October 30, 2011
“Imprisonment as punishment for crimes was first used during the sixteenth century in Europe. Prior to that, criminal correction usually consisted of enslavement or swift physical punishment such as whipping or execution. Prison was conceived as a more humane response to criminal behavior.” (M. Wagner. "Introduction." At Issue: How Should Prisons Treat Inmates? 2004) The prison system has come a long way since the sixteenth century in regards to technology and living environments; yet the treatment of prisoners and how they are viewed by law abiding citizens seems to have stayed the same.
People in society today have rules and guidelines to follow in order to maintain safety, structure, and self-discipline. If any of these rules are broken, there are consequences that follow. Some consequences are more severe than others based on the severity of the crime. An example would be driving while license suspended versus murder. Someone convicted of a murder could face life in prison or even the death penalty. “DWLS 1 is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, a $5000 fine and an additional one year suspension.”(S.Lawrence, waduiatty.com) Even though these are two completely different charges and two completely different crimes, these criminals will more than likely spend some time together in the same facility or even in the same cell. But when law abiding citizens and correctional officers look at prisoners, it does not really matter what the crime was or how severe the punishment, a prisoner is still a “nobody.”
Life in a county jail compared to a state prison is almost a “slap on the wrist”. Prisoners sentenced to anything over one year, are usually sent to a state penitentiary to complete their commitments. Inmates with a history of violence and/or history of aggression towards officers while incarcerated are usually placed into a behavioral module. In this module, an inmate is only released from their cell twice a day and is allowed to walk around or watch TV. in an area not much bigger than an average school cafeteria. They are, of course, closely monitored by an officer at all times. (Snohomish County Jail, 2011) With an extremely high risk inmate, a judge may place them in a solitary confinement facility, where an inmate will have no contact, or human touch, with anyone except for the correctional officers. An inmate residing in one of these facilities, is not there just for a week or two, like “the hole” where the inmate is released from solitary confinement back into “general population” at a county jail, but could spend 5 or more years on lock down. “Solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”(J.Metzner, J.Fellner, the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 2010) The human touch is a very powerful thing and many are unaware of just how important this is to all humans.
“ In recent years, U.S. prison inmates have been beaten with fists and batons, stomped on, kicked, shot, stunned with electronic devices, doused with chemical sprays, choked, and slammed face first onto concrete floors by the officers whose job it is to guard them.”(HRW, 2004) All of these crimes committed by employees of prisons usually go unnoticed and sometimes even encouraged by staff. It is a real shame how people who have clean records and have never been known to act out in violent ways take part in abusing inmates. Just because a badge is involved or a title of “officer” is in one’s favor, does not make abuse right.
The prison system is designed to help people over come a long, and/or short...