Monsters Doomed To Rot In a Hellish ‘Dungeon'
November 5, 2001 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Monsters Doomed To Rot In a Hellish ‘Dungeon' I was wondering where they would end up. Imagine expecting virgins and bliss dying a martyr for Allah, but ending up forgotten for the rest of your life in Florence, Colorado's very own Supermax in 7 by 12 foot cells, with 387 other inmates like Luis Felipe, leader of New York's Latin Kings street gang. Why does this give me such a curiously strong sense of satisfaction. And apparently it only costs the taxpaying public $ 100 per day per prisoner. What a bargain. How about abolishing the death penalty for all Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.
posted by Voyageman (63 comments total)
 
Wow. I don't quite know what my feelings are about this.
posted by aacheson at 11:09 AM on November 5, 2001


wow yeah man, they should throw some of our past presidents in there too. unfortunately the international war courts don't have a similar jail cell for murderous terrorist leaders of the "free world." i get a "curiously strong sense of satisfaction" just thinking about it.
posted by aLienated at 11:12 AM on November 5, 2001


How about abolishing maximum security prisons?
posted by sudama at 11:12 AM on November 5, 2001


good deal. prison is supposed to be unpleasant, and this one is VERY unpleasant. i love the fact that it's so cheap, as well.

and aacheson, there's probably nobody there who doesn't deserve it. you can feel fine about it.
posted by phalkin at 11:12 AM on November 5, 2001


PS Clarifying one point from the original post- the Supermax referred to in the third sentence is the Michigan City, Indiana, Supermax , not Florence, Colorado Supermax. That's the good news. If we run out of space in one, "Supermaxes" can be recreated in other States.
posted by Voyageman at 11:18 AM on November 5, 2001


I remember reading somewhere that the total isolation created in these prisons was comparable to the sensory depravation chambers the KGB used to torture their victims. This story draws some parallels in the paragraphs under the sub-heading ‘Constant state of doubt’ (about halfway down the article).

Some highlights on what happens to people when they are isolated for long periods of time:

Under prolonged solitary confinement, the mentally ill become sicker and the psychologically healthy show signs of acute mental illness. The psychological damage is akin to that suffered by torture victims, prisoners of war and Arctic explorers.

So basically, these prisons are a form of torture, since the end result is the same. Now where did that 8th amendment run off to?
posted by thewittyname at 11:30 AM on November 5, 2001


Most troubling part of this article?

"Most prisoners spend no more than a few hours a week outside there cells."

"There?"
posted by ColdChef at 11:39 AM on November 5, 2001


Saw a special on Supermax. Fantastic idea. It's what prison should be, instead of the day spas we've got all over where they can exercise, watch tv, etc.
posted by owillis at 11:39 AM on November 5, 2001


In the article posted by sudama, it states that there are inmates that are being put in the Red Onion supermax prisons that would not be housed there normally but are being put there due to shortages at other facilities. If this is true, I find it incredibly alarming.

I'm deeply ambivalent about the Supermax. Yes, I want to see bad people suffer. But it seems that the more we build tools to inflict suffering, the more likely it is that we will see them being turned against all of us.
posted by rks404 at 11:39 AM on November 5, 2001


In the article posted by sudama, it states that there are inmates that are being put in the Red Onion supermax prisons that would not be housed there normally but are being put there due to shortages at other facilities. If this is true, I find it incredibly alarming.

I'm deeply ambivalent about the Supermax. Yes, I want to see bad people suffer. But it seems that the more we build tools to inflict suffering, the more likely it is that we will see them being turned against all of us.
posted by rks404 at 11:40 AM on November 5, 2001


"How about abolishing the death penalty for all Islamic fundamentalist terrorists."

We should just abolish the death penalty for people that Voyageman doesn't like.
posted by websavvy at 11:44 AM on November 5, 2001


$100 * 387 prisoners * 365 days a year (except for leap year) = only $14,125,500. What a bargain.

ColdChef, maybe the journalist (is that the right term for the NY Post?) meant to say 'them there cells'.

Anybody here for improving society?
posted by mmarcos at 11:59 AM on November 5, 2001


throw our past presidents in there? How bout our current.

bleh. What kind of society needs things like this created?
posted by atom128 at 12:01 PM on November 5, 2001


Yes, I want to see bad people suffer

good deal. prison is supposed to be unpleasant, and this one is VERY unpleasant.

Fantastic idea. It's what prison should be, instead of the day spas we've got

How could you like this? It's completely disgusting. Why do you want to see bad people suffer? How does that help you in any way at all? How does making prison more unpleasant make your life better at all? If this is a "fantastic" idea, why not go to all-out torture? Would that be super-fantastic? Do you think there is a single criminal in prison who was about to commit the crime, and thought, "you know what? Prison, it tain't all that bad. If it was worse, I wouldn't be doing this."? Hey, why not just up the minimum sentences for every crime to like...40 years in one these things. Steal a pack of gum, forty years in the ADX. Makes sense, right? People probably wouldn't steal then.

Taking pleasure in this thing is one step from attending public executions or gladiator games.

Damn I hope I just got royally trolled.
posted by jeb at 12:22 PM on November 5, 2001


How about abolishing the death penalty for all Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

Because if we are claiming moral superiority to the terrorists, we can't do something as hypocritical as throwing out the definition of justice in favor of revenge.

Although if we want to have a consistent policy, we probably should dump the whole 'justice' thing. If we start acting rational now, people might get suspicious and call us weak-kneed liberal hippies.
posted by Hildago at 12:23 PM on November 5, 2001


What kind of society needs things like this created?

Ours, apparently, whether you want to admit it or not.
posted by Danelope at 12:28 PM on November 5, 2001


Florence/Canon City is a hub for a number of jails (half a dozen or more if I'm not mistaken). There's the Supermax, then there's the Old Max in Canon City, complete with its own art gallery. Alferd Packer, the Donner Party cannibal (a CU-Boulder dining hall bears his name) was a prisoner there.

Owillis, there are also a couple of country-club jails there, one you can see the tennis courts from the highway.
posted by m@ at 12:29 PM on November 5, 2001


I think I knew this already, but it still seems so incongruous:

Other inmates include: McVeigh's accomplice, Terry Nichols; actor Woody Harrelson's dad, Charles, who's in for murdering a federal judge; and Luis Felipe, leader of New York's Latin Kings street gang, who ordered the deaths of six gang members from his cell in another prison.
posted by Sinner at 12:35 PM on November 5, 2001


$100 * 387 prisoners * 365 days a year (except for leap year) = only $14,125,500. What a bargain.

You forgot to divide by the population of the US (according to the 2000 census)

$14,125,500 / 273,643,269 people = $0.05

That's one nickel. I'd pay a nickel a year to keep our toughest criminals off the street. That is indeed one hell of a bargain.
posted by Phlops at 12:58 PM on November 5, 2001


jeb, you have not been trolled. This is truly how people feel. But just think, we'd like to believe we're so enlightened and civilized, but just 150 years ago we had slaves. It'll take a long time before people start to believe torturing each other isn't the best response to violence.
posted by Doug at 1:01 PM on November 5, 2001


It's what prison should be, instead of the day spas we've got all over where they can exercise, watch tv, etc.


Take a tour of a local State prison and then tell me its a day spa. Its this kind of ignorance and law books full of victimless crimes that freaks me out everytime I get pulled over for some traffic violation.

I find it hard to believe that someone could have an issue with excersize, what kind of employment do you think an ex-con gets when they get out? Not a fancy desk job. Prison is supposed to be about rehab and getting people back into society, not about owillis's revenge fantasies. This even applies to those in jail for life and on death row. There's this thing called an appeal you know.

Some people like to think that jails contain only the more violent bastards in the world, when in reality you have a range of crimes and *gasp* some innocents mixed in there as well. Moving away from justice towards and revenge will always be a bad idea regardless of the current mindset of the day. I'm suprised this thread got this far without mention of other social-baddies that supposedly require special torture like the oft-mentioned child molester.
posted by skallas at 1:15 PM on November 5, 2001


Prison is supposed to be about rehab and getting people back into society, not about owillis's revenge fantasies.

Is it? Is rehabilitation really the only reason that we have prisons?

What's your view of justice, skallas? Why do we have prisons? Is it solely to protect society? Or does justice enter into the equation as well?
posted by gd779 at 1:37 PM on November 5, 2001


This is being made way too complicated, filled with moralistic and political red herrings, both on the left and on the right. Someone commits a crime and is found guilty. Here is the simple question: what is the "appropriate punishment" for "terrorist" crimes that intentionaly target and kill innocent civilians, like the latest one today (political bias and journalistic spelling aside) Gunman Murders Israeli Schoolkids and Queens Teen had a Good Soul ? Is it : A. Execution ; B. Supermax without Parole; C. Regular Prison without Parole; or D. Regular Prison with Parole? And now what if the criminal beleives that choice A is in fact, not a punishment, but the ultimate reward. Would you still pick it?
posted by Voyageman at 1:37 PM on November 5, 2001


Saw a special on Supermax. Fantastic idea. It's what prison should be, instead of the day spas we've got all over where they can exercise, watch tv, etc.

Yeah! Plus, they're great places for stuffing people suffering from severe mental illness, like this 17 year old in Wisconsin! Gotta torture those useless assholes!

In Ruiz v. Johnson, Federal District Court Judge William Wayne Justice became the first judge in the country to declare supermax conditions unconstitutional.
posted by zeb vance at 1:46 PM on November 5, 2001


justice != revenge

there is such a thing as becoming what you hate ...
posted by walrus at 2:10 PM on November 5, 2001


OK - say no supermaxes. What do we do with these guys? You're the government: you've already lost between 1 and hundreds of innocent citizens to each of these guys, they're huge flight risks, they are totally unrepentant, and they're justr plain dangerous. Your responsibility now is to never allow any of these guys to victimize another innocent - how do you do it?

I have an answer, but you are definitely not going to like it.
posted by UncleFes at 3:10 PM on November 5, 2001


UncleFes

Is the answer to put them all on an island and let them fend for themselves against wild beasts, mother nature and each other? That would be SO cool!

Oh, it's not? Nevermind.
posted by Grum at 4:36 PM on November 5, 2001


depends -- if you want to keep crowing about how we're such a civilized nation in the face of the barbarism of the world at large, you suck it up and shell out the cash to put them away for life.

or, well, execution.

and i'm guessing the latter is your answer that i'm definitely not going to like.

myself, i'd prefer not to have a hand in killing people -- and if it's going to cost me another nickel a year -- or hell, even a dollar -- i'll pay it.
posted by fishfucker at 4:38 PM on November 5, 2001


Prison is a place to keep bad people away from the rest of us as we go about our crime-free lives. It's not to rehabilitate them or allow them to lift weights (so they become bigger, stronger, and more dangerous). Why should an ex-con get a good job when he gets out? Don't commit crime then.

There are victims for these crimes, but too often the system forgets that in the pursuit of the rights of criminals.
posted by owillis at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2001


Skallas, and everyone else who has a distorted view on life. Since when was a prison meant to rehabilitate, i was always and continue to be under the impression, that prison is there to PUNISH those who break the law, not rehabilitate.
posted by Zool at 4:44 PM on November 5, 2001


Since when was a prison meant to rehabilitate, i was always and continue to be under the impression, that prison is there to PUNISH

That explains why the department that runs prisons is typically called the "department of corrections punishment." I was wondering about that.
posted by kindall at 5:08 PM on November 5, 2001


danish prisons seem cool, but dutch ones are nice!
posted by kliuless at 5:15 PM on November 5, 2001


Kindall, i can't wait for the next lot of "rehabilitated" prisoners to move into your neighbourhood.

It's not like any of them would ever re-offend.

I like sarcasm, but it's no way to defend you warped views on prison.
posted by Zool at 5:33 PM on November 5, 2001


re: rehabilitation v. punishment v. deterrence

These arguments are good for prison in general - I think there's usually a fourth aim cited in legal philosophy (vengeance?) - but they don't all apply to a SuperMax where most of the inmates (if not all) are serving life sentences w/o the possibility of parole. That pfretty much takes rehabilitation off the table.
posted by Sinner at 5:34 PM on November 5, 2001


Zool: I'd be perfectly happy to have rehabilitated criminals live in my neighborhood. But then, I know what rehabilitate means.

Anyway, Oliver, you're nutty, man! "Why should an ex-con get a good job when he gets out? " If you believe that a person should be punished for the rest of his life for a crime, why even let him out of jail? Secondly, and more importantly, ex-cons DON'T get good jobs, by and large. They get shitty manual labor jobs, as Skallas said.
On weightrooms in prison: First, let me say, I too am concerned with all the ex-cons coming out of prison and using wrestling moves to commit their crimes. So many are caught armed with lethal biceps. Really a scary thing.
Anyway, prisons have tvs and weightrooms to CONTROL the prisoners. If prisoners don't have anything, you can't take anything away from them if they're bad. And thus, very little incentive for them not to be bad. Among the groups you will NOT see protesting television and workout rooms in prisons: Corrections Officers.
The idea that being stripped of all privacy, dignity and control of ones life is made a day spa because you can watch TV and lift weights is just insane, and, it seems ignorant to me. Or maybe that seems cool to you, I dunno. We're all into different stuff.
posted by Doug at 5:55 PM on November 5, 2001


I remain convinced that for the terrorist criminal who wants to die, life without parole in Supermax is the best punishment, more approriate than lethal injection, gas, the chair, or any other form of capital punishment.
posted by Voyageman at 6:19 PM on November 5, 2001


Doug, a prisoner is released after his/her sentence has been completed, let me explain, get 5 years, get released after 5 years, maybe even sooner for good behaviour.

Where exactly in this process are you and everyone else convinced that he/she has been rehabilitated.

Oh, and Doug, for your information i do know what rehabilitate means, but i am not stupid or suffer from any other mental incapacity that blinds me into thinking that all prisoners actually get rehabilitated by the time they are released from prison.

Your whole argument is like communism, best damn way to run your country in theory, does not work in reallity.
posted by Zool at 6:20 PM on November 5, 2001


Perhaps the issue of the purpose of prisons would be easier to discuss if we were not dealing with a very, very large proportion of inmates having been convicted of victimless crimes. It's pretty amazing that society should establish no real distinction between one who has committed assault and one whose awful "crime against society" has been to smoke or ingest something which is not sanctioned by a majority of people.

What is worse, this insane war on (certain) drugs waged chiefly by the US has resulted in longer sentences for substance-related offences than are given out for many violent felonies. Another interesting side-effect of this nonsensical war has been that someone dumb enough to mail narcotics through the postal service is almost certain to land in jail in a very short period of time, but apparently real evil-doers who mail diseases to unsuspecting victims can do so at little risk. Shouldn't the infrastructure of this country be used to prevent actions which actually cause harm to innocent people, or am I misunderstanding the basis of law enforcement here?
posted by clevershark at 6:26 PM on November 5, 2001


Doug: more often than not, it is a "day spa" compared to what is left of the victim's life. Whether that's murder, rape, assault, molestation - criminals who perpetrate such crimes are lucky that they're alive, much less taken care of and have "shitty manual labor jobs". If you seriously believe pumping iron for hours on end doesn't make for a stronger, more dangerous ex-con roaming the streets, you're not really looking at thie issue either.

I don't want them to have anything. A room they sit in all day, with nothing to do. Just keep them out of our world.

And clevershark is right on about the inanity of drug crimes.
posted by owillis at 7:33 PM on November 5, 2001


Considering that the punishment I want for these guys is to be crashed at high speed into a steel furnace burning at 2000 degrees, again and again and again ... I dunno. Supermax seems kinda mild.

Certainly discussing Supermax and minor drug offenses in the same sentence doesn't make much sense. Supermax is for the most violent criminals -- or prisoners. People don't get there arbitrarily. It's also an open question whether solitary confinement in a Supermax is actually worse than being mixed with the general prison population and its gangs, criminal mentoring, and corrupt prisoner-guard relationships. Prisons are somewhat inhumane any way you slice it.

Foucault had some interesting thoughts about the evolution of prisons as society changed (paralleling comparable changes in mental institutions). Though Foucault went so far as to posit creation of conceits of "madness" and "crime" in order to fulfill societal desires to observe, confine, and control undesirable classes of persons, you don't have to got he full Marxist dialectic route here to see that the evolution of prisons goes hand in hand with societal beliefs in rehabilitation vs. punishment.
posted by dhartung at 10:07 PM on November 5, 2001


Sing it with me now: Bum da da... People get the government they deserve... la da da tra la... People get the society they deserve...

Hey, ya want yer supermax prisons? You think you need them? Well, you're welcome to them, and all they are as symptoms: they're the cough, fever and nausea before the full-on assault of a Four-Alarm Social Flu. If we've built these things, then we've already failed as a country to deal with crime- presumably, the ultimate goal of crime measures is to reduce & eliminate crime, no? Everything else- these "hurt the hurters" rantings in particular- are ultimately nothing more than a sociopathic revenge fantasy. Oddly, this mental pattern, this irrational ego-centric fight/flight wildly lashing out at "the other" response is eerily similar, dare I say identical, in form if not scale to those who are buried alive in these prisons.

Hey, welcome to the mirror, folks... enjoy the view.


posted by hincandenza at 12:01 AM on November 6, 2001


presumably, the ultimate goal of crime measures is to reduce & eliminate crime, no?

If owillis or Voyageman or others are still reading this thread, perhaps you could answer that question. Do you think the justice system should PRIMARILY aim to:

*minimize the amount of crime that gets done to people

*punish/get revenge on/"bring to justice" those who commit crimes

*simply separate the really destructive elements from society forever.
posted by jeb at 12:10 AM on November 6, 2001


I think there's usually a fourth aim cited in legal philosophy (vengeance?)

The fourth that is usually cited as a reason for imprisoning someone is incarceration. It's more difficult (but not impossible) for a person convicted to commit a crime again when incarcerated.

Notice the emphasis in the article's quotes are on how secure the prison is, and how unlikely it is that any of these people will escape.
posted by bragadocchio at 12:20 AM on November 6, 2001


Prison is indeed a punishment, but it is intended to deter, not just inflict suffering for no reason. The part of the article that disturbs me the most is this: "Here, rehabilitation is hardly an issue." They are outright admitting that the point is simply separation from society. The most disturbing thing from this thread started right at the top, with the idea that it is better not to kill them, in order to inflict more suffering.

What purpose, exactly would that suffering serve? It's not a deterrent; they'll never get out again to be deterred. It's not going to make a long-term difference to them, they will die like everyone else eventually, and their suffering in life will be of no consequence. It won't even stop others from doing the same thing they did, because people willing to die would be willing to sit in a cell and go nuts. Do you know what they call the infliction of pain and suffering for no purpose? Revenge is one of the nicer words.

I'm anti-death penalty, almost adamantly, but I will tell you this. I think execution would be the more moral thing to do to these people, if the choices were that or these prisons. When you lock someone up in a small dark place, a place you describe as hellish, and never, ever let them out again, you are taking their life away, and worse, inflicting pain and insanity. Murder, execution, would not be better, but it would force people to look at the issue for what it is. If we are going to admit failure and resort to absolutist punishment, make it the more alarming kind, so everyone gets to see.
posted by Nothing at 3:08 AM on November 6, 2001


In a situations which indicate that a prisoner is never going to walk free in society again, there is a legitimate reason for separation from a normal prison population. Someone with no reason to be concerned about the 'world out there' has no reason not to tutor other prisoners in his criminal ways. Someone with no reason to be concerned about life 'beyond the bars' has no reason to control himself and his temper, and escalate every argument with another inmate into assault or worse. In those cases, there needs to be a segregation which limits the possibility of those problems arising - and they arise.

In addition, those convicted of extraordinary crimes deserve to face extraordinary circumstances to follow. Murder 168 people and maim hundreds more (Terry Nichols)? That's pretty extraordinary. Ignore the fact that you're already imprisoned for murder and order the deaths of at least half a dozen people from behind bars? That's extraordinary. Mastermind a complex criminal organisation which causes death and mayhem for years and years (John Gotti)? That's extraordinary. Should these kinds of people be a part of a light security incarceration or allowed to mingle with other inmates? Absolutely not.

The question was raised "What kind of society" needs supermax prisons? It's a society which incubates and harbours these human monsters, allowing them to wreck havoc on untold numbers before being able to bring them down. We no longer police ourselves, police our own, so we are, indeed, a society in need of extreme measures.

We aren't putting everyday drug dealers or check kiters or even child molesters into Supermax. These are the lowest of the low, the most dangerous, least remorseful, least humane people who live -- what conditions would better suited for them?
posted by Dreama at 4:21 AM on November 6, 2001


If we take as assumption that these prisoners are lost to us forever, they need either be locked away permanently or killed, then any condition achieves that without purposely inflicting further suffering would be better suited to them. Even if they have to be alone most of the time, there is no reason to make that time into torture. It doesn't make any difference if they are the "least remorseful, least humane people who live". What about us?
posted by jeb at 9:18 AM on November 6, 2001


Phlops, that nickel certainly is good for those 387 prisioners. There are 1,381,505 other fed and state prisoners we pay more nickels for (as of 12/2000). Bummer.
posted by mmarcos at 10:44 AM on November 6, 2001


jeb: I would say all three.

We have rules and accepted behavior in society. Do not break them. It seems simple to me. Those in jail are the ones who don't "get it", hence they go bye-bye.
posted by owillis at 12:08 PM on November 6, 2001


Has anyone seen the History Channel's The Big House Specials?

My friend has the ones with Angola, Sing Sing, Folsom, and a few others, but I don't ever remember seeing Supermax in there. Where was that special you saw, owillis?
posted by adampsyche at 12:29 PM on November 6, 2001


But owillis you know that situations are not always that black-and-white. There are many, many rules in society and these rules change and evolve over time.

The vast majority of crimes are mistakes, and prison can be a place of redemption and rehabilitiation if done correctly.

I agree that committing certain crimes, or continuous law-breaking should lead to 'bye-bye,' but it seems that too many people want consign any criminal of any crime to a life away from society. Not only is that immoral (punishment should fit the crime) but it doesn't make sense, as one day most criminals will be released back into society. We need to make sure that a. prison was a place they never, ever, want to go back to but also b. prison helped 'correct' the behavior or mind-set of the criminal. We'll all be better off if we proceeded like this, and I can't help but think that the black-and-white 'bye bye' theory helps encourage recidivism
posted by cell divide at 12:38 PM on November 6, 2001


I think it is time the country breaks up into 2 or 3 smaller countries. Yes, I think that would be nice.
posted by thirteen at 12:47 PM on November 6, 2001


adampsyche: I can't find a link but it was on Discovery within the past month. I remember it because one sequence had an inmate acting up by throwing feces.

cell divide: Mistakes or not, people make an active decision to commit a crime. I prefer to err on the side of them being bad seeds, vs. saveable. Ideally I would want violent criminals locked away for good (or executed in the case of non-self defense murderers), with the others punished appropriately.
posted by owillis at 2:16 PM on November 6, 2001


I think we're confusing average born-to-lose jailbirds with the types of predators that go to supermax prisons. It's true that the guy who goes away for having a couple pounds of weed in his trunk has every possibility for successfully re-entering society so long as he isn't brutalized and has opportunities once he gets out. However, these guys don't ever see those supermax prisons - they are reserved for the really tough, dangerous, repeat violent criminals for who regular prisons are not sufficient to hold them and keep them from victimizing more people.

So we end up trapping ourselves; on one side, we are queasy about implementing the death penalty, and at the same time we are queasy about imprisoning the special cases in a facility designed to hold them. At the same time as that, we have an obligation to society, once these people are identified, to ensure they do not victimize anyone else, especially since "victimize" pretty much means "murder."

Either we have to be honest about the nature of these people and do what is necessary to uphold our responsibility to the law-abiding members of society, or we need to redefine what the responsibilities of law enforcement and corrections are. If the latter is the case, then similar redefinition must necessarily be conducted allowing the citizenry, who have currently vested the responsibility for their protection in the police at the government's request, to take steps to better protect themselves.
posted by UncleFes at 2:30 PM on November 6, 2001


I get designed to hold them, I just don't get the implied designed to brutalise them about this whole thread. It worries me when people seem to take delight in revenge: it appears to be a similar faulty logic to that with which people crash planes into buildings.
posted by walrus at 3:33 PM on November 6, 2001


What walrus said. Look, I accept that most of these criminals are truly, horrifically rotten- people I hope to god I never once have to look in the eye in some darkened alley somewhere- and who need to be removed from society because rehabilitation may actually be impossible (Of course, I also believe that you'll probably find a tiny but real percentage of innocent people in these supermax prisons who had a crummy or drunk defense lawyer, or guilty people who are in there as a political statement but not, in fact, violent or a danger to society). Yes, there is evil in the world, and all the wishing won't make it go away completely. But there's still a huge difference between "maximum security prisons as a pragmatic step to keep these people from continuing to hurt others" and "supermax prisons used to systematically torture prisoners for the sadistic delight of myopic 'law-abiding' folk who 'want those bastards TO PAY!'.".

Indeed, the supposed cheapness of these prisons also bothers me- in this, I say, let the market forces prevail. Keep prisons, all prisons, humane and decent. Even normal prisons aren't "day-spas", and one has to be woefully ignorant to believe this- although a 3-month stay in a "day spa" might change a few minds, eh? Now, if this makes prisons more expensive, it then gives us as a society a very strong incentive to seek out more creative and effective measures to combat crime and the roots of crime including social situations that may lead to statistical increases in criminal behavior. "Externalizing the costs of production" by keeping prisons supercheap and inhumane only keeps us from facing the ultimate causes and consequences of crime in our society (hence my analogy to the cough and fever before a flu). Indeed, it's not dissimilar to energy inefficiency and oil subsidization in this country preventing us from facing the economic and environmental costs directly- and making the corresponding intelligent choices now instead of later, when it will hurt more.

And frankly, I don't care if they're evil, awful people, the scum of the earth. Sure, our knee jerk reaction is to brutalize them (like they brutalized their victims), and all of us have that reaction when we hear about some of the crimes people do. But we need to be honest and recognize that murderous hateful childish element in all of us, and recognizing that should allow us to realize that we don't have the right to treat them cruelly just because we're pissed off. Our prison institutions should be dispassionate and efficient; they should be designed to be disconnected from the immediate emotional impulses we have, so that more sensible and humane solutions are envisioned. That's supposed to be the point of civilized society in general, that it gives us a form to channel our petty, childish reactions as a social group into more constructive methods, rather than running around with leg bones in our hand bashing each other's brains out by the watering hole.


posted by hincandenza at 4:05 PM on November 6, 2001


The monkeys should listen to the sheep about what to do with the wolves.
posted by thirteen at 4:17 PM on November 6, 2001


I find it interesting that because one guy is quoted in this article as stating that this particular system of incarceration is torturous and brutal, that it must automatically be true.

Yes, these prisoners are locked down in solitary for the majority of the time. However, they are provided with anything that they are allowed to have. The rooms are small with lots of overhead fluorescent light and a small window strip -- that's better than a lot of work cubicles. They have little interaction with others, but they can have all of the books and certain writing equipment that they wish. (I understand that Harrelson has limited access to a laptop, as well.)

They aren't thrown naked into a dark, stinking, vermin infested hole ala Kevin Bacon in Murder in the First. They are, however, completely isolated from society because they have repeatedly or extremely pointedly demonstrated their utter contempt for society through their criminal acts. It's only torture if you accept that it is irredeemably cruel to create a situation wherein beasts have plenty of time to ruminate over their own inhumanity instead of being free to impose it on all surrounding them.
posted by Dreama at 4:53 PM on November 6, 2001


It's about prioritization, not revenge. The most important job of the corrections industry is to safely (from POV of the public) house these criminals so that they do not continue comitting crimes. The psychological well being of the criminal is secondary - not ignored, just secondary. I've seen documentaries on the supermax prisons and, while they are not day cares, they are not torture chambers, either. There is small percentage of inmates who suffer some very bad psychological effects from being isolated, but most do not - just like there are some who suffer during incraceration in normal prisons, and those who suffer outside of prison altogether. The important aspects is that it is the suffering of the public that must be considered first.
posted by UncleFes at 8:46 PM on November 6, 2001


A lot of people seem to be assuming that regular, non Supermax prisons, are ineffective at housing criminals (i.e., they escape). Do people frequently escape from regular prisons?
posted by Charmian at 10:33 PM on November 6, 2001


Dreama: sorry, I misread the headline on the article as "Monsters Doomed To Rot In a Hellish ‘Dungeon'" ... I've never actually been to a Supermax. Who knows? Maybe they have bar billiards too.

Anyway, I was reacting to the whoops of joy rather than the actual conditions, for which I only have that article to go on.
posted by walrus at 1:50 AM on November 7, 2001


The important aspects is that it is the suffering of the public that must be considered first.

For the record, I should point out that I fundamentally agree with the above statement. I just find this idea that we should deliberately hurt or mistreat people because of their crimes to be repugnant. We're supposed to be the decent, civilised ones after all ...
posted by walrus at 2:31 AM on November 7, 2001


Do people frequently escape from regular prisons?

No, escape is rare. But often criminals will be sent to supermax prisons after murdering fellow prisoners in regular prisons, or otherwise causing harm (running gangs, atacking guards, etc.)

I just find this idea that we should deliberately hurt or mistreat people because of their crimes to be repugnant.

I don't think these people are being deliberately harmed by the corrections system. At the least, a good portion of reponsibility for their confinement is their own, although I certainly don't think anyone "earns torture." But as Dreama pointed out, the "torture" they are suffering is a rather nontraditional one, and designed to keep them secure rather than deliberately inflict harm.
posted by UncleFes at 7:23 AM on November 7, 2001


I don't think these people are being deliberately harmed by the corrections system.

I'm not sure they are either: it's the tone of the article and some of the reaction to it which got my goat. I should rely less on hyperbole and more on explanation of my position, probably.
posted by walrus at 7:30 AM on November 7, 2001


« Older Senator, I'd suck a dog's nose dry before I'd lend...   |   Political Wire Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments