This past week, the American Civil Liberties Union, the organization that brought Guantanamo into the American consciousness, appealed to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture on behalf of a mentally ill juvenile inmate in Montana that has been held in inhumane conditions, suffering torture and humiliation.
According to their press release, “Robert Doe” was sent to the Montana State Prison, an adult facility, when he was sixteen years old. Despite being diagnosed with several mental illnesses (including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Early Onset Dysthymia Disorder, ADHD, and Mood Disorder), Robert has spent almost ten months in isolation, during which he is only allowed outside his cell for six hours a week and is not permitted phone calls or visits from family. Robertâ€™s father was abusive and would lock him in a room for a week at a time; the isolation forces Robert to relive his traumatic childhood.
ACLU court documents show that while in prison, Robert has been shot with an electroshock gun on multiple occasions in which he was not a threat to himself or others. Â Robert suffered burns at the points of impact, and lost control of his bowels upon being shot. Prison guards have pepper-sprayed Robert, despite his documented asthma, causing him to suffer an asthma attack. Robert has also been stripped naked and forced to bend over in view of other inmates.
Robert is not permitted to apply for prison jobs, engage in hobbies, or participate in educational programs. He only has completed his education through the ninth grade, and has been denied the opportunity to work towards a high school diploma in prison.
The ACLU further asserts that Robert has feelings of depression, anxiety, worthlessness, and despair. Robert has twice attempted suicide by biting through his wrist to puncture a vein. In response to the suicide attempts, the prison did not get Robert psychological or psychiatric help, but rather placed Robert on a “behavior modification plan”. The first step of the plan is at least 48 hours of isolation in a bare padded cell with no running water and a hole in the floor that serves as a toilet. Â The cell is constantly illuminated which aggravates Robertâ€™s sleep disorder. In the next step of the plan, Robert is given clothing and a pillow. After another 24 hours, water is turned on and he is given regular meals and bedding materials.
“The conditions that Robert Doe has been subjected to clearly violate the U.S. Constitutionâ€™s 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and the Montana Constitutionâ€™s right to human dignity for any prisoner, especially a minor,” ACLU staff attorney Jennifer Giuttari said in a press release, “Treating a child with mental illness like this goes against all laws of human decency.”
The ACLU appealed to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The U.N. Convention on Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, all of which the United States is a party to.