The harassment and torture that befell Congressman George Hansen came from prison officials, in the form of neglect for serious medical problems and health hazards in the prison work place. The torture also came from the Federal Marshals who cruelly transported him from one prison to another.
Political prisoners and those who are considered trouble makers arc given what prisoners call, "diesel therapy".
"Diesel therapy" consists of being put on diesel buses or airplanes and being transported from prison to prison for weeks and months at a time.
On the surface it sounds benign. What could be the problem with making a prisoner ride in a bus for hours at a time?
Torture American Style
Before the prisoner is put on the bus, he is put in handcuffs and shackles (leg irons). The handcuffs are tightened by a black box that stiffens the chains and puts the wrists in a 90 degree bind that painfully cuts circulation and damages the nerves. It takes several weeks for the circulation and nerves to return to normal. The handcuffs are connected with chains to a waist chain, which is in turn connected by another chain to the shackles which go around the ankles The prisoner can barely move once the shackling process is complete.
He is then placed in a small seat on a bus or airplane. (ED: George Hansen is a BIG man, standing well over 6'-3" and -- before his ordeal -- tipping the scales at well over 220 pounds.) Because of the shackles, the prisoner is forced to sit in one position for up to20 hours at a time. And the guards will rarely go to the trouble of unshackling a prisoner. Prisoners who understand "diesel therapy" know that "fasting" is the only way to handle the ordeal without messing or wetting yourself.
But even those who are smart enough to abstain from food and drink, still have to suffer the stench of urine and feces which soon fills the bus or plane.
One other painful aspect of diesel therapy is the shoes that prisoners are forced to wear. They become too small. The cramped position and tight shackles cause the feet and ankles to swell. The shackles cut into the legs and cut off circulation. The blood pools in the feet and causes the feet to swell. The toes are forced up against the tops of the too small shoes, and unbelievable pressure is put on the toenails. The toenails soon become deformed, infected and painful.
Each day the metal shackles are put back onto raw and infected legs before the prisoner boards the bus. After weeks and months of diesel therapy, the ankles and shins have raw, infected and open wounds that will not heal.
Hour after hour, the prisoner sits in a cramped & painful position, with shackles cutting into already infected, raw flesh. Arthritis and bursitis compound the misery of the prisoners. The ingrown, infected toenails, which are jammed inside of purposely small shoes, cripple the prisoner to the point that he can barely walk or move when he is finally released from the shackles.
During the weeks and months of diesel therapy, the prisoner is out of contact with the rest of the world. In the case of Congressman Hansen, his wife did not know if he was dead or alive. His lawyer could not find him and therefore could not file court papers on time. Even the members of congress who were still trying to help him, could not locate him. During his diesel therapy" he disappeared into the black hole dug and run by the United States Marshals.
After "diesel therapy", Hansen was forced to operate on his feet himself. His toenails were so deformed that they pointed straight up. He could not wear shoes without excruciating pain. The only remedy that was open to him was to pull the toenails out by the roots. Our prisoners of war in SE Asia had their fingernails and toenails pulled out by their torturers. Congressman Hansen had to become his own torturer in an effort to stop the pain.
Several weeks ago, Congressman Hansen was testifying before his former colleagues in the House of Representatives. He told the story of his trip into Iran during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. He was the only United States official to get into Iran to try to negotiate an end to the crisis.
While he was there, he was shown the horrible human suffering that was inflicted upon the Iranian people by the Shah of Iran and his secret police.
He told his former colleagues about the horrors of the Shah's torture chambers. Ankles that had been smashed by heavy clubs. Legs that had been smashed and permanently scarred. Hands and feet that had no nails because they were repeatedly pulled out.
Then he stood up and walked around in front of his table. Leaning lightly on the table, he pulled up his pant leg and showed his former colleagues the raw, red scars on his own legs -- scars that stretched many inches, from his ankles up his shin bones. He told his former colleagues about his toenails, which have never grown back properly. He ended his "show and tell" session by informing the House that they did not have to travel to foreign countries to witness torture. All they had to do is visit any American prison and they would quickly find the effects of purposeful abuse and neglect on certain prisoners.
If his former colleagues have any sense, they will quickly reform the prison system, before any more of them end up there.
The scars on his legs and the lack of toenails were minor problems for Hansen. The major pain came from his teeth and deteriorating bones. These problems came from hazardous chemicals he was forced to work around during his job assignment in the prison power plant. The chemicals caused his bones to weaken and his teeth to become infected and turn to mush. The pain' of abscessed teeth was unbearable. To be able to function each day, without even an aspirin to dull the pain, he picked up a plastic cap used to splice electric wires. He placed the cap in the infected area and bit down on it all day and night.
During his four years in prison, he lost most of his teeth through willful neglect on the part of the prison officials.
Hansen was forced to sell his homes in Virginia and Idaho. Everything he and his wife had accumulated during years of hard work went to lawyers or to pay the fine. Even though his retirement was not supposed to be touched, through some nefarious deal, it was tapped to pay fines, thereby denying his wife the means to live. She was approaching sixty, had a heart condition and diabetes, but she was put out of her home and didn't even have the money to rent an apartment. With the help of their children and a job, she just barely made ends meet until Hansen was released.
They are now in their 60s and they are starting over with nothing. He still has health problems associated with prison life, and still needs further dental work. He drives a leased Honda and lives with his wife in a rented apartment in Pocatello, Idaho.
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