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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Futility and horror of prisons

The Warden of North Carolina's Central Prison -- the state's highest security lock-up -- has resigned after an Associated Press exposé on treatment of mentally ill inmates. This triggers a flood of thoughts.
  1. Many prisoners are mentally ill according to an objective diagnosis. Because of budget constraints driven by societal attitudes (and an exploding population of inmates -- see below), we seldom treat their diseases. The majority of them are eventually released from prison. Is anyone surprised, therefore, by their recidivism?

  2. Prisons are horrendous places to live. I remember touring Alabama's notorious Kilby Prison between its closure and its demolition. Yes, there are less unpleasant prisons for perps like Bernie Madoff, but don't kid yourself: Pelican Bay, Sing Sing, and ADX Florence are not country clubs.

  3. Prisons are dangerous places to work. I have seen enough television to know that I wouldn't want to work in one. We should pray that prison employees don't become abusive, but we should also pray that prison employees be safe.

  4. Now that websites show mug shots and charged crimes of those booked into county jails, it should be obvious to everyone that 80% of our justice system is busied out with drug offenses. We cannot afford enough prisons to hold them. Prohibition and the so-called war on drugs are complete failures, yet our society appears to be incapable of admitting it. 

  5. Young African-American men, who are over-represented in the prison population, have never had much economic opportunity. Whites are now discovering that economic trends of the last 30 years, punctuated by the depression that began in 2008, have diminished their own opportunities. Demonstrations ensue. It's not news to African-Americans.