Eddie Conway: Welcome to this episode of Rattling the Bars. There’s been a lot of protests in Cuba. People have been arrested. Sanctions have been placed on officials by the United States government. There’s been a lot of talk by Biden about the conditions that prisoners are held in. And so we want to take this minute to look at the difference between the Cuban prison system and the United States prison system.
According to experts that’s been studying the prison system, I don’t necessarily call myself one, but the differences are stark in contrast. One, there is no juvenile prison system, and that’s in Cuba. That’s a primary factor in whether or not adults end up in prison later on. In America, juveniles are locked up at the age of 10, 11, 12, 13. They get processed in the prison system and they continue to go on to get locked up for the rest of their life, in most cases.
In Cuba, they look at juvenile behavior as one of young people that’s still learning and growing and their brain is developing, and so they have systems in place that address those needs and they don’t force young people into a life of prison and a life of incarceration. That’s one thing.
I think another thing is, and it’s an important factor, is that life without parole, life sentences in general, are given out in the United States willy-nilly, and in Cuba, that’s not the case. They don’t have that kind of a system. They have a system that’s open and inclusive of developing the human spirit and the human connection to their community—Which means they engage in family visitation, they engage in furloughs, they engage in having the community involved in the prison process—Whereas in the United States, you have a prison system that locks people in a cage, separates them from their family, criminalize their families, for the most part, and tends to work to destroy their spirit and work to destroy their interest in being part of the community, because of the treatment that they end up receiving.
In the United States, you have a prison system that’s a racist institution. It’s the largest prison system in the world. Everybody know it’s the worst prison system in the world. You have prisoners that have been put in solitary confinement, which is like in a nine by six cage with no windows, for 30 and 40 years. In Cuba, you don’t have solitary confinement, because that’s inhumane and people understand that.
In the same way, if you look at the prison system in the United States, in relationship to women and childbearing, you’ll find that women, for the most part, when they are locked up and they have to give birth, they are shackled and chained to hospital beds. That’s unheard of in Cuba. Cuba would never think of dehumanizing that experience for a woman and a child coming into the world. So that’s a big contrast there.
You have a system in America that, according to the 13th Amendment, authorizes slavery, and most prisoners work at slave wages, and most prisoners have no protection for human rights or for personal rights, medicine, et cetera. In Cuba, it’s just the opposite. And they get paid the same wages as people outside in the outside community get paid. That’s significant because it doesn’t diminish them or make them feel like slaves. The prison system isn’t used to exploit the Cuban population; It’s used to help heal whatever problems that might occur between the population.
One of the things that Biden should be looking at is Guantanamo. The United States has the worst prison in the world. Everybody in the world knows that Guantanamo is the one place you don’t want to go. They, in fact, are the biggest violators of human rights on the planet.
In this episode of Rattling the Bars, TRNN Executive Producer and former Black Panther Eddie Conway discusses the differences between prisons in Cuba and in the United States. Of the two, only one incarcerates children, only one deliberately isolates prisoners from their families and communities, and only one uses long-term solitary confinement as a routine punishment—and it’s not Cuba. “In Cuba you don’t have solitary confinement,” Conway says. “Because that’s inhumane.”