for the utterly preventable harm he said he’d endured
October 21, 2019 10:48 AM   Subscribe

For My Incarcerated Clients, There Is No Winning by Peter Borenstein [The Marshall Project]

"This man was a prisoner and had sent me, a lawyer who does civil lawsuits, a heartbreaking letter that said he had been ignored while an injury became gangrenous. He wanted to sue the prison in court for the utterly preventable harm he said he’d endured."
posted by readinghippo (8 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
They just...let his hand develop gangrene. People really are the fuckin' worst, aren't they?
posted by notsnot at 11:24 AM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is powerfully written, perhaps in part because the author manages to paint the American justice system in a considerably more positive light than it deserves.

In any functioning justice system, this:
“I’ve got witnesses who will testify for me. I’ve got the paperwork, the names of the nurses and the doctor. They’re still here! I just want to win, for once! Please!”
... would, if accurate, set up a slam-dunk case even if it took a while. But the system is so deeply and deliberately rigged against prisoner litigation that even the most thoroughly substantiated case has less than a rigged coin-flip's chance of prevailing over any time-scale.
posted by Not A Thing at 11:52 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is adjacent to the exact story linked here, but a couple of links down on the same site is an interview with one of the co-hosts of Ear Hustle, which is a fantastic podcast. If you haven't listened to it, it's worth checking out - the premise is essentially "incarcerated people are humans too" and it's a very nuanced set of stories about life in prison. It's produced out of San Quentin Prison and hosted by a combination of imprisoned and outside hosts. It definitely brings to light the voices of people who are easily stereotyped and rarely listened to. It can be heavy, but I'm continuallly impressed by the intensity and complexity of the stories they tell. Also they include a lot of really good music (performed/produced by inmates).
posted by telepanda at 2:23 PM on October 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

I expected this to be a longread.

I don't know why I thought that.
posted by tivalasvegas at 4:55 PM on October 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

What's struck me about this is this is exactly what trauma informed care is all about, which is nice to see even if the outcome and the story itself are rage inducing.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:13 PM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I heard an interview on the radio once with two women who were doing research on mental health in Minnesota prisons. They soon realized they had to include physical health in their analysis because the two were so intertwined and both were abysmal.

At one point they mentioned that at one institution the beef in the kitchen was marked "not for human consumption". Incarcerated people worked in those kitchens. So everyone in the prison knew that they were being given animal food. Most likely that was a choice that was approved all the way to the top.

I think about that a lot. Knowing the institution is feeding you dog food, and you know they know. Of course you would be desperate for a win, especially against those people, and it would only ever come from the outside.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:48 PM on October 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

With the largest prison system in the world, you'd think America would do it better. Exceptionalism and all that.
posted by sneebler at 9:55 AM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

you'd think America would do it better.
But we do, for certain values of 'better'! (our definition of 'better' and the operators/retirement funds definition of 'better' differ wildly, I suspect)
posted by CrystalDave at 11:06 AM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

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