News & Politics

U.S. Prison Conditions Are So Bad, the British Gov't Refuses to Extradite This Indicted Person There

Lauri Love could face solitary confinement and placement on suicide watch if sent to the U.S.

Photo Credit: sakhorn /

The extradition case of Lauri Love, the alleged hacker currently in the United Kingdom, is placing a spotlight on the detrimental prison conditions in the United States. On February 5, a British High Court decided in favor of Love in his appeal to remain in the UK, due to concerns over the physical and mental treatment of those incarcerated in American prisons. 

In a February 6 appearance on the BBC, Love said he was “thankful that the ruling actually spoke to the conditions in the United States, which leave a lot to be desired, relative to here in the UK.”

According to The Intercept, Love — who has Asperger’s syndrome, depression, and asthma — said along with his family and medical providers that “he would likely kill himself if he were extradited to the U.S.”

An expert report from Simon Baron-Cohen which is cited in the High Court’s ruling, states that Love’s health conditions make him "much more high-risk than prisoners who only suffer from one of these conditions.” Love might face solitary confinement and placement on suicide watch.

As experts cited in the ruling describe, U.S. prisons are ill-equipped to provide mental health services to inmates. Not only do prison services fail to provide necessary support, studies indicate they actually make the problems worse.

A study on solitary confinement and mental illness found that for those in solitary confinement with mental illness “the conditions … can exacerbate their symptoms or provoke recurrence,” according to The Intercept.

The High Court’s ruling addresses the risk of suicide and Love’s mental health, referring to expert opinion and concluding “it would be oppressive to extradite Mr Love.”

While speaking to the BBC, Love highlighted the difference in sentencing length being sought between the U.S. and the UK.

“You don’t have any hope when you’re thinking of spending the rest of your life in prison in less than humane conditions,” Love said.

Prison conditions in the United States were similarly highlighted during the incarceration of Chelsea Manning. 

Manning was held in solitary confinement, and underwent an “ongoing pattern of abuses” as her lawyer told Democracy Now!. Manning made multiple suicide attempts and was not given medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, resulting in a lawsuit against the Pentagon. Manning’s sentence was ultimately commuted by President Obama.

Lawsuits relating to prison treatment and mental health have been filed before, as The Intercept noted. Love’s case bears resemblance to that of Gary McKinnon, another suspected hacker who was not extradited from the UK because of mental health reasons, which as The Intercept reported was decided by Theresa May.

Though Love will not be extradited to the United States, the decision goes on to state that “prosecution in this country rather than impunity should then follow.” Love, who has been indicted in New York, New Jersey and Virginia, is accused of hacking and stealing data from U.S. government websites. He lives with his parents after being released on bail following his 2013 arrest. 

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Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.