posted on Mar, 25 2009 @ 12:35 PM
I agree that there are monstrous people who deserve to spend the rest of their lives in jail. However, as many have said, there are also many who
don't deserve to go there in the first place.
Let us not forget: Prison is a dangerous place. Take a guy with no priors, no weapons, no history of violence or theft or any other lawbreaking, in
for having just enough weed to count as "intent to deliver" and put him in the general population of the average maximum-security prison. On a
daily basis he will face a near-constant threat of beatings, torture, rape, and murder from his fellow inmates (and sometimes, from guards as well).
He may never have thrown a punch or hurt a fly in his life up to that point. But the continuous threat of violence and sexual violation over a period
of years turns good people into animals. One quickly learns that, in order to survive, one must take extreme measures. Joining
gangs, learning to fight and fight dirty, crafting makeshift weapons for self-protection--these are all skills inmates learn just so they can live
long enough to see the outside world again.
I lived most of my life in an area with no fewer than 4 prisons in a 50-mile radius (mostly maximum security), and I've known many guards and other
folks who work in the prison system. One thing they've all told me is that prison is not about rehabilitating the penitent or even
punishing the guilty. It's an industry. It's about money. The more inmates the better, because for every person incarcerated
there's money entering someone's pocket. And, because it's done on the cheap to maximize profit, it's essentially a "zoo" for society's human
detritus. There's no "real" control by the administration. Inmates run every prison--that's one of the first things my former criminal justice
professor (a former prison guard) told us on our first day of class.
How do we resolve these problems?
Seems the first thing we need to do is recognize that certain prohibitions simply aren't working. Decriminalize and/or legalize and regulate drugs
and prostitution. It's worked for many European countries and some states; it can work nationwide. Eliminating criminal punishment for "victimless
crimes" and re-thinking what, exactly, a crime is in the first place, and the appropriate level of Society's response is a big start in the
Second, increase, rather than decrease, the variety of available options for dealing with felons. For those non-violent offenders we still wish to
put away, put them someplace where violence is not a daily threat. They can be re-educated, rehabilitated, and prepared for an eventual return to the
outside world, with the tools they need in order to at least survive, if not succeed.
For violent offenders, I'd like to say they should rot in prison forever--but this is unworkable; part of the reason someone can be out in ten years
on a murder charge (depending on the state and the circumstances of the crime) is because law enforcement depends greatly on the use of such deals to
get criminals to turn on each other and catch "bigger fish". Also, has has been stated, "violence" does not necessarily mean one is a
cold-blooded killer; in many states what many of us would consider justifiable self-defense is essentially illegal and classified as a "violent"
Maybe in the case of such people as the offender in the article, the prison system should be re-worked so that rather than having a handful of guards
trying to control a population of semi-organized thugs there should be an army of guards controlling individuals who are prevented from having
contact with each other. No more gangs, no more "yard time", no more putting groups of inmates in situations where violence can occur. Fewer
opportunities for violence=less need to learn "survival" skills that turn non-violent offenders into hard-core criminals. Of course, this means
you'd have to hire more people and design/build prisons differently, thus lowering the profit margin, which means the privatized prisons would
probably be out of business--just as well; personally the idea of a "privatized prison system" under the control of corporate bureaucrats scares the
Hell out of me.
Of course there are other factors to consider: Like it or not, there's a verifiable correlation between hard economic times and a rise in criminal
activity. Desperate times create desperate people, and such people sometimes take extreme measures for what they see as survival and/or success. I
say this not to excuse their behavior, but as a reminder that regardless of your own feelings on personal responsibility there are those who
think and feel differently from you, and we as a Society have to deal with that. Had you lived under the same exact circumstances as they, you might
feel differently as well.
There's also the fact that law enforcement hasn't exactly had a stellar track record of late when it comes to dealing with some situations. There
was a time when cops were trained to defuse situations through peaceful negotiation and conflict resolution; these days it seems too many officers let
their Tasers do the talking almost as if they want to escalate situations to violence. Frankly, I don't care that most LEOs on this board
probably would disagree with me--the Taser is an instrument of torture, pure and simple. It's meant to coerce compliance by inflicting pain.
Far too often it's being used in situations where there's no need. Against people who are already violent, or when it can be used to disarm a
suspect with a weapon, sure, use it. Against a non-violent college kid whose only "crime" is demanding answers from a Senator at a public
venue and not relinquishing the mic, it doesn't matter how much he annoys you--he does not deserve repeated 50K-volt shocks just because he's
a loudmouth. Nor does a college student who forgot his ID for the computer lab deserve it, nor a protester who uses non-violent civil disobedience
tactics. If you hurt people enough, and for the wrong reasons, they eventually get the message that you're playing for keeps--and the end result is
needless bloodshed. Violence creates more violence.
I've been thinking the main reason for such violence by police is because the administrators at the top of departments are the same guys who used to
crack hippies' heads open with batons when they were the rank-and-file; upon reaching some level of authority these people (many of them thugs
themselves) institute policies of violence in their departments. I'd like to think their ilk will soon retire and maybe some level of sanity will
return, but we'll see.