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Tue Jun 25, 2019, 03:37 AM

ADX, the federal supermax prison in Colorado, is force-feeding hunger strikers

The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, also known as ADX, in Florence, Colo., is the highest security prison in the country, housing inmates the federal government has deemed to be the worst of the worst. All of its approximately 400 prisoners live in long-term solitary confinement. But one section of ADX, known as the H Unit, houses about a dozen inmates under even more isolated conditions known as “special administrative measures,” or SAMs. Several prisoners in H Unit have protested their restricted living conditions through hunger strikes. The federal Bureau of Prisons has responded by force-feeding them — often by inserting a tube into a nostril down the throat, into the stomach — a practice critics say violates medical ethics. The BOP and the U.S. Justice Department repeatedly have refused to comment about the technique and SAMs conditions more generally. Aviva Stahl, a Brooklyn-based criminal justice reporter spent 18 months in partnership with Type Investigations researching thousands of incidents of force-feeding at ADX. The Independent’s Susan Greene spoke with her about her findings, which were published earlier this month in The Nation magazine.

Greene: ADX’s H Unit has been described by some former inmates as the most isolated place on the planet. Reporting on what happens there is a challenge. What led you to take it on?

Stahl: I’d been reporting on prison conditions for a couple years, including many cases about conditions faced by terrorists. There had been a lot of reporting on hunger strikers and force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay, but almost nothing about this happening on U.S. soil in our federal prison system. It interested me because it’s usually the hunger strikers’ goal to bring enough media and public attention to their grievances to pressure prisons to improve their conditions. But at ADX, these strikers live in a black box, unable to communicate with the media. So, with all that secrecy around this issue, I thought it needed some scrutiny.

Greene: How were you able to gain access to these prisoners?

Stahl: I communicated with about five or six inmates who had spent time on H unit but since have been moved to other facilities. Most of the interviewing was done by letters, snail mail. But one inmate – Mohammad Salameh, the man I focus on mainly in the article – was able to speak with me by phone over a period of time from USP (United States Penitentiary) Florence (not far from ADX) where he was moved.

Read more: https://www.coloradoindependent.com/2019/06/17/adx-supermax-colorado-force-feeding/

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