Monday, 17 May 2010

Writing from prisoners: my friend Tamie

My friend Tamie writes an awesome blog called "The Owls & The Angels" and these days she's teaching a writing class to inmates at a prison in the town where she lives.

She wrote a beautiful piece, brimming with respect and compassion, for the inmates she interacts with there. You should read it.

She also has a blog where she publishes (with permission) the writings of her students. You should read it, too, and write comments.

Go read, dear readers. This is important. Humanizing other people humanizes us.

Tamie writes:
My brother told me recently that he thinks someday future generations will look back on the US incarceration system as we now look on slavery or genocide: as something unthinkable and horrifying, something we cannot understand how humans could do to one another. The more I hear the full stories of the people in jail, the more I am convinced that my brother is right.


The Korean said...

Thank you very much for this post.

Anonymous said...

It's great to read something related to the jail system on a blog that isn't along the lines of "Lock 'em up & throw away the key!" Or, worse, "Put 'em in the ground and put dirt on 'em!" (Read any recent Marmot's Hole post on a serious crime.)

I understand the reactions people have to crimes (especially violent ones), but it's saddening to see how quickly some people de-humanise others.

I believe most crimes stem from an empathy problem - a problem that the perpetrator has in seeing the victim as equal, or equally human.

As said so well in the original post, what we need is more empathy. Consequences must be meted out, but we should also show what it means to humanise others. A prison system that de-humanises inmates, creates animals.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the US incarceration rate is too high, particularly because I'm a libertarian who thinks drugs should be legalized. But I hardly think future generations are going to focus on US prisons when they'll have much worse examples like Japan, Thailand, China, North Korea, Peru, Columbia, Venezuala, Cambodia, etc.

... unless they're as anti-American as so many are today, that is.

Brian said...

The violence that exists in our prisons is a national embarrassment. As is the culture that fosters it, both inside and outside the big house.

palladin said...

Unfortunately here is how it boils down. For violent crimes, you must incarcerate the ones who committed it. Removing someone's freedoms, specifically their ability to interact with society is done to keep the greater society safe from those who would do them harm. The idea is also to punish those who commit an unlawful deed as to prevent others from breaking the law.

I do believe soft crimes shouldn't be prison worthy unless they are multiple offenders and decriminalizing MJ would go a long way to this end. But you can not allow murders, rapists and violent people to run free amongst society as a whole. So there must be something done.

Think about the flip side of this coin before you denounce the prison system. Would you rather your sister, or daughter get raped and / or killed because it wasn't "humane" to incarcerate the individual responsible?

Roboseyo said...

Palladin: you are right, I think, that there certainly are people who need to be separated from society for the safety of innocent people; however, I do also think you and my friend Tamie would agree that incarceration is a clumsy tool, and there are a lot of people in prison now who would actually have been better served by access to counseling and education.

Anonymous said...

I see what you're getting at, Palladin.

The thing is, the theme of the post (and comments) is not so much about whether or not to imprison, but how to treat the people once they're inside.

palladin said...

As bad as it seems in the USA, its many times worse in other places in the world. And while that is not really an excuse, it kinda puts things in perspective. In some places they just kill you instead of putting you behind bards.

And yes for soft non-violent crimes I think some form of rehabilitation effort would be better then behind bars. Most of the prisoners are there for drug related charges, mostly in the MJ business. Decriminalize it and things will start to sort themselves out quick enough.