Thursday, April 21, 2005

Is Bexar County Jail Another Abu Gharib? Probably.

In a recent press conference, Michael Idrogo ( Campaign Web Site ) candidate for Mayor, demanded the City reopen it's own jail and cancel all contracts with Bexar County Jail due to reports of ongoing TORTURE.

“In one report, an inmate apparently named Braunig, was tortured so badly that his tongue was swollen to the size of a cow's tongue; it appeared a second nose was growing out of the bridge of his nose; and a tracheotomy was performed in apparent attempts to keep him alive. It further appears that in-house jail medical staff assist in covering it up.”

For all you folks who think it can’t happen here, check out the recent events at Abu Gharib. Many have been willing to turn a blind eye to those events, and to torture in general, on the grounds that it is essential to fight terror. Bull pucky!! It has nothing to do with fighting terror and everything to do with human nature.

The torturers at Abu Gharib did not learn their craft in Iraq. They mastered it in the American civilian prison system, where most of them were employed before their deployment, and where such practices are notoriously widespread.

If you think such behavior is un-American, you’re absolutely correct. If you however believe that American government employees don’t perpetrate such acts every day on American civilian citizens, then you are dangerously naive.

Jailers torture their inmates because that’s what people do when they are given absolute power over those in their charge. It is only natural. If you doubt this fact, I refer you to The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study of the .... If you believe such events are aberrations because their honest jailer colleagues will prevent or report any such behavior they witness, I refer you to The Milgram Experiment: A Lesson in Depravity. If you think our jailors are professionals, I suggest you blow off getting your GED and just get a job in the Corrections Department.

Prisoner abuse is not the fault of a few bad apples. The responsibility lies on all of us. There is always money for lucrative building contracts for new prisons but never enough funds for hiring more Corrections officers, or raising their salaries to a living wage, or for training and psychological support services, or for cameras and supervision. Even these measures would not be enough. Corrections officers need to be rotated and furloughed for disciplinary and psychological reasons. The stress of being a prison guard is immense and the strain would eventually get to a saint. Nobody’s psyche or character could sustain such assaults day in and day out, year after year, and not sustain traumatic damage. Check out the statistics on Delayed Stress Syndrome among ex-corrections officials.

For these reasons this writer believes that while well intentioned, Michel Idrogo’s demand will prove futile. Just changing the bureaucratic jurisdiction of responsibility for prisoners will accomplish little, if anything. In fact, it may be counterproductive. The resulting disorganization during any such transition period might inadvertently increase the likelihood of torture and neglect in the Bexar County Jail.

I salute Mr. Idrogo’s call for justice for the least among us. It is a courageous position to take that will probably get him very few votes. But, if more politicians had concerned themselves with such issues twenty tears ago, the honorable individuals who serve in this nation’s military might not have been so shamed by the behavior of those who merely did what came naturally to them.

For the time being, my bet is that politicians will continue in self-serving cowardice when it comes to justice for the incarcerated and torture will continue to be widespread in the corrections system. So if you don’t have a 15-inch bicep and a taste for man-flesh, I suggest you keep your nose very clean indeed; because if you get incarcerated in Texas, you will loose more than just your freedom. You will likely loose you teeth and your chastity as well. You may even loose your life.


At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...luctrative building contracts for new prisons but never enough funds for hiring more corrections officers..

As if hiring more corrections officers would solve the problem. That would simply make their "reign of terror" even more absolute.

For that matter, to even use the term "corrections" when referring to these officers implies that some sort of "fix" is taking place, when clearly that is not the case in the US prison system.

Prisons in the US create criminals, they don't rehabilitate, correct, or otherwise turn "criminals" into productive members of society.

For the most part, people that make a few mistakes, a few bad choices end up in prison. For instance, non-violent drug offenders end up in prison for what? harming themselves but not harming others. After a few years in prison, they are seasoned, violent people who will likely end up in jail again for far more serious offenses.

Our elected officials keep creating new laws in order to put MORE people into prison, and they make laws to keep them in prison longer.

This is really suspect given that more and more prisons are turned over to the private sector as "commercial ventures". Businesses that are running prisons have a vested interest in:
* Putting more people in prison
* Keeping people in prison longer

Frankly, I think the entire US prison system (perhaps the entire "justice" system that doesn't dole out anything remotely related to justice) is despicable.


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