Friday, March 7, 2014

Orange is Not the New Black

I finally began watching that series which is based on the memoirs of a former "offender" who in the ever needing drug wars was imprisoned for helping her lover carry drug money a decade earlier. Her wonderful and I am sure well paid Attorney or Public Defender, the only difference really is the salary they make, encouraged her to take a plea. It worked out of course as she was a Poor but was sentenced to federal prison anyway. 

And while it is discomforting to watch I wonder if viewers think of this as "made up" fiction for TV as even its most distasteful it appears benign if not just an inconvenience that could not "really be like this." 

What it depicts is one story as the whole story is less shades of orange and more shades of gray in how absurd our need to incarcerate people for pretty much anything, everything that walks into the halls of justice. You will be imprisoned. There are few, if any, gross misdemeanors to felonies that are not sentenced to some time in the "big house". Dependent upon the "crime" the shade of gray you are assigned is decided by the State Legislator, not the Judge nor Prosecutor nor anyone actually engaged, aware or knowledgeable about the case, the "criminal" or any extenuating circumstances, no the people you elect whom have never met are.

Why bother with Courts, Judiciary or Prosecutions, they seem to be annoying middle men. Oh wait the Legal System would be out of business... too bad so sad. That is another post about that subject and the bankruptcy and prosecution of one such legal firm. Nothing makes me smile more.

But this post is about our jail for profit and occupancy requirement, like Condos when seeking financing often has an "owner occupied" minimum requirement to be considered Condos vs Apartments. That is our jail system as more and more States turn the operation over to businesses for profit who in order to be such a business must generate a profit and the best way is keeping them full. The standard agreement is 95% occupancy. It's working out.

Earlier this week I read about the state of prisons in Alabama and their current investigation by the Justice Department. It is also ironic that the Justice Department spends most of its time correcting injustices by those actually in place to ensure Justice - police departments, schools, courts and prisons. Well they have to do something other than worry about our civil and voting rights that are quietly and quickly being eroded by the very institutions that are supposed to ironically once again uphold them. This is one circle of life isn't it.

But the stories are so hideous, distressing and tragic you wonder if there is any decency left in America. We claim that prison is a lesson but it is also to provide rehabilitation with the idea that you will learn from this "mistake" (of which in this America is perhaps the widest barometer of measure for infractions that are defined as mistakes) and from there move on to a productive life in society. There is bridge I have to sell you.

The article is here. But some items of note are:

Just over half the state’s prisoners are locked up for drug and property crimes, a rate for nonviolent offenses that is among the highest in the nation.

 The toxic, highly sexualized environment, she said in an interview, has been met by “a deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials and prison management, who have been aware of the conditions for many years and have failed to curb it.”

The prison’s abysmal staffing levels, abundant blind spots and only three cameras created a situation where sex among prisoners and with guards was rampant, the report said. Male guards have routinely watched women showering and once helped prisoners organize a strip show. Sex is sometimes exchanged both for banned items like drugs and for basic needs like clean uniforms.

At least six corrections employees have been convicted of sexual crimes since 2009.

“Right now, for me personally, it’s still the same as far as the officers,” she said. “It’s like an act of Congress to get the things you need just to live. It’s inhumane for inmates to be here, period.” said,  Marsha Colby, a mother of six, served almost 10 years of a life sentence without parole for a murder conviction. Her premature son had been stillborn, and she buried him in a marked grave near her home. A medical examiner said the child had been drowned in a bathtub, but the conviction was overturned after a court agreed that the autopsy had been botched. She was released in December 2012.
 There are re-occurring stories, lawsuits and more than ample data and research that has shown our current system of turning our nation into felonious persons is unlike any other in a civilized nation. We still exterminate people, yes I used the word "exterminate." As that is how we treat our fellow man, bugs in which to be rid.

I used to couch my language and try to understand and express myself eloquently.  I quit doing that as I found out that in the halls of Justice you have no voice even when you scream, for all voices fall upon deaf ears. 

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