Written by GWB
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Topics: Prison, California

Wednesday, 19 May 2004

image for State Prison Guard Criticizes Torture at Abu Gharib
Drew Williston calls the treatment of prisoners at Abu Gharib “totally amateur.”

Crescent City, CA--A California state prison guard with over twenty years of experience is adding his voice to the mounting criticism of the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Gharib.

Drew Williston, 42-year-old a guard at California's Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, calls the acts of sexual humiliation and torture at the Baghdad prison "totally amateur."

"Electrical wires that aren't attached to actual car batteries, threats of sodomy that aren't properly followed up--this shoddy work would never pass in a stateside jail," Williston says. "The army needs to clean up its act--and quick."

With twenty-two years of experience in the state prison system, ten of which have been spent at the notorious Pelican Bay, Williston considers himself an expert on the beating and humiliation of prisoners. "What people don't know is that it takes a lot of knowledge to torture a prisoner," he says. For example, blows must be carefully delivered to avoid hitting the face and hands where bruises are visible, and documentation has to be altered to prevent the appearance of impropriety, he says.

While Williston finds the guardsmanship at Abu Gharib substandard, he is quick to say that he does not believe the young national guardsmen pictured in the photos are to blame. "Clearly they weren't trained how to degrade and frighten their inmates," he says. "Some CIA agent probably stopped in and said, ‘Here attach these wires to him' without telling them where."

The language barrier might also be a problem, Williston believes. "Without verbal abuse, it's that much harder to scare a prisoner," he says. "What good is tying their hands and feet if you can't tell them that you're going to string them up from a heating pipe and make it look like suicide?"

"Terms like 'Fancy pants,' probably don't translate real well either," he adds.

Ultimately, Williston says he is hopeful that with time and proper training, army personnel can learn to properly torture their detainees.

"You look at those smiling kids and you think ‘Jeez man, they've got heart,'" he says. "But come on guys, pictures? Rule number one is you never take pictures."

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