After 15 Years in Solitary Confinement, Prisoner Challenges 'Severe Psychological Trauma'

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Common Dreams

After 15 Years in Solitary Confinement, Prisoner Challenges 'Severe Psychological Trauma'

by
Common Dreams staff

Guard towers loom over the so-called supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo. Inmate Ramzi Yousef, convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, is asking a judge to release him from solitary confinement. (Chris McLean, Associated Press / February 21, 2007)

After more than fifteen years held in solitary confinement in one of the nation's most high security prisons, Ramzi Yousef, convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, says that even as a convicted terrorist his treatment is inhumane and unconstitutional.

In documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Yousef's lawyers say that one and a half decades in a seven-by-eleven foot cell with almost no human contact, has led to "severe psychological trauma" and left him with "no hope or prospect of any remedial condition."

Yousef already "demonstrates a degree of paranoia and a degree of fear that would not be normal or expected if he was in the general population or had more contact with other inmates," his lawyer, Bernard V. Kleinman, said in an interview.

As the Times reporting explains:

[Yousef] has been there for 15 years, in nearly 24-hour solitary confinement at the prison they call the "Fortress in the Rockies." Even his meals provide little relief, with the food trays shoved by unseen guards through a sally port between two steel doors. The only other inmate within shouting range has killed others in prison.

Yousef, now 44, knows he will never go free. An avowed terrorist convicted in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he killed six people and injured more than 1,000. But in a lawsuit, he is trying to persuade a federal judge to at least release him from solitary confinement. The judge is expected to rule soon whether the suit will go to trial.

Despite his good behavior, Yousef says, he is being kept isolated because he is a convicted terrorist, something he can never change — and that, he argues, is a violation of his due process of law.

"I request an immediate end to my solitary confinement and ask to be in a unit in an open prison environment where inmates are allowed outside their cells for no less than 14 hours a day," he wrote the warden, according to confidential government records obtained by The Times. "I have been in solitary confinement in the U.S. since Feb. 8, 1995, with no end in sight.... I further ask not to be in handcuffs or leg irons when moved outside my cell."

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