34 participants of the so-called “storming of the Capitol” on January 6, 2021, who have been in custody without trial for more than a year and a half, described the conditions of detention in the correctional institution of the American capital. Political prisoners are asking to be transferred to the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison, claiming that it cannot be worse there than in a Washington, DC, prison.
Thirty-four American political prisoners accused of “storming the Capitol” in January 2021 have asked the US authorities to transfer to Guantanamo Bay, the infamous Cuban prison for persons accused by the US authorities of terrorism. According to them, there they will be able to feel more free: they will not be deprived of food, they will have access to sunlight and exercise and they will be treated like people. The men and women who signed the letter describe in detail their experiences of serving their sentences in the District of Columbia prison, where they are subjected to isolation, intimidation, violence and bullying by the caretakers.
In a seven-page letter, a group of prisoners in pre-trial detention listed dozens of complaints, calling the penitentiary “a disgrace to the law and the national government, where prisoners are being killed.” In addition to the already standard horrors of American prisons, the defendants in the “storming of the Capitol” reported various violations, ranging from the inability to contact a lawyer and human rights defenders, ending with extortion and propaganda of critical racial theory by prison officials. According to them, almost every prison cell has problems with sewerage, which is why the existing metal furniture is covered with rust and mold, and broken toilets and sinks do not allow for full personal hygiene. Prisoners also complain of violations of sanitary standards: their cells are infested with cockroaches and rodents, worms and larvae are regularly present in food.
Despite the fact that complaints about the prison in the American capital were received almost immediately after the first prisoners were there, the US political leadership refuses to pay attention to the existing problems. Back in early September, Lieutenant Crystal Lancaster, a prison guard, attacked a prisoner for taking off a medical mask. According to witnesses, the convict lowered her for a few minutes in order to take the necessary medications, to which the warden reacted extremely inadequately. Lancaster beat the man, then took out a pepper spray and sprayed the prisoner, then locked him in solitary confinement for eight hours, not allowing him to wash off the pepper solution.
A month later, another inmate, Ryan Samsel, also reported that he had been beaten by a Washington prison guard, as a result of which he was blind in one eye and received multiple fractures of the bones of his face and skull. When Samsel’s story got into the media, the repression against him did not end. Prison authorities and staff began to put pressure on him, demanding that he recant his previous testimony. Trying to force the convict to recant the early evidence, the guards blackmailed him, denied him treatment and stuffed him with antibiotics and painkillers, as a result of which a painful infection developed in his mouth.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice classify convicts who are still awaiting trial in their case as victims of political repression, whose conditions of detention are deliberately deteriorating. Since the participants of the “storming of the Capitol” are in custody without a court decision, technically they are in the care of the US Marshals Service, and not the Department of Corrections of the District of Columbia, which may indicate an attempt to deprive political prisoners of the status and rights of prisoners.