Federal and State prisoners who are confined to long term (>12 months) imprisonment are separated from society for your safety, for retribution of the victims and for correction. Also prisoners are a part of the largest labor force in the United States. Yes, we prisoners compete with you, work for less wages than you ever will, and our ranks swell faster than the enrollment at a newly opened college. Throughout this blog you can find nuggets that answer various questions but this post is a short history lesson and finalizes with a suggestion for correcting longstanding catalysts for corruption, usury and nepotism.
Prison and punishment began in the United States like it did in any civilized country or empire of ages past. Laws, rules and boundaries are made to keep the peace, protect persons and possessions, and to organize into a collective group, a named group, a township. Rules without punishment in a civilized society are not rules but instead suggestions without weight. So, when this country began its punishment of law breakers, punishment phases were not to surpass in cost education, healthcare or food production. Punishment was swift, calculated and public.
If you broke the law by stealing, raping, killing, kidnapping, treason or any other method, your punishment was public lashing, public hanging, public firing squad, public stoning, public shaming, public electrocution, or any number of other "public" correctional or retributive methods. A parent might take a child to watch the horror of a public punishment and the mere image of the event would engrain itself into the mental memory of that child. This memory served as a deterrent more powerful than any other. This quick punishment was live, vivid and in high definition.
But people became squeamish and cried for change. No longer could they stand to see the punishment for themselves because it hurt their stomachs, remained in their memory, gave long lasting nightmares and kept crime rates down. Crime stayed down because the arrest was public, the trial was public, and the punishment was public.
All the cries for ceasing public punishment caused the pseudo-privitizing of the punishment stage of criminal justice to boil down to the incarcerations of the convicted behind closed doors and behind bricks and mortars. Over time incarceration became the primary method of punishment and the prison industrial complex was formed. And today, the everyday citizen has no idea what takes place behind the walls of a prison. We all know someone who was released from prison and the truth is they are different from everyone else. Some prisoners get past the experience and some prisoners cannot escape the corporate retardation, medicine dependency or social exclusions associated with prison life.
So what would happen if al the bricks were replaced with glass and you were able to see inside the prison from your living room, from your front steps, or from you kids school? Would the prison system have the same deterrent power as truly public punishment once had? Personally, I don't think so. Right now, prisoners are out of sight and out of mind, and although everything a prisoner goes through may be non-fair, impartial, and their unjust treatment affects you in ways you don't realize.
You don't realize prison is now a corporate business with prison labor at slave costs, sold to a limited few, who resell prison made goods for healthy-fat-profits. The limited few are not you, and you pay for this in so many ways. Physically. Your loved ones and friends (who are removed from society as punishment) usually suffer from poor and debilitating medical care, unhealthy food, chemically treated water which scares the people who work in the system, and price fixing on everything that can be bought.
I've personally been through numerous inspections of the prisons I've spent time at, including congressional walkthroughs, national program reviews, regional reviews, ACA inspections, and ICP (Institutional Climate Profile) inspections. The prison facilities get really busy with cleaning crews, new detergents, brillo-pads, safety signs, new paint, new uniforms, fire extinguisher and strict orders to inmates. Inmates are told they should not talk to outside visitor s and if they do get the opportunity (initiated by the visitor) nothing harmful should be said which will hurt the institution. Prisoners are threatened with outlawed punishments such as diesel therapy, and this is only because the public can't see beyond the fence and beyond the walls.
Mistreated people never get treated correctly until they go outside the home, outside the workplace, or in our case, outside the prison walls. A battered and abused wife who is a victim of her husband, only gets help when she goes to the local police in her freshly bruised state. If the bricks of the prison walls were replaced with glass you would be able to see many prisoners are treated worst than they deserve. A change must be made, and the change can only be made from the outside-in, and that's why I write, and why the New Leaf Alliance Foundations, (NLAF) was created, and why Prison Legal News (PLN) publishes a publication, and why a new petition was added to change.org.
I hope you've learned something here. I hope you can hear my voice from inside these walls, and I hope for transparency in the criminal justice system. The system is broken, it's expensive, it's corrupt, it's breeded monsters who are not prisoners, an it's lost its focus, purpose and effect. How can America be the best country in the world when 30% of its adult population lives with at least one arrest, when the U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country (civilized or uncivilized), and when it spend more on criminal justice than education? I know this and now you do too.
Glass is see-through, and what you see, it's possible to understand, and when you understand you can care, and those who care, can help to create change.
With all I've said here, you the public must begin to the dialogue of reforming prison usage, reforming prison conditions and overseeing those who lead, manage and work this industry. If prison wasn't a business there would be no need to privatize it and monetize it. Making money using prison is a reason to put as many people in prison as possible. Who will be next?