Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This History Repeated Is Unpaid Attention To News

October 2, 2012 - Prison Reform - 

Letters written by New York State prisoners sent to New York Civil Liberties Union over several months vividly detail the psychological effects of long-term solitary confinement.
As free people the worst punishment imaginable is the loss of the freedom to decide where to go. I’ve spent two separate nights in jail and know you become complacent accepting your waiting in the cell. But when you know you’re out soon, the level of hope has to be much greater than for those rotting in prison. A world away from cooling your heels for a night.
I just feel having your liberty taken away is punishment enough. How is our anger mollified if their entire lifestyle reflects our anger with them on a continuous basis? Sure bunks in a cell is efficient, but we’ve found so many ways to make that experience expensive, what’s the difference giving them a little space? I remember a European documentary describing a prison operated like a dormitory with rooms and the basic conveniences of modern life that didn’t seem so much like punishment. The person could go to work, but not where they wanted.
The New York Times reports on an aspect of how much punishment is enough, under the title Prisoners’ Letters Offer a Window Into Lives Spent Alone in Tiny Cells By MOSI SECRET. The Times describes how – The handwritten letters arrived by the dozens, from men who described in flawed but poignant language what it was like to lose their minds.
One man wrote, “I feel like I am developing some kind of skitsophrinia behaviors. I hear voices echoing as I try to fall asleep.” Another said his mind “rots” with “thoughts that are uncommon or unnatural and you wonder where the hell did that come from?”
Continuing The Times states – They are prisoners in New York’s state prison system and were convicted of a range of crimes, including selling drugs and murder. The men were ordered out of the general prison population and into solitary confinement— or, in their parlance, “the box”, where they lived in tiny, elevator-size cells cut off from almost all human contact. The reasons varied: fighting, smoking, testing positive for drugs. But often for more serious crimes, like stabbing other inmates, trying to escape or attacking guards.
The Times draws a vivid picture. – Having been held captive to their imaginations for weeks, months or, occasionally, years on end, the men, many already struggling with mental illness, brought their paranoia, rage, anxiety and hope to life on the page, with descriptions that were sometimes literary and other times nearly impossible to decipher. More than anything, they conveyed a grisly awareness that their identities were unraveling, a feeling so disconcerting for some that they tried to take their own lives.
The Times prints – The trove of letters from more than 100 inmates to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which corresponded with the men to bolster its attempts to curtail the practice of solitary confinement, gives new insight into a closed-off world usually viewed only one person at a time. The letters may add fuel to the national debate over whether holding prisoners in extreme isolation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Many states have recently shifted away from the practice, which was the subject of federal hearings this summer, but it remains widespread in New York.
I’d imagine anywhere two politicians could rubbed together is sufficient to go through the farce of portraying the defense of law and order, no matter how vindictive the punishment actually appears. Apparently when authority withholds wielding extreme amounts of power it can’t feel the heft of its own weight. So like corporations the Supreme Court grants individual rights, so too must we respect the right to punish to the full extent of the law whether it’s just for punishment’s sake or not. So I can assume their individual prison cells don’t lock? We control prisoners to a degree like children their supervisors are responsible for. So why not just make them stay in their rooms/cells? Miss that hour a day walk that, too a degree, is cruel and inhuman punishment too.
The Times calculates – Nearly 4,500 prisoners in the state are held in segregated housing on any given day, about half in solitary confinement and half in cells with another inmate, according to the N.Y.C.L.U., which planned to publish a 72-page report on its findings on Tuesday, a copy of which was provided in advance to The New York Times.
Sounds daunting to even crack the seam, but one can wonder how many in the prison system should have it assigned to them as required reading before they complain we don’t understand how much retribution the victims of the criminals deserve and how unworthy of our care criminals are.
Quoting – The civil liberties group – The Times – called both types of segregation “arbitrary, inhumane and unsafe,” arguing that corrections officials have too much discretion to send inmates to segregated housing for long periods, even for minor infractions.
Is it a wonder convicts, and inevitable convicts, see punishment in civilian life a reward in itself for themselves, after being molded into degenerates living out society’s extremes.
The Times says – The report does not call for abolishing solitary confinement but recommends that the state corrections department enact more restrictive regulations that reserve isolation as a punishment for the most violent offenders and that the state take a census of its cells to find out which inmates deserve to be there.
See, there goes politics. Chipping away at the status quo, prolonging just plain turning everything around.
The Times cites – A spokesman for the corrections department, Peter K. Cutler, who limited his comments in an interview on Monday because the report had not been released. Mr. Cutler said, “Disciplinary segregation is something that we take very seriously in our system.” Then The Times paraphrases, printing, – He said the factors guiding the department were inmate behavior and the safety and security of the prisons. “There is a process. It is not something that is done unilaterally.”
Sanitariums used to pick out the worst and give them lobotomies too. So?
Donn Rowe, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said, “Inmates are absolutely entitled to rights, and should never be subjected to violence. But their anonymous complaints should also be met with an appropriate amount of skepticism, and the public must be reminded that New York’s prison system houses some of the most violent and troubled individuals in this country.”
So why try to teach them compassion? They’ll never learn so why be compassionate toward the worst of us? Our only option is tearing their ill will apart when that’s what made them who they are?
Maybe The Times erred in not giving authority the last word? But prints nonetheless – In the letters, the inmates, whose real names were not released by the N.Y.C.L.U. because the organization said they might suffer retribution from corrections officials, accepted responsibility for the crimes that they had committed on the outside but questioned whether their behavior on the inside deserved such treatment. They pointed fingers at the mental health officials, nurses and guards who they said brushed off complaints.
The efficacy of being damned to mortal punishment is all that can be seen from the inside of a prison?
Wrote a man who would try to commit suicide months later, “Please, somebody help. I need HELP!!!”
But the inmates are transferred to segregated housing after breaking the rules. One said he was cited for “wreckless eyeballing and stalking” after he looked at a female prison guard’s backside as she bent over to pick up her keys.
God forbid prison be at all similar to the real world outside, huh?
Most of the men ended up at one of the two state prisons dedicated entirely to isolation cells, Upstate Correctional Facility, in the town of Malone near the Canadian border, or Southport Correctional Facility, in Pine City. Monotony was the rule for 23 hours a day. They received their food through slots in the doors. For one hour each day, they exercised in a small metal cage called the “kennel.”
Shouldn’t there be a law protecting dogs’ rights not to have words associated with them demeaned?
Yes I would expect prison officials to know anyway but The Times, as usual to look informed, tattles on the prisoners printing – The men “fished,” or passed notes, books and magazines to each other using ripped sheets weighted by toothpaste tubes. But mostly they watched the walls.
One inmate wrote, quotes The Times, “The water from the sink is a milky color. It’s not white but its definitely not clear. Our shower is extremely hot and drips even after we cut it off — nonstop. Due to the moisture from the shower and the sink, we now are beginning to notice knats, also known as ‘fruit flies.’ The walls are marked with gang signs, demonic drawings, mucus, feces and rust. We are not allowed to disinfect our cells. There is toothpaste hard and flaky on my lights, walls, bed, ceiling, doors and vents. On my shower there is numerous stickers, mildoo, soap residoo, and what appears to be little spots of dried blood.”
Really? Are our paid employees being lazy about prisoner hygiene punishment enough? Or is it true we’ve figured out how to put all our slobs away for life?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you again for your flawless service, and I look forward to working with you in the future.


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