Former Idaho Congressman George Hansen's Ordeal

America's Most Famous Political Prisoner

George Hansen was Idaho's congressman for 12 terms, was hounded out of office by the IRS, and was prosecuted on phony charges of having failed to record, on House financial disclosure forms, four personal business transactions (three of which were his wife's). Hansen asked these people how to fill out the form, used their advice, and then was indicted. When that happened, U.S. News and World Report said that 146 other congressmen (other sources reported 230) rushed in to change their reports, a luxury Mr. Hansen was not afforded, and not a single one was indicted. "Arbitrary law enforcement practices are selectively applied," Hansen said, "with great injustice, for political purposes." Hansen ended up in and out of jail for a ten-year period, with four years of solid time. The Supreme Court handed down a decision in May of 1995 claiming that the case was a "wrongful prosecution. In other words, it should never have been brought to court.

During his incarceration Rep. Hansen was subjected to what federal inmates refer to as "Diesel Therapy," so named because of the continuous transport by diesel-powered vehicles between detention facilities. Below is Rep. Hansen's account of the "institutionalized torture" he was subjected to, and please remember that this treatment was being perpetrated upon a 63-year-old man.

When they chain you up, legs and wrists, they put a thing called a stiffener on those they don't like. That's a small black box slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes. This is placed on the chains between the handcuffs and makes them rigid so your arms can't move. Then they run a chain from your arms and fasten it to your waist. When they do that it pulls your arms from a normal 180-degree angle to 90 degrees, putting your arms in a bind which cuts into the nerves of your wrists so badly that, the result is, after an extended period of time like that, it requires weeks and sometimes months to get feeling and circulation back to your hands -- and pretty much the same for your feet.

After placing these manacles on hands and feet, they strap you into a seat and you're so bound up with chains that if you have to go to the bathroom, you can't do anything about it. You can't pull your pants down or do anything to relieve yourself. The vehicles we were transported in reeked of urine and feces because the prisoners were chained in that position for twenty hours a day, forcing them to accommodate their bodily functions without access to sanitation facilities.

The best thing you could do is the Biblical act of fasting. If you don't eat and don't drink, you don't have to go to the bathroom. They do this to you for four or five weeks at a time; they put you in chains about two in the morning, you get out about ten at night. And when you're bigger than average [Rep. Hansen is 6'6"], you're wedged in, sitting there twenty hours a day and you can't move your legs. Because the shackles cut off the return blood flow from your lower extremities, soon your legs fill with blood, especially when you're 63 years old as I was then. Then you get to walk around with two barrels full of blood where your calves and lower legs should be.

The result of this is that your feet swell and become two to three sizes too large for your shoes. [Hansen claims that the marshals intentionally provided him with shoes several sizes too small.]This causes your toes to jam into the ends of your shoes and blood blisters form underneath your toenails. They then start growing straight up and to the side in the most grotesque manner.  You can't believe what happens under those conditions.  Your toes turn to knobs, becoming very disfigured, making it impossible to wear shoes.  The only way I could get shoes on was to pull my toenails out by the roots, myself, with pliers.  I now have ten toes without nails.

Because of the blood pooling in my shins for such extended periods of time, if I just skinned them, on the back of a seat or something, it formed open sores that didn't heal for as long as a year and a half.  I couldn't get any medical attention because of their attitude toward me. They were trying to send me a message.

I found a foil container in the garbage with a couple of, what used to be, iodine swabs all dried out. I put some water on it to try to activate what was left of the iodine and applied that to the sores. It did cause some coagulating and eventually, after some time, healed over.

My legs looked like they were beaten with two-by-fours. When I went to Iran several years before, I was the only public official to get into the country during the hostage crisis, and that's what they showed me the Shah had been doing to his people. If they didn't like what you were doing, they would smash your shins with boards and pull your nails out and break your teeth. I went to Congress recently and detailed what happened in Iran and told them I didn't even have to leave this country -- I got the job done down the road about a hundred miles -- right here in the United States of America. It shook them up pretty badly.

The way they smashed my teeth out is they isolated me, arbitrarily, to a place where I had no communication with the outside world. They placed me where I had to do chemical testing on extremely hazardous substances with absolutely no protection. That caused my bones and teeth to go soft. I ended up with twenty-four teeth breaking off at the gum line. For three years I was not allowed to see a dentist. So far, it has cost me about $14,000 to try to repair my mouth. My dentist says I'm a dental cripple for life because the chemicals eroded not only my teeth, but my jawbone and gums. I went through about the same thing they do in a foreign prison. I got it done a little differently, but the results were the same.