In the bottomlands

“For many people in prison their worst fear is going insane, because once you do all hope is lost.  You will be locked up not only within these walls, but also within your own rapidly degenerating mind.  There is no help, and you wouldn’t even be able to work on your own case in order to get your death sentence converted.  You would sit in a cell playing with feces and screaming at phantoms that no one else could see.  This is not the place you want to lose your marbles.” — Damien Echols, Life After Death

4 thoughts on “In the bottomlands”

  1. I saw an interesting piece on the PBS Newshour blog a few days back on this topic. It was fascinating and I wanted to link it here, but it seems to have gotten lost in the ether.

    It does seem that we’d have a better chance of helping the criminally ill if we cleared some of the victimless pot-crimes out of the way. But prisons are a business, apparently. So many people have a vested interest in maintaining the jobs program.

  2. averil, you are right, but you’ve only barely touched at the tip of a huge problem. it’s not just that we’ve built a huge industry out of incarceration in this country and there are powerful vested interests supporting that. it’s also that we are tragically misguided in our approaches to education, employment, discipline, punishment, health and mental health, rehabilitation, recreation, violence, communication… you name it. we are nothing other than barbaric in the way we treat the criminal underclass. we don’t even want to admit that we have a criminal underclass. all we can think of to do with them is torment them.

    don’t get me wrong. you know i worked with criminals for several years as a paralegal. there are people in our society who simply cannot be allowed to go free. there are others who essentially need parenting even though they are adults. it’s not hard to determine humanistic solutions for these problems, but we lack the will and vision to do it.

  3. I agree. We can’t begin to have a conversation about the prison system without acknowledging that industrialization is only the tip of a very deep iceberg. Still, it seems to me like a reasonable place place to begin.

  4. averil, i have no hope for our world as it is. i wish i did. i wish we could fix our problems in a rational way. maybe we can, but i don’t see the possibility opening this side of some catastrophe that leaves most of us dead and our civilization a shambles.

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