"In the Belly of the Beast" by Jack Abbott

Topics: Prison, Crime, Criminal justice Pages: 5 (1919 words) Published: December 17, 2008
“In the Belly of the Beast”
Imagine being 37 years old and spending 25 years of your life locked up, behind bars. “In the Belly of the Beast” is a collection of letters, told by Jack Henry Abbott, which expose the harsh realities of the Americas penal system. In translating Abbott’s experiences, he unveils that the current system has failed to keep dangerous criminals off the streets and that it has proved to be unsuccessful in creating a deterrent for committing crimes. According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, “State courts in 32 counties across 17 States sentenced 79,000 felons to probation in 1986. Within 3 years of sentencing, while still on probation, 43% of these felons were rearrested for a felony. Half of the arrests were for a violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault) or a drug offense (drug trafficking or drug possession).” This proves that the current system puts dangerous criminals back on the streets without being rehabilitated and that imprisonment is not a successful deterrent. Retributive punishment laws may be a morally acceptable response to crime. However, they do not correct the wrong or rehabilitate the individual(Gonzales).Abbott exposes that the American institutionalization systems are cruel and not sufficient for rehabilitation. In the penal systems, prisoners are dehumanized, stripped over their human rights. Abbott explains that he was beaten, humiliated, and thrown into solitary for days for the slightest misbehavior. During his lifetime tenure he was in many fights, one in which he killed a fellow inmate in self-defense. As a result of this rendezvous, he was sentenced to a blackout cell, in which is a cell where no light enters the room, just absolute darkness for days. The cell was only equipped with a steal toilet and sink which could not be seen. There were bugs everywhere with no bed, just bare floor. He was fed threw a hole in the door and sentenced to a starvation diet in which he only received a cup of water, a stale biscuit, and broth. This is a prime example of unnecessary punishment and cruelty that engulfs our American penal systems. The goal of our penal systems is to not transform humans to animals, but to rehabilitate individuals that have committed crimes. There was another encounter in which he was subject to experimental psychological testing in which he was chained down naked and spread out on a table for days. During this time he was severely beaten and almost choked to death. Engaging in outrageous and dehumanizing events such as this one have no reasonable explanation and can be avoided by being less cruel and being more proactive in the rehabilitation process. Another incident that divulged the cruelty of the penal systems was when the prison guards’ purposely armed other inmates and put him in a room to be killed. These accounts illustrate the unnecessary cruelness that occurs in the American prison systems. Cruelty is not the answer for rehabilitating and individual. Cruelty is the starting point for more resistance and violence, two elements that usually get a person “locked up.” After reading the accounts of Abbott, one can conclude that the American penal system does not rehabilitate individuals successfully. Jack had never committed a crime in which he hurt another human being. The only crime he had committed outside of prison was a bank robbery He had served his whole life institutionalized and only 9 months a free man. Being confined to a solitary room for 14 years of ones life can no way prove to be a successful method to change someone and make them a better person. Methods such as solitary confinement are more likely to result in a more crazy and deranged individual. It is almost if the American penal systems want to create a monster instead of helping someone realize what is wrong and change that person. A successful rehabilitation system would reduce the amount of repeat offenders, and provide less over-population....
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