Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Price Is Black and White?

These men are well acquainted with my opinion on necessary punishments for sexual offenders and those who endanger children/elderly. In an environment that lends itself to, and breeds, a character embracing "live and let live", the crimes that are scorned most contain an element of victimizing the helpless. That said, it's still not common for an inmate to extoll the death sentence-most convicts oppose the concept of courts having power over life and death. For any inmate-even one favored by most of his peers-to emotionally express that America's position as a lighthouse of morality and character has obviously passed with the light handed verdict in a sex/kidnapping crime is one thing. Most inmates couldn't give a hoot for the standing of our integrity on the world stage. It's another thing altogether for that inmate to declare that " the piece of garbage should have been publicly drawn and quartered or starved to death in a plexi glass box as a warning for future offenders".

The connection between a prisoner's revulsion to execution laws, and the public's inherent view of crime, never reached my mind as clearly as it did that day. I understood that my emotionally charged statements were wholly inappropriate for a different, freer setting, and reflecting on those statements led me into a conversation with compound's most notoriously jack-booted officer.
When he called me to his office and asked a rhetorical question concerning "excessive" property in my cell, I had other things on my mind-things I figured should be more important in both our minds than some extra packs of tuna or four pairs of running shorts. My mood made it easy to jump right in.

"The word "excessive" is right to the point, boss-I began. How many years are excessive for the heinous crime of kidnapping and child molestation?" His face turned into a scowl, it never gave away amusement to the words or conversation of an inmate. He shrugged noncommittally "There is no more time than a life sentence" This is the point I really wanted to discuss. " you make two good points sir", but neither of them is accurate. First the victims suffered for 10 years of the ugliest torture imaginable, and they have to relive these things everyday in their minds- I really doubt a circus trial will overwhelm them much more-and the finality of a death sentence is the closest thing to closure they can have with our justice system. The officer never moved to interrupt, which actually bothered more than satisfying me-it indicated he could care less, or had never thought of these things, therefor, had no air to debate them. Still I pressed on " And look around here, man, these fools aren't suffering, they love this stuff-television, warm food, clean cells and all the homies to share stories with. Ariel Castro is a high profile pedophile and that means his life will be in danger so he will be stuck in a protective custody block where he'll watch his little T.V and eat his meals in safety-he'll probably even get mail from some freaks out there who consider him a celebrity. He gets another 20-30 years to spend with the sick memories of his crimes, and everyone is a joy to him. I was fairly certain I had made a great point to him, but he wouldn't simply excuse me before finding a way to assert his authority and rights, "What makes you think you are any better than Ariel Castro or any other child molester in prison?" he says. Whoa!! Something at the very surface told me how offended I should I be, after all as a prisoner, there is nothing more anathema than rats and child molesters.

From the lowest, self-serving drug dealer to the auto thief and murderer by negligence, all have a direct effect on the comfort, safety, and general intercourse of the community. Even though truth resides just beneath the exterior of my sober disposition in here, I maintain that there are degrees to crimes committed, beginning with the individual's character and intent. This was my only segue to continue a discussion he so nonchalantly had turned into the advertisement of my own sins. "Anytime you sell drugs, or pimp prostitutes, or defraud the insurance companies in order to illegally obtain prescriptions, you cause a ripple effect through the community that leads to more crimes being committed. In my eyes, everyone one of you inmates is a drug dealer, murder, pimp and child molester", he said. "There is no difference and this system is only set up to hold you, not change you so you will always be drug dealers and child molesters and the community will always be paying for you".

"Is everything black and white?"
"This much is black and white: you run a unit store and it's against the rules. No one really cares whether you sell candy bars and bags of chips-and that's why I only harass you with shakedowns instead of writing you up-but it's black and white that if you can't align yourself with the simplest rules in here. there's no way that you will get out there and follow all the rules of society when no one has an eye on you. You sell drugs and you'll beat people up and you'll kill them if they push you far enough. This wasn't a debate to him, he couldn't debate with an inmate anymore than he could help one escape.

I had no desire to "win" this conversation, but I wanted to know one thing, as he stepped toward me signaling we were done, I asked " Would it seem possible that I may be a highly successful, law abiding citizen in society if I didn't have "excessive" property in my cell? "You're a criminal, You won't".

Beau Hansen

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