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A John Jay Professor Experiences Criminal Justice Firsthand

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, in Lower Manhattan, houses federal prisoners of all security levels. Bernard Madoff, accused of defrauding investors of more than $50 billion, is there, awaiting sentencing. Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian shiek convicted in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, also spent time there. So did the late mobster John Gotti.

And so has Luis Barrios. He's an associate priest at Saint Mary's Episcopal Church in Manhattan. He's also the chairman and professor of the Department of Latin American and Latina Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He was jailed at the MCC for two months, for trespassing on federal property, during a protest at Fort Benning, in Georgia, against the School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Operation.

The school trains military personnel from Latin America, and some of its graduates have become notorious for human rights violations. Father Barrios says his experience at the MCC has opened his eyes to what he says are human rights violations happening in our criminal justice system. He joins us now to talk about his experiences in prison.

Note: We asked the federal bureau of prisons about Barrios' claims. Spokeswoman Traci Billingsley, in an e-mail, said, "While we can't speak directly about any specific inmate, I can tell you that all inmates in the bureau of prisons are confined in a manner consistent with our policies and in accordance with each inmate's individual safety and security needs."

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