he punitive prison conditions at Coleman Federal Penitentiary have
deteriorated drastically over the past month, since Dr. Sami Al-Arian’s
return from a brief stay at the local Orient Road Jail in Tampa, where he
was able to attend hearings, examine evidence, and have regular visits and
telephone calls with attorneys and family.
As it is, the conditions at Coleman deny Dr. Al-Arian regular access to
attorneys, give him limited family visits, and almost no medical attention,
as he is confined to a tiny cell for 23 hours a day.
Last week, however, Coleman officials announced a lockdown of the prison
the second one in a month. During this period, usually caused by a
disturbance among inmates, the entire prison is shut down and closed off to
visitors. In the Special Housing Unit where Dr. Al-Arian is confined (and
is permanently in a quasi-lockdown state), the 23 hour solitary confinement
is extended to 24 hours, denying him his one hour of recreation, and
forcing him to spend as long as ten days without leaving his cell.
Moreover, in the last 46 days, Dr. Al-Arian, who is a diabetic, has only
had his condition checked two times. By contrast, when he is at Orient Road
Jail, his health is checked twice per day. The lockdown also means that
laundry service is suspended and therefore inmates are not given a change
of garments for the duration of this period.
Regular food service is also interrupted, and prisoners are consequently
denied any fresh or cooked food. This presents an added hardship on Dr.
Al-Arian, since he is the only person denied access to the commissary,
where he can supplement his diet by purchasing food items not readily
available. The prison has never given any justification for these
excessively punitive measures, and the singling out of Dr. Al-Arian, who as
it happens, is the sole detainee still awaiting his trial at the
facility. This treatment suggests that not only has he been denied any
presumption of innocence, but that he is somehow even more deserving of
punishment than anyone else at the prison…