Will Potter: The secret US prisons you've never heard of before
Will Potter - Investigative journalist
Award-winning journalist and author, Will Potter focuses on the animal rights and environmental movements, and civil liberties in the post-9/11 era. Full bio
that "writing about prisoners
we treat prisoners as ghosts.
goes to great lengths to keep them hidden.
when no one is watching,
that we need to tell.
prison units in the United States,
Communications Management Units or CMUs.
right here, at home,
in Terre Haute, Indiana,
in Marion, Illinois.
the formal review process
when they were opened.
been convicted of crimes.
and some involve threats and violence.
or innocence of any prisoner.
Thurgood Marshall said,
their human quality."
has said there are three flecks of light
but they radically restrict all of these
extreme prisons in the United States.
to 45 minutes a month,
other prisoners receive.
to six pieces of paper.
to four hours per month,
like Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph
which means prisoners are not allowed
who is imprisoned here.
open records requests
and former prisoners,
into the CMUs have opened.
60 to 70 prisoners here,
on Iraq by sending medical supplies
from Saddam Hussein's Iraq as refugees.
as part of an FBI sting.
to bear witness to a loan,
involved in the loan was trying to enlist
to a terrorist group.
some non-Muslim prisoners.
the racial numbers,
and environmental activists
of participating in two arsons
that he would be sent
weren't supported by any facts.
hasn't fully explained
for these decisions.
talking about environmental activists.
prisoners in US prisons
are in the CMUs.
at a low-security prison
for an answer, a hearing,
shows how those requests are viewed.
recommended McGowan's transfer
Task Force of the FBI.
was really sent to a CMU
cited McGowan's "anti-government beliefs."
about environmental issues,
reflect on their mistakes
any time at all in Washington, DC,
concept for the government.
McGowan in the CMU.
on this stage before,
monitoring my work.
and only journalist to visit a CMU.
about CMUs, like this one.
be approved to visit?
out to the prison, I got an answer.
as a friend, not a journalist.
that if I asked any questions
for my reporting.
the guards reminded me
and knew about my work.
to interview McGowan,
as "self-contained housing units."
of describing black holes.
checkpoints that you would expect.
to the visitation room is silent.
the rest of the prison is on lockdown.
could touch each wall.
orb in the ceiling
by the Counterterrorism Unit
have to be in English for CMU prisoners,
for many of the Muslim families.
attached to the wall
while in the CMU,
that I was secretly the president
now thinks that Bella and Edward
and at length about his niece Lily,
it feels to never be able to hug them,
was transferred out of the CMU
he was sent back again.
CMU documents on my website
that McGowan had called his wife
was saying about him,
at the end of his sentence,
for the Huffington Post headlined,
a CMU for my Political Speech."
back in jail for his political speech.
by the Bush administration,
how and why CMUs were created.
with "inspirational significance."
these are political prisons
because of their race,
characterization is too strong,
of the government's own documents.
by the CMU, the sender was told
"for political prisoners."
activist Andy Stepanian,
anti-government and anti-corporate views.
may be hard to believe,
and in the United States.
is that the US has a dark history
because of their political beliefs.
was home to the CMU,
in solitary for 22 hours a day.
was to "control revolutionary attitudes."
the Lexington High Security Unit
to the Weather Underground,
communication and used sleep deprivation,
but only through the campaigning
advocates, like Amnesty International.
with the Center for Constitutional Rights
of their due process rights
and religious speech.
never come to light without this lawsuit.
and my message for you today
to what is being done to these prisoners.
of the values held beyond prison walls.
to human rights.
repeating the mistakes of our past.
described as the stories of the dead,
the stories of ourselves.
I learned about the Bill of Rights,
about 25 other laws and rights
the number one question I get
that people don't know.
of situations, any rights abuses,
that it's actually happening
to actually make a change.
what's happening at all
not native English speakers.
representation that I mentioned,
of what's happening.
that you have right to council
convicted of a crime,
was bogus or legitimate,
after that is warranted.
and dangerous narrative that we have,
of things to happen,
kind of turns a blind eye to it.
were all real documents, word for word,
all of them to my website.
a footnoted version of the talk,
without the little snippets.
on primary source documents
with former and current prisoners,
with this situation every day.
there myself, as well.
About the speaker:Will Potter - Investigative journalist
Award-winning journalist and author, Will Potter focuses on the animal rights and environmental movements, and civil liberties in the post-9/11 era.
Why you should listen
Independent journalist and TED Fellow Will Potter is based in Washington, D.C.; his current work examines how whistleblowers and non-violent protesters are being treated as terrorists.
The author of Green Is The New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, Potter has extensively documented how non-violent protest is slowly being criminalized. His reporting and commentary have been featured in the world's top media outlets, including the Washington Post, NPR, Rolling Stone, El Pais, and Le Monde. He has testified before the U.S. Congress about his reporting, as the only witness opposing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act -- and he is a plaintiff in the first lawsuits challenging so-called "ag-gag" laws as unconstitutional.
Will has also lectured at many universities and public forums about his work, including Georgetown University, Harvard Law School, and the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin. International speaking tours have included Germany, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Spain, and he was the international guest lecturer for Australia's 2014 animal law lecture series.
Will Potter | Speaker | TED.com