A recent CNN photo essay on “Americans detained abroad” is interesting (although not all cases are real or legitimate). The link is below.

Still, there are plenty of Americans locked up in other countries, especially Mexico and Germany. A cable TV show is dedicated to this topic, and a link provided below in case anyone wants to cycle through it and others like it. Fascinating stuff.

I know something about this topic because when I visited Bangkok with a buddy of mine in 1984, we responded to a poster in our hostel about visiting foreign prisoners and delivering them sundries and reading material. And so we did, but getting into the prison was a long process.

To make a long story short, we were taken to a yard and spent 30 minutes talking with two Americans (from New York) and one Canadian (from Hamilton) who were on the other side of two chain link fences. They had been given sentences of 35 – 70 years and described the most horrendous conditions imaginable. It was a sobering experience.

About a year later I visited (twice) two American women, in their mid-20s, locked up in a female prison Port-au-Prince, Haiti, because their sailboat drifted into Haitian waters from a resort just over the border in the Dominican Republic, up North. They had been with two boyfriends, but I had no access to “Fort Sunday” where they were. The Haitian Coast Guard had searched the boat, finding some blow and some joints.

Again, the girls described horrendous conditions. No fence to separate the conversation. The warden brought them into his office and sat them down on the couch next to me. They explained that their parents had been spinning their wheels in town, to no avail. The Haitians had not even charged the girls when I saw them, and the US Embassy could no nothing. This was on the eve of the 1985 rebellion against Baby Doc and that implosion.

Again to make a long story short, the girls got freed. During the actual ouster of Baby Doc, an angry mob stormed the prison, killed the guards and the warden, and liberated all the prisoners, who went running into the chaos of that historic night. Some random Haitian dude, a good Samaritan, figured out what was up, grabbed them by the arm, took them to the US Embassy, and pounded on the gate until a Marine guard opened it. The next morning a helicopter took them to one of the many US ships waiting offshore (they were there just in case an intervention was needed).

I very much doubt that the girls have been back to Haiti. Yes, I’d be willing to bet my life on that.

So when I watch these youtube videos, it does not seem like Hollywood entertainment. These are real stories of flesh and blood people – people with names, faces, and voices.

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