By Mary Hamer
16 August, 2010
*HARM: We the good, holy, saintly people of society who are free of sin – Condemn, shame & hate the criminals & prisoners in our society. & Yet as Regush states: “Everyone is capable of causing harm or murder”. (1) All humans harm; We harm other humans with our anger & swear words; We harm animals: Killing them for food, clothes & medicine; & We harm the Earth with human Overpopulation, wars & nuclear bombs. So, To condemn, shame & hate criminals is To condemn, shame & hate ourselves. We humans are cruel in the way we judge others with our righteous attitudes.
*OBSERVATION & RECOMMENDATION: Prisons are a form of Caveman justice based on Newton’s 3 rd Law of Motion (2), the Revenge ethic & the Biblical eye for an eye principle; As a result of this punitive & retributive justice system, prisoners suffer many Human rights violations in prison systems such as the loss of Freedom, the risk of prison Rape & the risk of diseases such as Tuberculosis. Prison is society’s irrational, dysfunctional & vindictive method of putting people who do harm — in Cages. I argue for Prison reform, Restorative justice & improved Human rights for prisoners — To replace the current outdated, cruel & sadistic prison system.
* MISSION STATEMENT: The purpose of this essay is: #1. To explore the human rights abuses of the world’s prisons, #2. To examine people’s flawed thinking regarding Prisons & policing, #3. To understand society’s motives for incarceration & #4. To investigate: Alternatives to imprisonment. The Key sections of this paper are:
I. Human Rights Abuses in Prisons.
II. The Movement to End the Prison Industrial Complex
including A Review of the Critical Resistance Website.
III. Alternatives to Prison
including Definitions of Key Terms such as Restorative Justice.
IV. Manslaughter & Transformative Justice.
V. Final Comments & Questions.
I. PRISONS & HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES including PRISON RAPE:
*UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak describes the distressing & appalling conditions of the majority of the world’s prisoners & detainees: “In many countries I was simply shocked by the way human beings are treated in detention. As soon as they are behind bars, detainees lose most of their human rights & often are simply forgotten by the outside world”. Nowak comments on cells that are: “Dirty, crowded & without adequate light & fresh air; Cells with no beds, mattresses or blankets, No toilets apart from a hole or bucket, No toilet paper, water or food”. “The noise, smell, heat & violence in those cages was unbearable even for the prison wardens & absolutely intolerable for the prisoners, some of whom had survived many months or even years under these inhumane conditions”. “Nowak says the way societies treat persons deprived of their liberty … is one of the best indicators for the human rights culture in any country”. (3)
*STOP PRISON RAPE Presentation to the UNITED NATIONS 2006: “In it’s 1994 decision in Farmer v. Brennan, the U.S. supreme Court explicitly recognized prisoner rape as a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against cruel & unusual punishment”. The Supreme court held unanimously that officials have a responsibility to safeguard prisoners from violence perpetrated by other prisoners”. (4)
*PRISON CODE of SILENCE: This U.N. report describes the Prison ‘Code of Silence’ regarding Prison Rape: “A pervasive code of silence among corrections officials at the Corcoran State Prison in California contributed to the 1999 acquittal of 4 prison staff members charged with arranging the rapes of (Mr. D.). A 23-year old, 120 pound, first-time prisoner; (Mr. D.) was deliberately housed in solitary confinement with a sexual predator known as the ‘Booty Bandit’, in an effort by prison officials to ‘Teach him a lesson’ after he kicked a female corrections officer. The ‘Booty Bandit’ raped (Mr. D.) repeatedly over a 2 day period, as corrections officers passed by the cell & laughed”. (5)
*JUST DETENTION International states: “Victims of prisoner rape are left beaten & bloodied, contract HIV & other sexually transmitted diseases & suffer severe psychological harm”. (6)
*HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: “Statistics compiled by a U.S. Justice Department agency reveal that the rape & sexual abuse of prisoners by other prisoners & staff plague prisons nationwide”. “Certain prisoners are more vulnerable to rape & are targeted for sexual exploitation – Especially prisoners who are young, physically small or weak, gay, first offenders” (etc.) “Human Rights Watch research revealed that sexual abuse by other inmates often occurred because staff failed to adequately supervise inmates or respond appropriately to complaints of unwanted sexual activity”. (7) Human Rights Watch in the book No Escape, Chapter #8 Deliberate Indifference states: “Rape occurs in U.S. prisons because correctional officials, to a surprising extent, do little to stop it from occurring”.(8) Why does the U.S. criminal justice system allow this human rights violation of prison rape by corrections officer employees?
*Insideprison.com: “A study of four Midwestern states in 2000 found that about 1 in 5 inmates experiences some form of pressured or coerced sexual conduct while incarcerated.”(9)
II. INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT to REFORM or END the PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX:
REVIEW of the CRITICAL RESISTANCE WEBSITE:
* MISSION STATEMENT: The Critical Resistance organization’s Mission statement is: “To build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging & controlling people makes us safe. … Our work is part of global struggles against inequality & powerlessness.”
*VISION: “Critical Resistance’s vision is the creation of genuinely safe, healthy communities that respond to harm without relying on prisons & punishment.” CR is … (a) grassroots movement to stop using punishment to ‘Cure’ complicated social problems. … More police & prisons will not make our communities safer. Instead, we know that things like food, housing & freedom are what create lasting safety. We work to prevent people from being arrested or locked up in prison. … We organize to build power & to stop the devastation that … prisons & policing have brought to ourselves, our families & to our communities” “We seek alternatives to Cage based punishment & to reduce the number of prisoners & prisons”.
*FAQ’S: “Prisons are not about reducing harm in our communities & in fact, … Studies have found that imprisonment actually serves to destabilize our communities”. “Prisons are violent institutions that only perpetuate violence”. “Even the most horrendous forms of harm do not happen without a reason.” “People who commit acts of harm often have been harmed themselves in the past”. “Punishment creates the opposite of accountability – A sense of social isolation — instead of responsibility to others. … Punishment makes future harm more likely … People who have seriously harmed another need appropriate forms of support, supervision & social & economic resources”. CR provides an example of an alternative to prison: “In post-apartheid South Africa … rather than try, punish & potentially imprison those who had done harm to others under apartheid, the new government set up a Truth & Reconciliation Commission. The Commission heard testimony of people who took responsibility for their actions & were held accountable without imprisonment.”
*THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, (PIC): CR states: ”The United States uses prisons & policing as a Failed ‘solution’ to social, political & economic problems”. The PIC has many negative features including: “Oppressive systems of racism … human rights violations, the death penalty”, etc.. “The PIC is fueled by dramatic & racist reporting about ‘Crime’, ‘Delinquency’, & ‘Rebellion’, creating a culture of Fear”.
*ABOLITION: CR’S vision is “To reduce harm in our communities by creating lasting alternatives to punishment & prisons, investing in the things that truly build safe communities such as education, housing & employment, thus eliminating the ‘need’ for the prison industrial complex”. (10)
*PENAL REFORM INTERNATIONAL: Penal Reform International’s (PRI) Mission Statement is: “PRI is an international non-governmental organization working on penal & criminal justice reform worldwide”. “PRI seeks to achieve penal reform by promoting”: International human rights “In relation to law enforcement & prison conditions”, “The elimination of unfair & unethical discrimination in all penal measures”, “The abolition of the death penalty”, The reduction of imprisonment worldwide & “Support (for) the social reintegration (of) offenders whilst taking into account the interests of victims”. PRI’s Prison reform themes include: The death penalty, Health in prison, Juvenile Justice, Life Imprisonment, Prison Overcrowding & Women in Prison. (11)
III. ALTERNATIVES to PRISON:
*EDUCATION: Judge Mathis the host of “The Judge Mathis Show” has developed a Prisoner program called Prisoners Educated for Empowerment & Reform or PEER. Judge Mathis states: “I believe that anyone who was born with a right mind & maintains that right mind has an opportunity for redemption & rehabilitation”. Mathis says he “Was able to turn (his) life around through Education”; The Honorable Judge Charles Kaufman gave Mathis a sentence of probation & ordered Mathis to get a GED as a condition of his release from jail. Regarding the cost of housing prisoners: Mathis states: “We spend $30,000 on average to house a prisoner – for one year. & We spend approximately $12,000 a year for them to go to a major university”. (12) (13)
*DEFINITION OF TERMS:
*RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE: “Retributive Justice is a theory of justice that considers that punishment … is a morally acceptable response to crime”. (14)
*RESTORATIVE JUSTICE: “Restorative Justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims & offenders, instead of the need to satisfy the abstract principles of law or the need of the community to exact punishment. Victims are given an active role in a dispute & offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, ‘To repair the harm they’ve done – By apologizing, … or doing community service”. (15) “Restorative Justice involves a fostering of dialogue between the offender & the victim & has shown the highest rates of victim satisfaction, true accountability by the offender & reduced recidivism”. “The Little Book of Restorative Justice by author Howard Zehr (acknowledges the 3 questions of Retributive Justice): What laws have been broken? Who did it? What do they deserve? – Restorative Justice asks: Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Whose obligations are these?” (16) In the Restorative Justice program in Minnesota , “Trained mediators … facilitate meetings between the victim & the aggressor & (it) gives offenders a chance to voluntarily apologize & explain their actions”. (17)
*TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE: Transformative Justice: “Uses a systems approach, seeking to see problems, as not only the beginning of the crime but also the causes of crime & tries to treat an offense as a transformative relational & educational opportunity for victims, offenders & all other members of the affected community”. (18) Author Morris states that our current justice system is: “Expensive, unjust, immoral (& a) failure” & she argues for Transformative justice including a powerful discussion of Listening (including Victim-Offender Reconciliation) & Forgiveness. Morris states: “Victims need the healing release of contact with their offender(s)”. “We cannot experience transformative justice (un)till we are willing to let go of our particular graven images. & A part of letting go is both giving & receiving forgiveness to others caught up in this seductive illness”. (19)
*EXAMPLES of ALTERNATIVES to PRISON: Author Craig Russell offers examples of Alternatives to Prison including: Probation & Parole, Rehabilitation, Community Service, Boot Camp, Day reporting & House Arrest. (20)
*RESTITUTION: Also Author Anderson discusses Residential Restitution work programs coupled with probation or parole as an alternative to prison; Anderson references Lawrence : “The study shows that a state with a high incarceration rate & a large, crowded prison population can successfully divert a significant number of offenders to restitution centers at no greater risk to the community”. (21)
Legal Definition of Restitution: A “Program under which an offender is required, as a condition of his or her sentence, to repay money or donate services to the victim or society”. (22)
*ALTERNATIVES to PRISON: The Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) is a leader in the field of community-based alternatives to incarceration”. The mission of CCA is: “To promote re-integrative justice & a reduced reliance on incarceration through advocacy, services & public policy development in pursuit of civil & human rights”. CCA helps people who are seeking community reintegration & productive, law-abiding lives”. CCA helps “Reduce the collateral consequences of incarceration, strengthens families & builds safer communities”.
*Honorable Judge Weinstein of the U.S. District Court states: “The work of the Center for Community Alternatives has been extraordinarily helpful to the courts, defendants, probation & the United States in providing alternatives that protect the public while reducing unnecessary costs to the taxpayers & harm to the defendants & their families”. (23)
* NEW YORK STATE ALTERNATIVES TO INCARCERATION PROGRAMS: New York State offers offenders Alternatives to Incarceration including: Mental Illness Programs, Drug & Alcohol Programs & Community Service Programs. (24)
IV. MANSLAUGHTER: Could a Transformative Justice program be offered to someone convicted of Manslaughter?
*DEFINITION of TERMS:
Manslaughter: i.e. The killing of a human being without malice aforethought. (25) The killing of a human being unlawfully, but not willfully – as opposed to murder. (26) Manslaughters is a legal term for the killing of a human being, in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder. Murder requires either the intent to kill – A state of mind called malice – or the knowledge that one’s actions are likely to result in death; Manslaughter … requires a lack or any prior intention to kill or create a deadly situation. (27)
*Examples of Manslaughter by U.S. Law include: Provocation (with loss of self-control), Imperfect Self-Defense (an honest but unreasonable belief that deadly force was necessary) & Diminished capacity (e.g. diminished mental state – to be distinguished from mental insanity). (28)
*QUESTION: Could a Transformative Justice program be offered to a person convicted of Manslaughter? Yes, I believe that a person convicted of Manslaughter (who had No malice, No prior intention to kill) could be offered a Restorative Justice program – especially if that person has Remorse for that crime. Remorse is defined as “A feeling of deep regret”. (29) “Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful or violent”. (30)
V. FINAL COMMENTS & QUESTIONS:
*MICHAEL JACKSON’S: They Don’t Care About Us Song & Video: Michael Jackson’s song & video They Don’t Care about Us, is about prison, shame, loss of liberty, hate & human rights abuses. (31), (32) (33)
*HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: Prisoners do Not deserve the Human rights violations they are subjected to in prison such as Prison Rape. Human rights violations of prisoners is Not a part of their sentence. (34) Mecha Shiva states: Rape is never justified. (35)
*CAGING Prisoners: Can the people & societies of the world respond to Harm in a more dignified, less revengeful manner that to Cage & punish prisoners? Can the human race become more enlightened & offer people who violate society’s rules Alternatives to prison? It is important that we all ask ourselves: Do we all really feel safe in communities filled with police & prisons? – Or are the police & prisons creating greater fear in our lives? Has the Prison industrial complex brought happiness to our societies? – Or has it created more harm? I believe the Prison industrial complex is all about society’s Power, Revenge & Hate in response to other people who harm.
*PRISON RAPE: When will U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act? (36)
*AMERICA ‘S HIGH INCARCERATION RATE: Mr. Rosemann comments on Marc Mauer’s book Race to Incarcerate & America’s high incarceration rate: “These numbers are not … due to high rates of criminal activity, but rather to factors such as Social inequality, inordinate media attention given to crime, political demagoguery (‘get tough on crime’) & a long legacy of racial discrimination. Mauer makes many suggestions for a more humane & effective response to crime than the current ‘Race to incarcerate’. (Mauer) concludes his book with the moving appeal to stop ‘Cag(ing) the least fortunate among us to solve our problems’”. (37)
*PREVENTION: Can the human race put a higher priority on the Causes & Prevention of crime – Rather than on the Punishment of crime?
*EDUCATION: Why can’t the human race offer those who have harmed: Education, housing & employment – Rather than hate?
*HARM: Critical Resistance states: “We know that people who commit acts of harm often have been harmed themselves in the past”. (38) How many human beings are at a higher level of consciousness & acknowledge the pain & suffering of those that harm?
*Thank you Nelson Mandela for your leadership in the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission & offering the world a good example of an alternative of imprisonment. (39)
*Thank you Mr. Bill Quigley for your excellent essay regarding the U.S. Criminal Justice System & your Internet references regarding this topic. (40)
Salaam. Shalom. Shanti. Peace.
Thank you. Respectfully, Mary Hamer, M.D.
Mary Hamer is a medical doctor who writes Earth, peace & human rights essays.
1. Regush, Nicholas. The Breaking Point: Understanding Your Potential for Violence. Key Porter Books. 1997. Pg 176.
2. en.wikipedia.org. Newton ‘s Laws of Motion.
3. www.ohchr.org. Prison Walls – Locking Prisoners In & Society Out. U.N. Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak.
4. In the Shadows: Sexual Violence in U.S. Detention Facilities. Stop Prisoner Rape Presentation to the U.S. Committee against Torture. 2006. Referencing: Farmer v. Brennan. 511 U.S. 825 1994.
5. In the Shadows: Sexual Violence in U.S. Detention Facilities. Stop Prisoner Rape Presentation to the United Nations Committee against Torture. 2006. Referencing: Christian Parenti. Guarding their Silence. Prison Nation. Herivel & Wright eds. 2003.
6. www.justdetention.org. Just Detention International. Mission Statement.
7. www.hrw.org. U.S. Federal Statistics Show Widespread Prison Rape. Human Rights Watch. 12/15/7 .
8. Human Rights Watch. No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons. C. 2001. Pg 143.
9. www.insideprison.com. Prison Rape. By insideprison.com. May 2006. Referencing: Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 2000.
10. www.criticalresistance.org. Critical Resistance Mission Statement, Vision & FAQ’s.
11. www.penalreform.org. About PRI.
12. prisonnewsblog.com. by Michael Santos. 7/24/10 . Transcript of Larry King Show on Prison Reform. 7/23/10 .
13. en.wikipedia.org. Judge Charles Kaufman.
14. en.wikipedia.org. Retributive Justice.
15. en.wikipedia.org. Restorative Justice. Referencing: A New Kind of Criminal Justice. Parade. 10/25/9 .
16. salidacitizen.com. Restorative Justice. By Admin. Patty LaTaille. 4/24/9 . including a Reference to Zehr, Howard. The Little Book of Restorative Justice. Good Books. C. 2002. Pg 21.
17. www.forbes.com. 10 Alternatives to Prison. By Ruth David. 4/18/6 .
18. en.wikipedia.org. Transformative Justice.
19. Morris, Ruth. Stories of Transformative Justice. Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc. C. 2000. Chapter #1, 2 & 6. including a Chapter 6 Reference to Henderson, Michael. The Forgiveness Factor. Grosvenor Books. London . 1996.
20. Russell, Craig. Alternatives to Prison. Mason Crest Publishers. C. 2007.
21. Anderson, David. Sensible Justice: Alternatives to Prison. The New Press. 1998. Referencing: Lawrence, Richard. Restitution as a Cost-Effective Alternative to Incarceration. Criminal Justice, Restitution & Reconciliation. Galaway, Burt & Hudson, Joe eds. Willow Tree Press. 1990.
22. legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com. Legal Definition of Restitution.
23. www.communityalternatives.org. Center for Community Alternatives. Welcome! & About CCA.
24. dpca.state.ny.us. Alternative to Incarceration Programs.
25. www.google.com. wordnetweb.princeton.edu. Definition of Manslaughter.
26. www/google.com. en.wiktionary.org. Definition of Manslaughter.
27. en.wikipedia.org. Manslaughter.
28. en.wikipedia.org. Manslaughter. Referencing: Manslaughter in the First degree, N.Y. State Penal law section 125.20. State Legislative web site (Search for Penal Law).
29. www.google.com. wordnetweb.princeton.edu. Definition of Remorse.
30. en.wikipedia.org. Remorse. Referencing: O’Hear, Michael. (1996-1997) Remorse, Cooperation & Acceptance of Responsibility: The Structure, Implementation & Reform of Section 3E1.1 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. 91, NW, U.L. Rev. Pg 1507.
31. en.wikipedia.org. They Don’t Care about Us. HIStory album. 1996
32. www.azlyrics.com. Michael Jackson Lyrics. They Don’t Care about Us.
33. www.youtube.com. Michael Jackson They Don’t Care about Us (Official Prison Version).
35. www.rhrealitycheck.org. Lovisa Stannow’s blog. Comments: by Mecha Shiva. 5/5/10 .
36. www.justdetention.org. Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.
37. Mauer, Marc. Race to Incarcerate. New Press. 1999. www.amazon.com . Reviews Section. Philipp Rosemann.
38. www.criticalresistance.org. FAQ’s.
39. en.wikipedia.org. Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
40. Quigley, Bill. Fourteen Examples of Systemic Racism in the U.S. Criminal Justice System. Countercurrents.org. 7/26/10 .Share on Facebook