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I Spent 16 Months in Solitary Confinement and Now I'm Fighting to End It

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/06/i-spent-16-months-solitary-confinement-and-now-im-fighting-end-it

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Let’s learn from Norway’s progressive approach to restorative justice in contrast to our profit-making and gratuitously cruel Prison Industrial Complex:

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I don’t think it would work here, at this time. There are too many prison related racial issues. A good share of our hardened criminal types will never reform.

You are correct on this point. Having been treated like an animal probably just ossifies lower instincts. A veritable tragedy. However, for many currently in the system and for those who will enter it in the future, progress is possible. Norway came to their wisdom by reviewing and honestly acknowledging their mistakes. We should do the same. I want these people to see what freedom means and then fight like hell with their inner demons to earn their way back into contributing citizens. In my state, voting rights issues with formerly incarcerated felons is a big deal right now. I want them to want to vote, take the time to consider for whom to vote, and then vote. Ending the disenfranchisement is a big part of reducing recidivism, in my humble opinion.

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I’m not knocking you’re post, but lets not forget, most of our prisoners will be getting out one day. The conditions they endure now can’t possibly help them re-enter society and be a productive member. The hardened criminal types make up a small percentage of our prison population, thanks to the drug war.

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Sure. But that’s no excuse for solitary confinement.

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I believe a large percentage of those issues can be attributed to lengthy sentences and the punishment aspect of prison. The way the DOC and BOP currently operate, the focus is on the release date and prisoners put on tough exteriors in order to survive until then. Theoretically, if the focus is shifted to after the release date, then the threat to survival exists outside of the prison walls.

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“But thus I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. They are people of a low sort and stock; the hangmen and the bloodhound look out of their faces. Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! Verily, their souls lack more than honey. And when they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had—power.”

-------Friedrich Nietzche

Our society seems to get off on “punishment porn”. Abu Ghraib was not an anomaly.
It was not “a few bad apples”. It has been thus since our founding.

The last positive REFORM of our prisons was done by FDR under New Deal –
at least, according to information I’ve read over the years –

And amazingly, as I understood it, it was Alger Hiss who worked on prison reform
for FDR during New Deal. I recall reading that the only blessing his family could
see in his imprisonment during the McCarthy Era by Nixon – now thought to be
based in a fabricated typewriter by FBI – was that he was at least serving his
time at a time after the New Deal reforms allowed him to exist more humanely in
prison.

But that was a great long time ago – and the right wing has done nothing but make
our prisons more cruel and brutal again – re-introducing chain gangs and punishment.
Eliminating anything that might serve to improve the minds and abilities of prisoners.

And rarely does our “free press” let the public know that nearly 500,000 ex-prisoners
are released every year – largely un-rehabilitated. What kind of sense does that make?

Very hard to research this because the “alleged” charges against Alger Hiss continue
on and on – despite the reality of a corrupt and treasonous McCarthy and Nixon who
were the true criminals then and now.

The public barely understands the dangers to our societies which these prisons represent
because the issue is rarely covered in a way which makes clear how often crimes are
not prosecuted – millions of cases of rapes of women, for instance. Nor is it made clear
to citizens how much it is costing them to fund these prisons.

Another very important issue is Capital Punishment where the state still has the right to
murder those convicted of murder – again making no sense.

The Supreme Court struck down Capital Punishment in 1976 –
There were no opinion of the court nor even a plurality—each justice of the five-member majority issued his own concurrence without joining any other. The ruling caused all death sentences pending at the time to be reduced to life imprisonment and made all previous capital punishment statutes void. 5-4 1976 Gregg v. Georgia

It’s Been 40 Years Since the Supreme Court Tried to Fix the Death Penalty
Here’s How It Failed
At that Washington steakhouse, the troika, as they’d come to be known, decided to split the baby. They would reject the mandatory statutes, which they regarded as barbaric, but uphold the guided discretion approach. Together with the four Nixon appointees, they formed a 7-2 majority in Gregg v. Georgia, upholding Georgia’s new discretionary law, and, with Marshall and Brennan, a separate 5-4 majority rejecting the mandatory statutes. This Solomonic compromise created the bedrock principles of modern death penalty jurisprudence: that a non-arbitrary death penalty satisfies the Constitution and that the requirement of non-arbitrariness could be satisfied by Georgia’s approach.

The Gregg decision revived the American death penalty.

What followed were some very ugly right wing decisions supporting cruelty and brutality,
punishment in prisons and also in eliminating protections for young children accused of
crimes and the mentally ill … if I recall correctly.