No Escape

no_escape.jpg
Today I attended a meeting of a local community oriented group here in Austin (I have moved for those of you unaware). They were discussing their outrage at how the prisoners of the Abu Ghraib prison have been treated, and of course Guantanomo Bay came up as well. It reminded me of the same concern I have had about this issue all along. As deplorable as the treatment of the prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison was, does anyone actually believe they would be treated better had they been in an American prison on American soil?

A few years back there was a movie called No Escape that came out. It was a great action movie about a guy who was convicted of murder and sentenced to time on an island prison. As the name implies there was "no escape" from this prison. All it was was an island. The shores and waters right off of the island were monitored constantly for escapees using futuristic scanning technology. Any sign of human life in the water was destroyed immediately by helicopters that were apparently stationed nearby.

Once on this island a convict faced two different groups. One, which was more properly called a settlement, had renounced violence and lived in a well defended, and well organized village. The other was a fierce gang of thugs who had effectively become savages in their own right. They lived by a "kill or be killed", "might makes right" code, and would brutalize, torture, and kill anyone that was not a member of their gang. The single punishment within the other group should you violate their rules was exile from the settlement. Exile literally meant death; death that would come painfully and brutally at the hands of the other group.

I bring this up because the prevailing philosophy behind this kind of prison system, and the one in this movie in particular, was that whatever happened to a prisoner within that prison (or rather on that prison) was their own fault. It was their own fault for committing a crime, and the conditions of the island were the fault and responsibility of the residents. After all the government in this case had a "hands off" approach, except when it came to those attempting escape.

This same philosophy seems to underly the prison system in America, as has been mentioned here before. The idea is that whatever happens to prisoners in our prison system, as long as it is not directly intiated by some prison guard or official is the responsibility and fault of the prisoners.

I disagree. I think that any time you have a prisoner, regardless of the circumstances by which they came to be your prisoner, you are fully responsible for their treatment. Part of the environment that we put our prisoners in is the other people around them. We put them in a place they cannot leave, we make them deal with, live with, and encounter the same people everyday regardless of how those people are treating them. Regardless of who holds the knife, and who does the raping, we (those who control the prison and put them there) are responsible for how they are treated. Why? Because we control the environment, because we control who they room with, and whether their roommate will be punished for attacking them. Yes they may have gotten themselves there, but they did not choose the prison, they are denied weapons (with good reason), they cannot choose their roommates, and they have little protection from the legal system if attacked within prison walls. There is no: "call the police to report an assault." There might be: "call a guard and hope he cares." It depends on the rules of the prison and how powerful its gangs are.

Obviously our wardens and prison guards cannot be responsible for the way all of their prisoners treat each other all the time, but when something does happen they should endeavor to keep it from happening again. They should fix holes in their security and surveillance that allowed beatings to happen. They should separate bullies from those that they attack, they should take those who rape, beat, torture, and murder other prisoners out of the prison altogether and put them somewhere else. If these things cannot be done within the current system then the system needs to be changed. So I wonder: if the prisoners of Abu Ghraib had been raped, and beaten by fellow prisoners would we feel outrage? What if they were humiliated, and their fellow inmates took pictures?

We are responsible for how the inmates of our prisons are treated because we control the environment. When rape and torture continue to happen; when we fail to fix the holes and stop the bullies, we are responsible for what happens. Where is the outrage at the prisoners being brutally raped and beaten in American prisons everyday? Where is the outrage? Would it help if the assailants took pictures? Would we care if the rest of the world were paying attention? Would we care if we had been humiliated by it as we have been with Abu Ghraib?

Share this

No Escape sounds like the

No Escape sounds like the theme of the OECD nazis attempts to monitor your wealth and create a world wide tax information sharing system. Taxing your world wide income! who's a thunk the US would sink that low?
After watching those hicks dealing with the 'detainees' at Abu Gabu, i can see the future for anyone attempting to escape taxation. those guards are probably smarter and less violent than the average IRS/Customs employee. i'll take choice number 2. Choice 1 will get you nowhere fast. once you allow marginal types to control the ethics, its over, and watered down republicans and bartering for power is what you get. the system at present is like a junkie, its needs to have an 'epiphany' or its going to die, one or the other.

sorry, this was an

sorry, this was an amalgamated respsonse to these two last posts.