9/21/2012

Torture in U.S. Prisons? Historic Senate Hearing Takes Up Solitary Confinement's Devastating Toll

Torture in U.S. Prisons? Historic Senate Hearing Takes Up Solitary Confinement's Devastating Toll

(Click on Link Above)


This topic is something many Americans do not want to discuss, the plight of prisoners in the American prison system.  So many people, not a part of that system, feel the answer to issues involving right and wrong is simply to throw an unlawful person behind bars and toss away the key.   If a prisoner is treated poorly, so be it.  Perhaps inmates should have thought more cautiously prior to their offense.  For some reason, in society's mind, once they commit a crime, they lose their rights and  give up their right for human dignity.

How easily the general population forgets one day they may be back out on the street and even more angry than before they were pulled out of their home/life and put in a cage/prison cell.  What do they suppose the inmates will do with all that pent up anger if they are caged and treated horribly and find themselves finally free with a chance to let it all out?   What of the inmate who has a family at home hurting because their son, their spouse, their mother or their father is incarcerated because of poor choices; do they, the inmate deserve to be kept safe while in the state's custody serving time?  Does being incarcerated mean they are eligible for poor treatment, no dignity?  Isn't that system suppose to attempt to punish them and yet also give them time to reflect and come out a better person?   How can that happen if they are tortured?  What if they are falsely accused and, while awaiting trial they are put in isolation and are awaiting a second trial and at the first one are charged?  Your attitude changes dramatically on this topic when it becomes personal!

These are tough questions and I tip my hat to Senator Durbin for sticking his neck out there and delving into this topic.   He is showing compassion for a topic that is less than favorably in so many people's eyes. I believe that anyone who has an interest in this issue should let any member  serving on the Senate Judicial Committee know.

I can honestly say, until it touched me personally, I would have been hesitant to watch the clip, would have reservations about writing a congressmen and would not have taken the issue to heart.  Now I have learned more and I am astounded with the fact. Inmates are being placed in solitary confinement that are non-violent. It is not reserved for serial killers, rapists, ax saw murderers, repeat offenders. It is at the jail's discretion.   You, as an outside, never really know what is going on inside because all communication is screened going in and coming out.  Some people get put in isolation and the key is, metaphorically, thrown away.  23 hours a day  in a small cell by yourself day in and day out when you are not a menace to the prison population and are not given a chance to get counseling and yet the prison will claim you are evaluated and are fine.   Ask health care professionals in the mental health field  who would be fine under those circumstances.  These inmates have no bonding with anyone, they are alone, scared and feel lifeless   Essentially they lose their minds.   Thus, suicide abounds.   Some don't even wait for their  trial dates in court to check out.  They give up before they even get a conviction if they are kept in solitary too long.  The silence in a cell can be deafening.

Anthony Graves was a quiet man. He had to be for years.   He served 18 years in prison in the state of Texas on Death Row for killing a woman and several of her children. Now he is making noise; positive noise.   I hope people are listening to what he is saying and people care about his message.  Wrongly convicted, Mr. Graves spent much of his time in solitaire.  In 2010 his conviction was overturned  when the real killer stepped forward. In Graves words "Solitary confinement dehumanizes us all." He is now speaking out about his experience  in prison , testifying infront of Congress's congressional hearing looking into this Prison system of solitary confinement's precedence in our country's prisons and its effect. He also is  speaking all over America about the effects of this type of torture going on in our prison and his personal experience.

Isolation, solitary confinement as it is called, is not the beginning of rehabilitation, it is the end.   The beginning of the end.  It messes with the mind; it drives  even a sane person insane.  It is not humane treatment and it is being used at alarmingly high rates in prisons nowadays..  Inmates are creating self inflicting wounds or killing themselves because of this torture.  It cannot go on unchecked.   We have more people incarcerated in isolation than any other democratic state in the world. This has to stop.

For Dan, my step son, solitary confinement was the end of his world. When he was placed in jail, he began in solitary confinement. It was the beginning of December 2011.  Four months later, with no break from the isolation,  he decided not to wait for his trial date to come.   I suppose he thought the key to his cell was lost and that the prison guards had given up looking for it.  I think he thought the world had forgotten his existence and went on without him.   On March 19, 2012, he went out of that cell the only way he thought he could leave.  

Please care about this issue.  These men and women are not just statistics.


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