Sunday, July 6, 2008

Crime and Punishment

There was an interesting little letter in 'Letters to the Editor' in our local paper. Seems an inmate was upset about the budget cuts at the local jail. Seems that he was upset about the fact that his only television options are "two religions channels, two shopping channels, and 15 others." I nearly cried at the inhumanity of that. (Not.) At our house, we get a total of seven. I should note that I have broken no law. This letter went on to complain that they have two hours to go into the yard, and to play handball, and otherwise, the inmates have 12 hours to play cards, stare at the wall, or basically nothing. The tensions are high there, and the writer claims that this will lead to more fighting, and/or more activities not allowed. I guess the threat here is that if we do not keep these folks entertained, there'll be hell to pay. I'm trying to follow this logic. Basically, how I'm reading this is that if the man gets bored, he's going to get in trouble, begin breaking the rules. Um. Do you think that perhaps it was this mindset that got him in jail to begin with? Better start working on his attitude, or he'll be back.
You know what? This is really starting to irk me. I get tired of hearing of the conditions over at the jail. I'm tired of hearing about the crappy food they're fed. I'm tired of hearing about the TV. The inhumanity of the guards. Do the prisoners have rights? Most certainly.
They have the right to be fed, no doubt about it. When I was raising kids, I had a 'mom-ism'. This was 'As your mother, I have a responsibility to provide you with three nutritious meals a day. Sorry you don't like the meal, but I have satisfied the requirements of my job.' I think the same rule applies here. We have an obligation to make sure that there is adequate food, that it is safe to eat, and it is nutritious. Period. Nothing more. Nothing less. If it is not 'mom's good home cooking', well, that is probably because Mom most likely is not working there.
We owe prisoners clean facilities. As previously noted, Mom most likely is not working there. As the letter writer noted, there are a lot of people with long, empty hours. Let them clean.
Prisoners have the right to be treated humanely. That's a given. But if the guards are matter-of-fact and abrupt with them, if they are not standing there listening to a long list of complaints, well, that's because the guards are there to do a job. These guards are not, as previously noted, their mamas.
The bottom line is this. People are in jail because they stepped afoul of the law. I realize, from personal experience, that the law is not infallible and that justice is not always blind, but the plain fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people in jails, in prisons, are there because they have done wrong. When a child does wrong, if a child has good parents, he will be punished for doing wrong. He will not enjoy the punishment. He shouldn't. The whole reason for the punishment is to discourage the child from repeating his misdeed. I don't think that it is simplistic at all to apply the same principles to jails and prisons. The incarcerated are there to learn a lesson. They probably will not like it. When it is done and over, when they have paid their debt to society, they should walk out of there vowing "Man, I don't want to do that again." Hopefully, they will go on to live lives that insure that they won't be incarcerated again.
The letter closed with the question, "Is this guy (the warden, I guess) a Nazi?" I've got a few questions for the prisoners. 'Are you being worked to the point of exhaustion, beaten when you finally drop and are unable to move? Are you watching your fellow inmates sicken and die around you, starving to death before your very eyes? Do you see people marched off, never to be seen again?' No? Okay. The guy is most likely not a Nazi.
Final note to all prisoners: In these days of rising gas prices, inflation, and unemployment, you've got a roof over your head, food to eat (whether you like it or not), health care, and crappy TV to watch. There are a good many people in this world who don't have access to even those basics. They've broken no laws. You've got 12 hours a day to be thinking about how you can make a difference in this world. So get thinking on it.


Scotty said...

Couldn't agree more, Debby. I believe prisons are far too easy and prisoners forget that they're in there to pay adequate compensation to society for whatever crime they committed; they are not there to be pandered to.

My mother-in-law used to work in a jail and she told me once of how prisoners went on strike and refused to work because of {and get this...)

there was no strawberry icecream available at dinner time...

Unbelievable, isn't it?

Yes, they have some basic rights but like you, I don't believe they're entitled to things that the average Joe doesn't have access to on the outside.

If I had my way?

It'd be stale bread and water under the door every third day (if I remembered) and there'd be a return to the days of making big rocks into little rocks.

That's why recidivist rates for some crimes are so high; it's just too easy a time in jail and there's no incentive NOT to be sent back there...


jeanie said...

Hmm - and maybe he could spend a little time on one of those religion channels and find out what they might be on about. Although, of course, the only time you hear about those who run those channels is when they are being considered for a little inside time also.

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Amen and well said.

steviewren said...

I doubt that inmate's letter to the editor has garnered him many friends on the outside of the jail.

Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) said...

Dear me... I don't think the concept of gaol has been very well enforced has it?? We only get four channels of TV here at Granite Glen - and I do NOT consider myself ripped off. Of course there are few evangelists on our TV except in the wee hours of the morning... and you get what's coming if you are watching telly then!

At 'em Deb!!

debby said...

This actually is my next column. It just annoys me to no end to read the inmate complaints about the jail. They eat day old bread (gasp!) I buy day old bread on purpose. I have not died. It just seems to me that they have forgotten that they are there because THEY have a debt to pay. We do not owe THEM. Off my soapbox now.

Pencil Writer said...

Amen, too, Deb! I think they should show the movie "Papillon" (with Dustin Hoffman)--but just shut it down before the ending. Keep 'em wondering if they make it off the island.

And amen, again, to the Nazi question. They don't have a clue. And I really think there's something to the "restitution" obligation convicts should be required to make for perpetrating crimes.

I like the Mosaic law where if someone stole a sheep, he had to give four (or something) to the one he stole from as restitution! For other things stolen there was a list of what constituted adequate restitution. It could be very interesting--and victims of crimes wouldn't be left holding the (empty) bag, as they so often seem to be nowadays, while the criminal gets everything for free? (Ha, ha. Except freedom.)

Go do that column. We need more level headed responses to such ridiculous complaints. Those in prison need to realize that, as you said, it's "Crime and Punishment". More of society needs to get on board with that concept, in my opinion.

PaintedPromise said...

And that's why i LOVE our own Sheriff Joe Arpaio... he is quite controversial but i find myself standing behind him shouting YES!

Go, JOE! Go, JOE!

debby said...

Yes, we've heard of your Joe. He's greatly admired here, as well. The column has already been submitted. It should run on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

I want to stand up and clap, Debby. An AHA moment, if not for the writer of the complaint.