Law in Contemporary Society
-- NonaFarahnik - 20 Jul 2010 Past my bedtime. Stream of consciousness.

How should our society treat a guy who sliced up his roommates and then ate them? A man who would not feed the children in his daycare so their hunger would allow him to molest them in ways I can't even bare to type? The guy who basically chopped off another man's face over a nutter butter cookie?

What about the blind drug mule? The guy who committed one too many misdemeanors? The innocent widower who did not kill his wife? The barber who went for the jugular when his client began to attack him?

That something is wrong with the system does not take effort to realize. What is harder to discern is which system bears the flaw-- by the time a guilty man is incarcerated (and let us suppose for a truly heinous crime) a broken system has long preceded his stay at the really shitty nightmare of zoo.

I too visited a jail today.

Reverse-serendipitously, as soon as I turned on to the Prison's road, a train whistled as it rumbled by, and I was struck with a faux case (the non-inmate type) of Folsom Prison Blues.

My visit was typical in the abhorrent and uncomfortable and dehumanizing way you would expect a tour of a prison to be. A prisoner writing fecal messages on his cinder block wall, a few inmates obscenely stripping as we approached, inmates in suicide robes that can't tear, men handcuffed to tables, public phones, blatant racial disparity, a couple speaking through plexi glass while their daughter turned her back to wipe her tears, desperation, beeping and buzzing, and metal doors heavily shutting closed.

I was more surprised by my guard tour-guide, but I should have realized that he too was typical-- I was watching my fifth grade Holocaust curriculum in full swing. I was shocked by the degree to which the guard so easily disregarded that his prisoners were human. In an attempt to endear himself to us law students, he taunted and mocked various prisoners as we watched, would ask other guards if they had any "good ones" today-- by which he meant extremely deranged and criminal inmates to laugh at, spoke about prisoners who were in the same room us as if they were deaf or not there, and used the prisoners' desperation and hopelessness as a tool of entertainment "that one is charged with killing his pregnant wife, who wants to ask him about it?... Seriously, come on!" I was not sure if my co-externs were laughing in earnest, until I rebuked the guard after his 20th obnoxious act and got a few thankful nods. After watching this guy wield his power in a way none of us had probably expected, it was really scary to speak up. I felt like he might tase me.

Obnoxious act #20: We walk into the pod for mentally challenged inmates. He walks us up to an inmate's cell. The inmate starts screaming "son of a bitch" at the guard and the guard keeps shouting back at him to say it again. This must have gone on about fifteen times. "why are you being so callous in the way you deal with him?" "what?" ( I think he was surprised by someone challenging him since he is constantly the only authority). "I mean he spends 20 hours a day in a cell with a toilet next to a tiny cot, do you really need to treat him like that?" "Oh, well you see, I was distracting him so he didn't realize that I was turning off his water." (at this point the inmate is being really wild with his toilet water.) "Right." The guard was well-behaved for the rest of the time and kept asking me if I was okay. "I'm fine." I just wanted to call him a son of a bitch. I also wished I had one of those hidden pin cameras from Brookstone.

At the end of the tour I asked him what he would reform if he could do anything he wanted. "Harsher sentences," he said. "I have seen convicted rapists walk out the door and come back a year later for raping and killing someone else. We keep reintroducing totally broken guys back into society, and they keep doing the same violent things over again."

The thing is, after spending a couple of hours in that place, I didn't disagree with him. I don't know that it is criminal justice reform we need-- it is societal reform at the most rudimentary level. I am thinking kindergarten would be a good start.


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r1 - 20 Jul 2010 - 07:40:18 - NonaFarahnik
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