Imprisoned U.S./Thai Citizen Joe Gordon Denied Access to Adequate Medical Treatment, Enters Thailand as U.S. Citizen
Joe Gordon wears glasses in the style of John Lennon. They accentuate a sense of his wide-eyed disbelief, at the turn of events that should find him here. "I sleep between men," he says "on the concrete. When I wake up I can barely move."
Broad-shouldered and muscular, with deep-set eyes and an somewhat shy demeanor, he seems much younger than his 54 years. Only a stilted, tentative and painful gait, from legs that move more like prosthetics, gives away his deteriorated health. "I have arthritic knees, and high blood pressure. I've had to medicate for it, for a long time," he says, with a steady gaze. "In the prison, I have to go through the bureaucracy of getting medication; it takes a long time, and many approvals. And by the time I do… I honestly don't trust what I'm being given."
"One of the men here took some of the painkillers they offered," he says. "The pain didn't go away, but he did suffer serious heart palpitations. After seeing what the medication did to him, I wouldn't take them."
Bureaucratic barriers further complicate these provisions. "By the time I have a chance ask for (medication)," he says, "to get the prescription, then to get it filled, it just takes such a long time. It's almost impossible!"
A recently-released prisoner feels that this denial of access to adequate medical treatment, reflects a deep-seated indifference with which prison officials view the physical needs of prisoners. Reflecting on the short period of his recent incarceration, the man explained that:
There are no medical tests… No 'who is sick, and who is not?' 'Who has TB (tuberculosis)? 'Who has a medical condition'? Nothing like that of the sort. So here you are sitting next to people with TB, which runs high in there. The water is dirty, at the water stations, where you have no choice but to drink… They don't care if you're sick. Even if you're on your deathbed.
According to their website, Thailand's Department of Corrections (DoC) is committed "to ensure that all the procedures for detaining prisoners in custody are consistent with laws, regulations, government policy, and the principle of criminology and penology, as well as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Offenders." More specifically, the DoC "provide a safe, secure and humane environment whereby prisoners are able to have access to… health care."
While the UN Standards "are not intended to describe in detail a model system of penal institutions," nor are they legally binding, "they seek… on the basis of the general consensus of contemporary thought… To set out what is generally accepted as being good principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners and the management of institutions."
As per the 'Medical Services' standard, the framework stipulates that:
The medical officer shall see and examine every prisoner as soon as possible after his admission and thereafter as necessary, with a view particularly to the discovery of physical or mental illness and the taking of all necessary measures; the segregation of prisoners suspected of infectious or contagious conditions; the noting of physical or mental defects which might hamper rehabilitation, and the determination of the physical capacity of every prisoner for work.
…The medical officer shall have the care of the physical and mental health of the prisoners and should daily see all sick prisoners, all who complain of illness, and any prisoner to whom his attention is specially directed.
Representatives from Amnesty International (AI) maintain that "the denial of access to adequate medical treatment is a human rights violation." This follows on from a 2002 report on Thai prisons, in which AI expressed concern that:
... The long-term problems of torture and ill-treatment, and by prison conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Thailand. In this regard, the Royal Thai Government does not comply with international human rights standards, particularly Articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1997. Article 7 states inter alia: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”Article 10 states: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
Given his incarceration, Joe is prey to melancholy, and soon puts a wide-lined palm up against the glass. "I can't handle it anymore." For him, this lack of care brings about no less than a colossal sense of inertia. "I can't work," he says. "I'm going crazy in here… And I feel there's nothing anyone can do about it."
Earlier this week Mr. Gordon was transferred to from 'Building One' to 'Building Five' of Bangkok Remand Prison. The building has since been described as "one of, if not, the worst buildings in the place… super overcrowded, and filled with rapists and murderers." This follows from an earlier interview with Prachatai, whereby the same source noted that "in Building Five, there is absolutely no room. There must have been fifty guys in there. I slept in front of the toilet."
Sources have since confirmed that Mr. Gordon did in fact enter Thailand as a U.S. citizen, and traveled throughout Thailand using his United States passport. Despite this, the Thai Government maintain that he is feasibly incarcerated as a Thai citizen.