British court rules that the inhumane conditions in American prisons mean UK hacking suspect can't be legally extradited

Lauri Love is a British man on the autism spectrum who also has depression and severe eczema, who was facing extradition to America on charges of hacking US military and private agencies.

A British appeals court has ruled that Love cannot be legally extradited to the US because the American prison system's methods of treating suicidal prisoners and people with mental illness are inhumane. American prisoners on "suicide watch" are typically stripped to a "suicide smock" and confined in isolation, both procedures that are cruel and likely to exacerbate the risk of suicide.

The ruling ratifies what mental health and prisoners' rights advocates have said for years: that the US prison system — which imprisons more people than any other prison system in the world — is cruel, ineffective, and out of control.

The American authorities' assurances to the UK court reveal how blind they are to this situation: when informed that Love was a suicide risk, the US authorities tried to reassure the court by promising that Love "would be restrained and escorted by Marshals, who would observe him within close proximity during the flight, having checked him for anything he might be able to use to harm himself" and that on arrival in the USA, he would be kept in isolation

As an interesting aside: the court's decision relied heavily on expert testimony from Simon Baron-Cohen, an eminent UK academic who studies developmental psychopathology and autism — and whose cousin is Sasha Baron-Cohen, AKA Ali G, Borat, etc.

Extensively analyzing ample medical testimony along with standard procedures in U.S. prisons for treating inmates with physical and mental illnesses, the British appeals court concluded that U.S. prison "treatment" would not effectively help his illnesses but would do exactly the opposite: they "would be very harmful for his difficult mental conditions, Asperger Syndrome and depression, linked as they are; and for his physical conditions, notable eczema, which would be exacerbated by stress. That in turn would add to his worsening mental condition, which in its turn would worsen his physical conditions."

In sum, concluded the court, the way in which U.S. prisons "treat" inmates with mental illnesses and suicidal impulses – with segregation, isolation and a lack of ongoing medical and mental health care – almost certainly means that extradition to the U.S. would worsen Love's health and create a very high likelihood of driving him to suicide:

Suicide watch is not a form of treatment; there is no evidence that treatment would or could be made available on suicide watch for the very conditions which suicide watch itself exacerbates. But once removed from suicide watch, the risk of suicide as found by the judge, cannot realistically be prevented, on her findings. . . . Mr Love already experiences severe depression at times. It is very difficult to envisage that his mental state after ten years in and out of segregation would not be gravely worsened, should he not commit suicide.

Citing U.S. Prison Conditions, British Appeals Court Refuses to Extradite Accused Hacker Lauri Love to the U.S. [Glenn Greenwald/The Intercept]

(Image: Geni, CC-BY-SA)