Monday, October 10, 2005

Law and order

Apparently the state of Deleware has some problems with how they care for those unfortunate souls locked up in their jails. Wilmington’s News Journal recently concluded a six-month investigation into the state’s prison system. Uncovering an ongoing issue of inadequate medical treatment for inmates incarcerated and under the care of the state, the News Journal exposes an issue that I’m sure is widespread across the U.S.

It was 20 years ago that yours truly worked for the Indiana Department of Corrections, as a med tech in their medium security prison in Westville, Indiana. At the time, I was a wide-eyed 22-year-old, in need of a job in a state with a paucity of living wage options. With a young family and not many other options, I drove the 30 miles up U.S. Route 30, making my way to the walls of Westville Correctional Center, with hopes of a job that paid more than minimum wage.

That experience almost two decades ago, gave me a first-hand look at conditions inside many of America’s jails and correctional institutions. As I read sections of this four-part expose on Delaware’s incompetence and blatant disregard for the welfare of those under their care, I marvel at how many Americans are comfortable with our country’s archaic and barbaric treatment of many who made a mistake and got caught. Granted, there are those sociopaths and others who have committed violent crimes. But in our country, growing numbers of those locked up behind bars, with ever-increasing sentences, are for drugs and other non-violent offenses.

With an AID’s death rate that is the highest in the nation, the incompetence displayed by the state-contracted private health provider, CMS, reveals conditions that routinely violate constitutional provisions that require that states provide adequate medical care to inmates. CMS is one of the country’s largest providers of contracted medical services to correctional facilities across the fruited plane. They provide care to some 285,000 inmates in 360 facilities, located in 25 states.

For those right-wingers who subscribe to the philosophy towards prisoners that says, “lock ‘em up and throw away the key”, I might point out that the U.S. Constitution has prohibitions against “cruel and unusual punishment”. May I direct you to the Eighth Amendment?

With over 1.3 million Americans behind bars, the U.S. rate of incarceration is 2nd in the world, behind only Russia. Add to that number, nearly 1 million more in local and county jails, and you get a clearer picture of this country’s obsession with law and order and a form of justice that’s problematic at best.

Like so many aspects of life in America—capitalism and the drive for ever-increasing profits, makes a caricature of concepts such as justice. When prisons became just another tool for economic development, then dealing with issues of right and wrong, retribution, and rehabilitation take a back seat to good ole’ fashioned greed.


ChefDunn said...

We can't insure and care for those of us that aren't in prison. Do you really expect that the inmates should be a priority? Sorry, but shit rolls down hill around here. The fact that there is poor health care in prison is just a small part of a bigger problem.

Solve the health care issues with the lower and middle class first. I suspect that the criminals will get better care as well.

Jim said...

Actaully, we (the United States) can care for every citizen--the poor, the infirmed, and even our criminals--we choose instead, to hand out corporate welfare like it's candy and continue to allow the richest citizens a free pass when it comes to paying their fair share of taxes.

Your comment illustrates the divide and conquer, either/or argument that most Americans revert to. I'm not criticizing, as it's easy to fall into that trap, especially in light of all the indoctrination that we receive.

The solution is readily available--universal, national health care. The problem comes when you are bleeding red ink from unjust war, natural disaster relief (funneled to corporations sympathetic to the administration in the form of no-bid contracts) and tax cuts for the wealthiest--talk about having your cake and eating it too!

Let me remind you that in jail populations, there is a racial disproportionality that is due to our current legal system--if you have the money, you do less time.

One of the examples of medical mistreatment that led to a death in the News Journal report was of a man convicted of burglary.

Many of us have done things that if the circumstances were right, might very well be doing time. In Bush's America, the thought of being arrested and incarcerated isn't that far-fetched.

Purgatory Penman said...

Read about these prisons from someone inside. Join me at