3rd Answer to PUNISHMENT BY DEATH

The True Story of Rehabilitation

In Answer 2 PUNISHMENT BY DEATH I left you standing in a locked cell with your new cellmate, an open lower bunk bed waiting for you to make up your mind which of two bunk beds you were going to take, the lower bunk that looked unused, but your new cellmate claimed it as his, or the upper bunk upon which your new cellmate sat, and where his bedding warmed the mattress. Nervous as you are, still feeling shamed by your experience walking around nude in front of half a dozen uniformed guards, and then having a unknown doctor shoving his finger up your ass, feeling around for any contraband. Doesn’t he know you’re innocent of all charges? Doesn’t he know you don’t even know what kind of contraband to smuggle in, if you were going to smuggle something in? At last the finger was removed, and a line on a piece of paper checked. “Next,” the doctor had called, and you ran for the exit door. You didn’t want the guy behind you to see your shit running down your leg and leaving a line, no, adding to a line that was already on the floor but which you hadn’t noticed before. But that’s in the past. You’ll never have to live through that again. And you’ve got more immediate worries. Which bunk are you going to choose? Does it even matter? You say to hell with it, and sit down on the bottom bunk.

“Good choice,” the surly voice comes down at you from above, like God talking to Moses or Abraham. You take a deep breath and let it out slowly. And that is about the last time you feel safe while you are behind all those locked doors.

 

Being in jail is not like being in school, or even university. Nothing like work. You are told when to go to bed, and when the lights are about to be turned off. Come morning the lights come on, and something related to a fog horn is blown. You’ve got 10 minutes to shit, shower, and shave and get dressed for the day, but you are competing with your cellmate who wants to do exactly the same things. You quickly teach your body to get up 15 minutes before the light comes on, which is just a guess because you cannot wear a watch in prison, and there is no clock on the walls. Ten minutes after the lights come on, your cell door opens and you best get out fast. The door isn’t open very long. You join the other prisoners all walking in the same direction, walking down 6 flights of stairs, and into the mess room. Some trustee shoves a metal tray in your hands, and in no time more trustees have thrown dollops of mush, or eggs, or even sometimes bacon on your tray as the line forces you forward. You get about 8 minutes to eat and drink the slop they call coffee, then everyone is getting up and heading for the exit door while you see prisoners from another floor start to file in the entrance door. Any food or coffee you didn’t finish gets pushed into a giant garbage tub, and someone else collects the tray and spoon you used, just another dirty dish added to a growing pile of dirty dishes on what looks like a table on wheels with a garbage can stuck through a hole in the middle where the spoons end up. Your cup is unceremoniously thrown into another tub, smaller than the previous one, but used just as noisily. The room is a cacophony of sound that just about deafens you until you get out the exit door, and the sound level drops several decibels, telling you just how thick those walls are. Now people are walking in all directions, probably going to some kind of work or class or something. You have no idea what to do, until you hear your named shouted out across the floor by a guard. When you get almost to the guard, a short conversation ensues.

“You got any skills for a place like this?” the guard almost yells.

“Don’t know. I was a taxi driver before…”

In one smooth move the guard makes a tick on one column, then makes another tick in the box in front of the words next in line on the second column. “Yard duty.” the guards says with a straight face, “and I don’t want one piece of garbage on the ground when you finish before supper, and before you can say even one word the guard is already calling out another name, and you wonder what jobs the guy in front of you or the one behind you are getting. They’ve got to be better than yard duty.

 

Rehabilitation, you say, when do prisoners get rehabilitated to be better citizens when and if they ever get out of prison. For you, your rehabilitation program is learning how to pick up garbage off the ground, a highly needed skill on the outside. However long your sentence is, that is what you will be doing. Of course, there are times when psychologists offer their time to come and do group sessions for prisoners with specific problems, be it child abuse, a mental illness, PTSD, victims of racism, or whatever the good DR. is wanting to write a book on. Psychologists, psychiatrists, brain doctors, and a lot of other professionals need to publish books to keep in good standing with their Associations. Some write books by studying other books to put information from each book together in a new way, or they use old surveys to gather evidence pro or con the theory the survey was studying. But there are two specific populations that they use as subjects in new studies: university students, and prisoners. Neither group represents the “common people,” though, so their results are almost always skewed. University students do surveys either to impress a professor, or to make beer money without their parents knowing about it. Prisoners are never paid money, but they are paid in time away from whatever job they have been assigned to do. Neither population is trustworthy as a general rule, but the surveyers couldn’t give a damn. They’ll contort whatever evidence they are given to prove or disprove the theory they are writing about. That, hospital visits, trials for other offences, and conjugal visits are about the only things a prisoner can do to end the boredom. Even gang wars or other kinds of struggle are done just for the entertainment. Strikes and prison takeovers seem to be a thing of the past, but then I don’t read much news at all. Maybe they do still happen occasionally, but unless guards or visitors are being murdered they are not as newsworthy as they used to be. It’s all been done before, and for the most part the public do not want to hear about the plights of convicted criminals.

 

But if prisons are so boring, why is the recidivism rate so high? There are many factors in that statistic, and every person has different reasons for letting themselves get caught again, and again. 1) They don’t know how to do anything else except commit crimes. And while they are in prison, they learn better ways to do things, more ways not to get caught, but they are learning from people who were caught, so where is the logic in that.

  • They learn how to commit bigger crimes, to go from convenience store robberies to bank robberies, and how much more money you can make in the process. Criminals love to make money without having to work for it, and thus they go from stealing purses off little old ladies to pickpocketing, and armoured car robberies. They go from being “poor starving artists” to counterfeiters, or faking art, or stealing art that is worth millions that they sell on the black market for tens of thousands of dollars.
  • The thrill of it. Some thieves get orgasmic feelings from walking out of a business or home with something that does not belong to them. They start by stealing money from their mothers or fathers, and end up stealing fancy cars or fancy jewels. And there is always someone who will give them money for their stolen goods. Never close to the value of what was stolen, but they understand that getting ripped off by fast-talking fences still gives them more money than they could make in a year of slinging burgers in a McDonald’s Restaurant.

 

But those are the easy reasons for so many recidivists. Then there are the people who remember how they were treated in prison, like animals that had to be shamed into compliance. It might have been a guard who shamed them, or a warden, or the cop that arrested them in front of TV cameras, but now they want revenge, and they don’t particularly care who they take that revenge out on.

And then you have your psychopaths and your sociopaths who have no regard for other people or their property. Without medications these people are as unpredictable as a tornado, never going in a straight line destroying lives as if the people were dolls.

 

With help, all of these people can be made into good citizens.  But staying on medications for life takes the fun out of life. And fun is what they feel is their right, pursuing their happiness in whatever way they want to. And if they get caught, they just pull out their papers that say they are insane, and as soon as they are back on their meds and looking as normal as anyone can look, they have to be allowed out of jail. And they are free again, so who knows what they are going to do next.

 

The next time you look at the stats for recidivism rates, who do you blame for how high they are. The people who need help but never get it, or the prison system that is supposed to provide that help, but instead of hiring psychologists and social workers, they hire guards that are disgruntled police failures, or people who love to lord it over others, bullies all of them. Big adult bullies, who just love to push others around and say, That’s my job! I’m just doing what I’m told to do. And maybe that is what they are told to do, and that is why the bullies were hired in the first place.

 

But what else can we do? We can’t afford to run prison populations that overcrowd prison facilities. What else can we do, we have to protect the regular citizens of our nations. What else can we do? What else CAN we do?

 

That question has more than one answer, and in this blog I am only going to give you teasers for the next blog on PUNISHMENT BY DEATH. The very first thing you do is study those who were in prison once, and never went back. Another thing is taking the word punishment out of the adult population. You punish children when they do things the parent doesn’t like, actions they want to teach the child not to repeat. Third, you treat them with the respect any person wants to be treated with. And four, you use restorative justice every opportunity you have. Fifth, and last, or probably what should be done first, you deconstruct the nuclear family, and stop letting parents raise their own children , and make sure all children get a good start in life, without abuse, without poverty, without learning how to be bullies, but by giving them love, respect, and human contact of a meaningful kind. But who, besides me, is willing to look that deeply at the nuclear family, and realize that while it is responsible for creating non-criminal adults, it is just as responsible for creating criminal adults?

 

Where are the people with the strength to stand up and say, “It’s at least worth a trial, it can’t do any worse than we are already doing?

In Answer 2 PUNISHMENT BY DEATH

Why prisons will never work

Part Two – The terrors of a society brainwashed to be scared of people not like themselves

Have you ever been in jail for more than a night in the drunk tank, say at least two weeks? Have you ever faced a jury of your supposed peers, and seen the hatred in their eyes. Looked at the members of your jury and not seen one that would be willing to take notice of you with a smile or even a lightning flash of sympathy? Have you ever been taken to a jail or prison intake area, stripped down to your absolute nothings, forced to walk with a whole busload of naked others through a spray of water so cold and so biting that you think you have been secretly transported to a summer day in Antarctica barely warm enough to turn ice into sleet and hail that burns your body red, makes your eyes water, and your testes pull so far into your groin area that you think they will never come out again, come hell or high temperatures? Then one at a time you are given ugly prison uniforms, one-size-fits-all, which is all you will be able to wear for the next 2 to 25 years, unless you are allowed to wear nice clothes at your appeal, if you can afford one. Meanwhile, if you stole a fair amount of money and were able to keep it hidden from the police, your lawyer will gratefully take it off your hands, and if you give him enough, he will actually TRY to get your verdict overturned, or your sentence shortened. Money might not buy you justice, but it will buy you the appearance of justice.

Okay, so I’ve got you standing in line, still naked, prison uniform grasped tightly in your arms, when the line starts moving and a line of inmates called “trustees” (because they can be trusted to fink on you to either the authorities, as represented by the prison warden, or the group leaders of gangs of prisoners, some gangs which are local and temporary, and some that are in every prison in the USA and even some in prisons in Canada. And those same long-term gangs will be there as long as prisons and penitentiaries as we know them are allowed to exist) where you will be handed that prison’s version of what is counted as bedding. Meanwhile, before you can get dressed, and IF there is a doctor available in the prison, he or she will examine you to see if you have any obvious problems visible to the eyes, ears, or fingers. After listening to a few beats of your heart and cursorily checking your skin for signs of viral or bacterial infections, they will then stick a finger up your vagina if you have one, and your anus because everyone has one, because it might contain contraband, which is illegal to smuggle into a prison. Only then will you be allowed to get dressed, and then you will wait around, even if it is mealtime, until the last of your group of prisoners are dressed.

Finally you are on the move as a group once more, still grasping your holey, and/or threadbare and/or flea-ridden blanket to your chest lest someone attempt to rip it out of your hands. At last you leave the intake area and enter a “room” one side of which is an outside wall, and the other having runways full of cells stacked upon cells all stacked upon even more cells; probably at least ten levels of them, and no elevator in sight anywhere. Meanwhile, you realize the trustee leading your group is giving a long-memorized speech explaining the laws and culture of the common room, the eating rooms, cell runways, and everything else he or she thought you would need to know for your first day there. After that you would be on your own to survive or not depending upon which gang you chose to become a part of. (In the movies or on TV, the star always remains somehow “unconnected,” but this isn’t a movie, it is real life, and the threat of death is palpably imminent, so choose wisely.)

Suddenly the line in front of you is moving up the stairs, and at each landing sets of names are called, and those people move through an iron door that slams! shut after the last “new piece of meat” goes through the entryway. The same scene repeats itself at every floor landing. Eventually your name is called and you go through the entryway. Already a guard is walking down the runway, tapping open doors, saying a name once, and moving on. As you are busy hoping you didn’t miss your name being called, you hear it at last, and you enter the cell, where either one or two double bunk beds are standing against the side walls, and before you even look at the people sitting on or lying down on the bunk mattresses, you see a seatless toilet bowl in the middle of the back wall, where you will have no privacy taking a crap for as long as you are there. Then you turn your attention to who your bunk mate(s) is(are), and where an unoccupied uncovered mattress is awaiting you. You quickly go to it, hoping the other(s) are not able to hear or see how scared you are. No matter whether you are brainy or brawny, you throw your armful of bedding on the bare mattress, thinking that you are lucky you made it this far.

“Get your stuff off of my bed,” a vicious voice booms out, and you jump high enough to hit your head on the ten foot high ceiling. As you crash down you stutter, “But… But I… I thought…”

That same voice cuts you off, “You don’t think out loud in here. In fact, it’s better to not think at all. You’ll get in trouble that way in here.” At least this time the voice is flat, emotionless. Not friendly, but not unfriendly either. With a tiny bit of uncertainty and fear in your own voice you say, “Which one is mine?” Luckily you are in a one-bunk-bed cell, or at least you hope it is luckily.

“I’m sitting on it,” the voice states, daring you to make him get off. And at last you realize you are being tested. Your happiness while in prison just might depend on how you answer…

You are just coming to a decision when a far-away voice calls “Close’m up!”and the door to your cell moves and hits the doorjamb resoundingly! The sound is echoed by every cell door within hearing. Two-hundred and fifty doors (you don’t know this figure yet, you missed that part of the trustee’s speech) slamming and slamming and slamming within tenths of a second of each other. By the time the sound clears from your ears your mind reminds you, “That’s it, no more freedom for…” and the guy/gal sitting on your mattress is staring at you with a sneer on their face and a gleam in their eyes. “How you feeling, new meat?”

So, dear reader, how “are” you feeling right now? You’re unsure of which tactic to take, you’re still feeling humiliated from having to stand around naked so long in a group of naked strangers, but with fully-clothed guards looking at all of you at once, but you’re sure one of them is staring straight at you at the same time. And then that doctor, feeling inside your private parts for God knows what, and having him or her sticking their finger up your orifices with just a thin film of plastic glove between his/her skin and your insides. And then the walk of shame through the common room, and you are so relieved that you are finally dressed again even though neon orange is not your best colour, it’s the same colour every prisoner except the trustees are wearing, you’re tired from the long bus ride from the city, and its hours since you last ate, your stomach is gurgling in desire, and you have to make what might be the decision of your life. How do you really feel deep down in your gut? What are you going to do?

To be continued…