All posts by jlrust13

Theory Post – Prison conditions

Dear readers,

In past posts I have focused primarily on the negative aspects of prison conditions, highlighting particularly one side in regards to these conditions. There are two sides to every story and this one is quite simple: one being in support of prison reform and the other not. Those not in support of prison reform is not necessarily outwardly spoken, but rather can be seen through lack of action, lack of funding, and continuing to ignore the issue at hand. As I sit here writing this post I am trying to find a way for each side to compromise, but there is just no such thing as compromise when looking at this topic. And my only conclusion is: prison reform is necessary.

By no means should prisons be luxurious, but they should at least be humane and livable. In order to achieve prison reform several steps will need to be taken. The first step that should be taken is education. By educating society and both parties of what is really happening within prison walls a general understanding of why reform is necessary can be achieved. The steps following should include, more funding for prison staff, mental health services, and other specialized units. Especially considering that 12% of the total prison population requires mental health services. Lastly, prisons should be required to follow and abide by current prison laws such as PREA. I believe if we are able to implement the above reform can be achieved.

Self Analysis

Dear Readers,

Thanks for checking back one last time. For this post, I want to take a minute to reflect on my growth as a writer and a learner during my time researching this topic.   When my group agreed to focus on prison systems weeks ago, I didn’t know much of anything regarding prison systems. The extent of my knowledge was gained only from what I had seen on Orange is the New Black and brief conversations in other classes.   I will admit though, I came into this project fairly biased that the conditions within the prisons were nothing to praise, but this did not stop me from trying to keep an open mind during my research.

As I embarked on the journey of investigating the conditions within prisons and the treatment of prisoners, I soon realized my biased opinion was easily confirmable. This only made things easier for me as I found myself becoming more and more passionate about the wellbeing of inmates. It’s funny, I never thought that would be something I would consider a passion.

I feel that my greatest strength during this project was not only my ability to support my claim with factual and emotional evidence, but also being able to openly question the current practices. I found this to be the best way to connect with my readers and to keep them engaged.   With that being said, I can honestly say I have several weaknesses in regards to this project. I feel that two most prominent are: first, my inability to try to understand the opposing side’s point of view. As I said before, I did try to keep an open mind while researching, but I found that to be extremely challenging once my opinion was confirmed. And second, timeliness. At one point during the project I found myself becoming so preoccupied with other issues in my personal life that the importance of this project slipped away from me. This made it extremely difficult for me to regain the passion and motivation I once had.

Looking back at all the research and time I put into this subject, I feel like I can confidently say I am well informed on the topic. By spending time doing weekly postings, analyzing the topic, offering solutions, etc., I found that the skills I have gained go beyond the basics. I feel that I have grown as a person while trying to master this topic, especially considering the obstacles I faced. This project has made me realize how essential it is to educate our society on pressing such as these.

In conclusion, the conditions of prisons and the treatment of prisoners are corrupt, inhumane, and foul. And I will continue to advocate for prison reform outside this blog, as it has become an issue important to me.

As I finish this post, I just want to say that I hope you enjoyed following my blog as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Implications of prison conditions

Dear Readers,

As I finish up my final posts, I want to take a minute and consider the implications the current conditions within prison systems has in our country, and what could result if they continue. From my research and weekly postings, it is apparent that the conditions within prisons are nothing to praise and will only continue to produce negative results.  I believe the biggest implication in regards to prison conditions results from the lives lost due to these conditions. We are imprisoning people for killing others, but what does it say about our justice system when we are in turn killing them? Conditions have gotten so bad, that people are actually dying. Prison is a place of reform and rehabilitation, not inhumane practices. By continuing to support the current prison condition through underfunding and lack of acknowledgement to the current laws (ex. Prison Rape Elimination Act, Eighth Amendment) pertaining to prison/ prisoner treatment, we are in turn supporting a country with corrupt morals.

The acceptance of prison rape

Dear Readers,

If you missed my last blog post you can check it out here. For my last weekly post I want to discuss the rape culture in prisons and the actions or as some would say, lack of actions that have taken thus far.

In 1996 two prison-related phenomena was brought to light. The first was the acceptance of laws allowing juveniles to be sent to adult prisons for non-violent crimes. The second was prison rape. This started circulating after 17-year-old Rodney Hulin Jr. used his bed sheets as noose to hang himself after being raped, beaten, and forced to perform oral sex within three days of his sentence.   Studies show that prisoners under 18 in adult prisons report being sexually attacked five times more than those detained in juvenile institutions.

Something to consider: North Carolina automatically tries 16-year-olds and up as adults.

In 2003 congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), to protect inmates from sexual assault.  PREA cannot be considered a complete failure, but close to it.  Since the implementation of PREA, cases of in-prison rape have continued. In 2011 it was estimated by the federal government that nearly 200,000 people were sexually abused in American detention facilities.   Eight years after implementing the zero-tolerance law and yet rape elimination in prisons is nowhere near being achieved…

All states were required to have either complied or promise to comply with PREA by May of 2014 or else they would be penalized with a loss of 5% of their federal finding for the prison. It has come to my attention that more states have agreed to comply not to protect the wellbeing of their inmates but rather to save their funding.

A particular case of prison rape that caught my eye was one reported by The Marshall Project, which delves into one inmates experience and the evolution of PREA. At the time, 17-year-old John Doe (who chose to stay anonymous to protect his identity) was sentenced to an adult prison where he was raped countless times and received no intervention by prison guards regardless of the fact that their station was located at the end of his hall. The article states:

“He assumed the staff knew what was happening. From their station at the end of the hall, the officers would see men going in and out of his cell and they would not intervene. The rapists would put a towel over the cell door’s window, which was not allowed but must have been noticed by officers making their rounds. John says some of the officers would even make jokes, calling him a ‘fag,’ a ‘girl,’ and a ‘bust-down.’”

In wasn’t until John couldn’t take it anymore and asked to be relocated, that the guards assigned him to a room closer to the guard stand.

What does that say about our prison systems?

NC prisons on mental illness

Dear readers,

Hey guys, if you missed my last blog post you can check it out here. Today I want to focus on how North Carolina prisons are dealing with mental illness and mentally ill inmates. Over these past couple of weeks through researching the different aspects of conditions within North Carolina prisons, I have come across several cases of neglect against mentally ill inmates. One that has recently been circulating in the news and on social media is the case of Michael Anthony Kerr, which I discussed in a previous post.

Roughly 4,600, or 12 percent, of North Carolina’s total prison population require mental health care. And unfortunately, not all the inmates requiring this medical attention receive it. North Carolina corrections chief David Guice has requested that $20 million go to the improvement of the treatment of inmates with mental illness in state prison’s. This funding is hoped to cover the expenses of 300 additional mental health care staff for the state, an additional 64 for Central Prison’s mental health unit, and 76 probation officers. Corrections chief David Guice openly stated at a meeting of the state’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety, that this won’t be cheap especially considering how underfunded the system is. He continues to state that budget cuts have “emptied one-third of the beds at Central Prison’s inpatient unit for severely mentally ill inmates.” Although Guice tells the public that the state has already taken action and implemented changes, reports of the treatment of the inmates with mental illness prove otherwise. These individuals are still being subject to negligence and cruelty through the over-practice of solitary confinement and the lack of health care.

How long can prison system’s wait to implement reforms that are clearly necessary? You would think that after the death of Michael Anthony Kerr, officials would be going to great lengths to correct their mistakes made.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the government should put more money toward state prisons? Let me know what you think and check back next week!

The ugly truth behind prison guard brutality

Dear readers,

Welcome back!  If you missed my last post on solitary confinement you can check it out here. Today I want to focus on horrific truths of prison guard brutality that goes on behind closed curtain in not only North Carolina prisons but in prisons nationwide.

 In 2012 a case surfaced after a group of inmates from Sampson Correctional Institution, a medium security prison located in Clinton, North Carolina, submitted a letter to the U.S. district court in Greensboro.  The letter disclosed information about humiliating, mentally damaging, and physically harmful tasks prison guards were forcing inmates to participate in.  These included rubbing habanero hot sauce on their genitals leaving excruciating blisters, stripping naked and making the inmates pretend to have sex as a form on entertainment for the guards, and gulping unspecified amounts of “Exotic Hot Sauce” that was purchased online.  Unfortunately these are not the only acts the inmates were forced to do.  The letter continued to state that when the inmates were working as road crew they were ordered to capture and kiss wild snakes as well as capture rabbits and throw them into oncoming traffic.  Those who participated were rewarded with preferred work assignments, food, cigarettes, and alcohol.  Something to consider is that both cigarettes and alcohol are banned in North Carolina prisons.  Unfortunately this is a minor case the United states has seen involving prison guard brutality.

 In 2010, Alabama prison inmate Rocrast Mack died a cruel death at the age of 24. Mack, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a drug conviction at Ventress Correctional facility, was beaten to death as a response to lack of cooperation by a female corrections officer and accompanying officials.  The corrections officers claimed that they reacted out of self-defense and followed protocol properly and that Mack’s death was a result of him falling.  When the FBI investigated the death of Rocrast Mack, the claims of the corrections officers involved didn’t quite add up.  Mack was beaten to the point of brain swelling due to multiple blows to the head, bruises that covered his entire body, and his front teeth knocked out.  Once the truth was revealed, four prison guards were sentenced to varying prison time.

I have included these two cases of prison guard brutality ranging from minor to severe to display the corruption that is hidden within prison systems.  Although these cases are from 2010 and 2012, this is still a prevalent national problem that deserves more attention than given.  I also included these cases to get you to really think about how inmates are treated while serving their sentences and the lasting effects that this abuse has on the prisoners.  Neither case shows fair or humane treatment which in my opinion is wrong.

After researching these cases the first question that came to mind was why? More specifically, why demonstrate such behavior that will only encourage these inmates to respond identically inside and outside of the prison system? One point of imprisonment is to lower the rates of criminal activity, but how is that expected when the criminal activity continues behind bars?

What was the first question that came to your mind? What are your thoughts on the abuse that goes on prison systems?  Do you think the inmates deserve this kind of treatment?  Why or why not? Let me know what you think and check back next Tuesday!

Thoughts on solitary confinement…

Dear readers,

If you didn’t see my last blog post, you can click here to get some more information on prison systems in North Carolina and what it means to me.  Today I want to talk about solitary confinement.  About 14% of North Carolina’s 38,000 inmates are housed in solitary confinement.  Solitary confinement has been a widespread issue since the 1980’s when states started building supermaxium-security prisons.  This method of punishment locks an inmate in a 6 feet by 8 feet single-cell for 23 hours a day for an unspecified amount of time.  After the death of inmate Michael Anthony Kerr, who died of dehydration while being housed in solitary confinement for over 30 days, several civil rights groups have stepped in and asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate North Carolina’s prison systems solitary confinement methods.  In addition to this, President Barack Obama has addressed the issue of solitary confinement and has requested it be reviewed nationally.  In his speech he states:

“Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day for months, sometime for years at a time?  That is not going to make us safer. It’s not going to make us stronger.  If those individuals are ultimately released, how are they ever going to adapt? It’s not smart.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Terry Kupers spoke out on the issue stating that solitary confinement exacerbates mental illness and that even stable inmates begin to experience psychiatric symptoms like self harm, anxiety, depression, and compulsive actions among several other symptoms.  Other critics of solitary confinement agree and further this argument by stating that solitary confinement is equivalent to inhumane torture.

What are your thoughts on solitary confinement?  How do you feel about the 2.5 million dollar settlement given to the family of the late Michael Kerr?  Leave your comments below and let me know what you think!