Jailhouse Surprise

The British Broadcasting Corporation has been recently surprised by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which allowed them to visit Rusafa Prison in Baghdad. The report reports, in a beautifully written, archetypal human scene, that Iraq’s prison system is extremely overcrowded, with a hundred people to a shower, five to a bunk and thirty-three point three to a toilet, so you take turns to sleep, have a chance at the shower once every three days, and I can’t imagine what you do about the restrooms.

The guards invoke Saddam Hussein, saying that in his time the jails were worse; the street has it that not much has changed.

It seems that the problem is caused by too many people getting arrested in a fashion somewhere between rational and random, overwhelming the too few jails and judges (Sounds familiar?), and in a final hemi-potent thought-provoker suggests that “as the United States and Britain gradually make their exit from Iraq, they are due to transfer thousands of prisoners into the custody of the Iraqi prison system,” making it even worse.

What can we do? As a group of nations, rich in infrastructure, human resources, and civic tradition, what can the West do to help? That is a question not usually asked about actual problems, being instead reserved for overarching generalities or, even better, something completely imaginary. As for answers, it is not my responsibility to provide them; but I suggest we could start by handing over some of those damn big bases to the Iraqis to use as extra prison space, and by taking a good few thousands of young ones to make lawyers out of them. Then we can start thinking about how to get less people arrested.

And what then? Then we can start doing the same thing right here at home.

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Published in: on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 15:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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