- Politics and Social Issues
Prison Life: Truth About Justice
The Ugly Truth
Every time this subject is brought up, I hesitate to join the discussion. Having spent two years working at Lansing State Penitentiary, I am a firm believer that capital punishment is unequivocally the wrong means of punishment to carry out on any offender, regardless of his or her crime. Having said that, there also needs to be clarity on what life is really like inside the walls of a prison.
People tend to believe that inmates live a life of luxury. They have free food, cable television, a place to exercise and a nice library where they are allowed to study and further their education. Some people believe that prisoners can even obtain a law degree while behind bars. Please allow me to set the record a bit more straight.
Prison is a horrible place. I spent two years at Lansing State Penitentiary and I cannot recall one single meal that was the least bit appetizing. We had a very limited amount of time to eat because we were on the same schedule that the maximum security inmates were on. There is no cable television. There are only the very basic channels that an antenna picks up as well as an inter-prison channel that delivers news about what's going on inside the walls. Since 1984, when President Reagan rescinded the Pell Grant option for inmates, it became impossible for prisoners to get any kind of college education. As you walk from the main tower into the maximum security yard past the cell blocks, there was no grass, no flowers, no view, nothing that smelled nice. It was dark, gray and ugly every day. It was a place that never allowed for mood changes or for happiness although there was a lot of anger, sadness and emotion. The guards were there to maintain stability and what I would call a sense of "nothing." Inmates seemed to lose themselves. And that "exercise area" is out in general population yard so if you have a problem with someone, if you owe someone money or food or if someone has it in for you, chances are you're going to stay in your cell and hopefully get some fresh air tomorrow. Debts double by the day in prison. Sometimes they turn from owing food to owing money to owing yourself. Every time we walked a new group of youth offenders through "D" Cell block, the inmates would start making bets on who would return and who would belong to them. And they were dead serious.
I am cognizant of the fact that I speak about prison in a negative way but the foulness of prison serves a dutiful purpose. In my opinion, when you put a man or woman to death, you set them free. They no longer have to live in the tormented and vile world of the prison. They don't have to live in fear of their life on a daily basis, and it truly is that type of fear. I recognize too that it is not cheap to house inmates however, there was a time when prisons were much more self sufficient than they are today. I am a great supporter of the chain gang, and although that sounds primeval, it doesn't mean that inmates have to be literally chained together. But they can do manual labor, they can work the ground, grow their own food, raise their own livestock and become more independently run. I would think that would also give a man or woman a sense of pride in knowing that they accomplished something so great.
Final Thought: I cannot now and will not ever be a proponent of the death penalty. As a child of a mother who was killed, I would much rather that man spend his days rotting in prison for what he did. I would prefer he become slave to another man's evil. My mother is free. I don't want him to be free because he doesn't deserve it. What he does deserve is to spend the rest of his life being someone's personal assistant in every sense of the title. He needs to know what it's like to be stripped of your soul. And then live it every single day, just as we do.
The man my entire family suspects killed my mother was never charged in her death and her case has been closed.
Now that you have a little more insight, would you choose to allow a murderer to be "freed"? Or would you sentence him to a life of misery, locked down in a hellish nightmare every day for the rest of his life?
I would highly suggest watching the show On Death Row by Werner Herzog. He is a German in the United States who interviews men that are going to be put to death. It's chilling, to say the least. The men he interviews give disturbing details of the oppression in prison and the "freedom" that they will experience when they are put to death. I'm not okay with that.
The show is on Investigation Discovery.