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Reckless, Indifferent and Malicious


32 short stories about dying in prison:

These stories don’t mention Jeffrey Epstein, but they are about him. Epstein was incarcerated in the United States of America, and this is how the United States of America, the mightiest and richest nation there is or ever has been, treats incarcerated people. When you say, “There is no way that guards could be so reckless, so indifferent, so malicious as to just let someone as important as Epstein die,” this is how 32 Americans respond. Many, many more could respond in kind.

Francisco Castaneda died of cancer in 2008 after having his penis amputated. His federal jailers repeatedly failed to offer any treatment for his metastatic penile cancer, despite his pain and pleas for help.

Terrill Thomas died of dehydration in his cell in Milwaukee after jailers turned off the water to his cell for seven days. The jail was under the leadership of then-Sheriff David Clarke, a hero to law-and-order types.

Jonathan Magbie, a paraplegic in a wheelchair who needed 24-hour care, was arrested for marijuana possession in Washington, D.C., in 2008. He required a ventilator to breathe when he slept. The jail didn’t have the facilities to care for him, and so he died in jail.

Andrew Holland died in a restraint chair in San Luis Obispo County, California. He was strapped to the chair, naked, for two days. If you like, you can watch video of the guards laughing as medics try fruitlessly to perform CPR, though I would not recommend it.

The story of Shamieke Pugh and Maurice Lee has laughter, too, but I don’t think it’s funny. Maybe I’m humorless? Pugh and Lee were African American, and they were handcuffed, helpless, to a jail table when they were stabbed by a white supremacist. The guards laughed.

It’s hard to read the other 27 but I would recommend it if you can. Wherever the facts of Epstein’s suicide ultimately lead, inhumanity resulting from various combinations of negligence, incompetence and cruelty is the rule of American prison life, not the exception.

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