It is a damnable paradox that those of us who are aware of the need for change are the least able to affect it. This has been true throughout history and throughout the world. It is no less true today here in prison. It can often be frustratingly confusing how the general population is either unaware or uncaring of the situation.
We know that the inhumane and abusive treatment of dogs will cause them to become dysfunctional, aggressive, and unfit for any normal role in our daily life. We can’t have our dogs biting strangers, peeing on the couch, or chewing all our stuff in a fit of nervous anxiety.
So we have created laws and a system to protect dogs; to keep them safe and healthy. When trainers, kennels, or owners violate these laws they are publicly chastised and punished. The dogs are then given the proper care and hopefully recover.
There are a lot of people looking out for the world dogs. Watch groups, dog lovers, and associations to name a few. A lot of money is donated to keep dogs safe, healthy, and happy. None of us would be okay with casual systemic abuse of “our best friend.”
Even the ones abusing the dogs would likely be surprised at how badly they were actually treating their animals. They often started off treating their animals with great care and it is only by degrees that the level of care degrades into abuse. Spread out over time it is often unnoticed by the perpetrator, perhaps they missed feeding the animal once or twice but then this becomes habitual and they are soon starving the animal. Perhaps they hit the animal once in a flash of temper, they feel bad immediately, but eventually, as a dog forgives they do it again; or perhaps they didn’t have enough room for two dogs, but they “temporarily” take in a second dog. Over time the room allotted for one dog must now be sufficient for two.
It is easy to see how bad habits are formed. It is human nature. We all have some.
It is not evil, just human. Bad habits are also a condition that can affect every aspect of our lives and Society because groups of people can develop bad habits, just like individuals. Such as systemic discrimination.
As a prisoner, I see this systemic abuse happen regularly. I find myself on the receiving end of systemic discrimination and abuse all the time. I am made to feel the shame and humiliation of simply being me.
Who I am is never in question, however, what I am is all that matters. Prisoner. Transgender. Felon. Queer. Degenerate. I watch it on the news and I hear it from the guards. I read it in the papers. The message is simply that “I’m no good, worthless.”
I live in a cage built to house 1 person but it holds 2. Your bathroom is bigger and this cage. I’m not kidding! I live on a “pod” designed to house 10 people. It holds 24. We share 2 sinks, showers, and toilets. Not very good at all. The entire bathroom is less than 20’x10’. We couldn’t all stand in there at the same time. That is one small example of the way we are treated. I have come to believe and accept that only we prisoners care about this.
I have come to understand that we are not as valuable as dogs. I don’t see advertisements on TV about the horrible conditions, inhumane treatment, and mind-numbing abuse I suffer every day. It is a fact that there are more people looking out for dogs than us.
It’s hard for me to imagine what people think of how being in prison is. I’ve never been ignorant of it. I was locked up at age 13. All the books, movies, legends, and rumors never convey the whole truth of it. The sense of despair, of total ruination. The fear, the dread, and the crying alone at night when you miss your mom, your wife, your kids, or your dog. The neverending feeling of utter alienation, of the failure as a human. The knowing that there is no coming back from this, no forgiveness, or redemption.
Being made painfully aware that you are powerless and that no one will save you from the beatings, the rapings, or the killings. No one cares. Being told when you can or can’t use the bathroom, eat, shower or sleep. Being reminded that your humanity was taken, not just your freedom. No one cares and no one will.
Is it any wonder then, that drugs run rampant in prisons and gangs are formed? At its root, this is an attempt to protect oneself. To try and retain sanity and humanity. To alleviate the agony of reality.
I am against gangs and drugs. I feel they are the easy way out, but I understand them and I sympathize. I feel the same pain and long for the same relief but my way is different. I fight for the world to realize that the beatings and abusing your dog or me will not stop it/us from biting people. Even if we are all just dogs (or less than), the way we are treated is unskillful.
90% of prisoners will be released. They will leave far worse than they arrived.
Why? Because American penology it’s based on shame and degradation, power and control, punishment not rehabilitation, not correction, and certainly not treatment. All prison-based “treatment” is about graduating as many prisoners as possible in order to get more money and funding to pay for more prisoners. No one in charge wants to spend a nickel or a minute on actually effectuating positive change in prisoners as that might keep some of them from coming back and that’s not good for business. Make no mistake about it prisons are a business. A fast-growing American business.
The government will tell you it’s to keep you safe. That the justice system works. That it is a correctional system that helps, but if that’s true then why has the prison population in our country more than tripled in the last 30 years? America has the largest prison population in the world. That is more than China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, etc…
America, the land of the free, puts more of its people in cages than any 2 other countries combined! Then they mistreated them in ways that would be illegal if we were dogs.
They sell the whole package to the taxpaying public as a service and steal from the good law-abiding folk in the form of hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars to pay for it. All the while creating the drug-crazed gang bangers and monsters who will return to your neighborhood and show everyone all the cool stuff that person has taught them. Brilliant!
There is a better way, of course. Just look at those countries that do not lock people up for years; who also have low crime rates and that have a good socially responsible policy regarding justice, crime, and keeping everyone safe. Such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark.
Over there people only spend a few years in prison, then return to the streets better. They retake their place in society, contributing and adding value. They are not stigmatized, not vilified. They made a mistake, paid their debt, got treatment, learned from their mistake, and then returned to society. All this in a couple of years, not 10 or 20. Only America hands out sentences like that. Only America has the problems that its policies create.
As long as politicians, cops, and judges think that it is okay their policies will continue. Only regular folk, citizens are able to change the policies. By telling your local Representatives, the mayors, the Senators, you can effect change.
If the German citizens knew of the horrors of their labor camps and prisons, and had been motivated to stop them, World War 2 would have looked very different in our history books.
Well, now you know…