be issued that is useless for killing oneself?  And if this is truly such a threat, why isn't he on "suicide watch" (the NYT article confirms he's not)?  And why is this restriction confined to the night; can't he also off himself using his briefs during the day? 
In fact there are such garments, I was easily able to find examples here and here.   I don't know if those undoubtedly uncomfortable smocks are the extent of suicide-proof clothing, but the point is such things do exist and are probably preferable to nudity for most people, particularly those who you believe are in a mental state to deliberably do themselves serious harm.  What better help for the suicidal than forced nudity?

Further, the US Army's correctional system is aware of these (page 56):

11–11. Suicide prevention
All correctional facilities will have a detailed suicide prevention plan that addresses each of the following components:
d. Housing and special clothing/bedding requirements. If applicable, a suicidal prisoner should be provided a suicide blanket and smock to wear.
I know Manning is actually being held in a Marine Corps facility, but the point here is that these things aren't new - suicidal inmates is a serious problem that prison systems civilian and military have been grappling with for decades.  Here's a World Health Organization paper on the subject from 2007.   Page 16 says:
Social and physical isolation and lack of accessible supportive resources intensify the risk of suicide. Therefore, an important element in suicide prevention in correctional settings is
meaningful social interaction.33
After 9 months of this treatment, I could see someone in Manning's position actually being suicidal.   It's a step beyond what Heller ever envisioned in Catch-22, maybe we should call it Catch-23.  Heller's characters were being driven insane as a by-product of what they were going through.  The more they "protect" Manning from harming himself, the more in need of such protection he becomes.  At least they've now decided what charges to pin on Clevinger Manning.  It would embarrassing if he wasn't convicted now that they've been punishing him for this long.

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