Thursday, May 31, 2012

Indefinitely Yours

Trey Smith

There has been a lot of discussion in the mainstream and alternative press about the recent promulgation of various laws and rules that have enshrined the concept of indefinite detention. In this instance, we're not referring to individuals who have been tried and convicted in some sort of a court of law -- civil or military -- and then sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. No, indefinite detention simply concerns individuals suspected of a crime and held indefinitely WITHOUT trial or conviction.

Most of us don't spend too much time thinking about indefinite detention simply because it doesn't impact us specifically and we personally don't know anyone for which it does. It's more of a clinical term that we might disagree with on legal or philosophical grounds, but that's about as far as it goes.

It involves the lives of faceless strangers who live in a different "world" than we do. Consequently, it's difficult for most of us to envision it in real terms. So, I thought I would construct an analogy that many of us can readily identify with. It's not a perfect analogy, but what the hey.

Let's say you are the parent of a son or daughter who is the victim of teasing and bullying. You report this situation to the school authorities, but nothing much is done about it. One day your child is cornered in a school hallway by a group of bullies who proceed to rough up and make fun of your son or daughter. As the one-sided skirmish breaks up, your child, in complete exasperation, yells, "You all better watch out or one day I'm going to blow up this stinking school with all of you in it!"

A teacher who did not witness the skirmish hears this "threat." She reports it to the principal and, before you know it, your child is suspended indefinitely. Try as you might, no one from the school will meet with to explain why an indefinite suspension was handed out or how you can get it rescinded or modified. You aren't even provided with a list of conditions your child must meet to have the suspension lifted at a later date.

After a few days or weeks of butting your head against a brick wall, you decide to enroll your child in a different school across town. Unfortunately, you discover that the suspension applies to ALL schools in your community. In fact, you later learn that it applies to ALL schools across the country! Not only is your child prohibited from going to school, but he/she is not allowed to participate in home schooling, earn a GED...or get a job.

No matter how hard you work to try to get some sort of hearing or meeting, everyone stonewalls you. When all is said and done, your child is left in limbo. No legal charges have been brought against him/her, yet your child is TREATED like a convicted criminal or a social pariah.

Would you be okay with such a scenario?


  1. Any country that incorporates indefinite detention as a rule of law basically throws the towel in the ring and says that it is not capable of manage individuals in a manner approriate to the ideas layed out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    In general a state has an enormous power over the lives of an individual. In that sense an individual has to have a set of rights to level the playing field a bit. With indefinite detention the state takes away these rights in order to wield its full power.

    In acting so, the state makes a, possible credible, threat much larger than it actually is.

    I am very worried that even a president like Obama, who was a President of the Harvard Law Review and taught constitional law, signed a law recently that made indefinite detention legal.

    1. In the US, we SUPPOSEDLY have a set of rights to protect us against such things, but the last two presidents have decided that the constitution that they have sworn to uphold isn't all THAT important...except when it comes to the elite and corporations.


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