08 May 2004

An outline of mistreatment which has occurred around the US in our prisons.

Some of the "abuses" recorded could be for valid reasons. There are valid reasons for strip searches and devices meant to keep prisoners from spitting on guards. And making men wear pink underwear may be weird but it's not exactly taking a guy in the back room and pulling out the rubber hoses; in fact, it might be the only kind of punishment to which John "Mad Dog" Smith responds. This assumes the type of prisoner who is serving six life sentences and keeps a scorecard of the number of fights he has been in with the guards (as you might be able to tell, I am not against minor psychological punishments).

Nevertheless, as sure as I know the Sun will rise tomorrow I know that there will be some guard(s) in a prison who will get on a power trip, get angry, get paid, &cetera and abuse prisoners. It is almost impossible to stop a guard or two or even a group who work a shift together from crossing the line. However, this sort of thing is particularly disturbing:
[In Texas] prisons were under a federal consent decree . . . because of crowding and violence by guards against inmates. Judge William Wayne Justice of Federal District Court imposed the decree after finding that guards were allowing inmate gang leaders to buy and sell other inmates as slaves for sex.
That just sounds far too sytematic and that is unforgiveable.

I must say that as I read this article I wonder if this is not a number of widely seperated incidents strung together to create a greater sense of disaster than appropriate. It selects incidents from Texas, Virginia, Utah, and Arizona; it needs to reach down to jail policies while making a point about prisons; and it doesn't address the prevalance of these events, even in the places it cites. For instance, how often do Wallens Ridge inmates wear hoods? Is the abuse described above something which was evidenced in only one prison or was it something that was seen as systematic across the entire State? The article is just too shallow.

On a personal note, I also did not appreciate the political tag line in the Texas quote. You'll note that the NY Times didn't say, "In Democratic Governor Mark Warner's Virginia, the Wallens Ridge maximum security prison . . .

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