Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crime and Punishment, Maricopa County style

Imagine that you have just brought home a new puppy. We’ll call him Rex (I always wanted a dog named Rex and it’s my blog, after all).
Well, not surprisingly, Rex has some behavioral issues. He just refuses to do his business outside, even though you have a doggie door and you have been over this time and time again. Furthermore, he has chewed up every shoe in the house. Rex yaps well into the early-morning hours. He begs for food every time you sit down for a meal.
What shall we do?
Here are some helpful ideas:
The next time Rex soils the carpet, you should grind his wet little nose into the deposit he has just left on the floor. It might also help to kick him sharply in the side, just so he’ll get the message.
And that shoe-chewing issue? A fist to the little face should help Rex see the error of his ways.
Barking? That’s easy, soak his little tongue with Tabasco.
If Rex begs for food, cut his food ration in half. Then he’ll have something to beg about, right?
Now, some of you bleeding-heart types might suggest that following these steps is simply cruel. Heck, it is even illegal, you might argue.
But you just don’t get it, do you?
See, I really do have Rex’s best interests in mind. I want him to be an obedient, well-adjusted part of the family. I bet you understand now, right?
Just think about how you raised your children. Remember when little Billy broke that vase with his ball when you had told him over and over not to play ball in the house? Say what you want, but after beating him almost unconscious, Billy sure learned his lesson about playing ball in the house, didn’t he?
So the same principle applies here. The idea is to make the punishment so unpleasant that Rex and Billy will never, ever make THAT mistake again.
OK. Let’s end this ruse here. Who in his or her right mind would approve of such cruelty?
A lot of people, that's who. I run into them all the time. I’m talking about the kind of people you would normally consider to be kind, generous, thoughtful people.
It comes up almost everytime the subject turns to my recent stay in prison. They want to know what it was like, so I tell them it was a miserable experience, especially the 34 days I spent in county jail.
I tell them that the conditions at Durango Jail, where I was placed while awaiting sentencing on my DUI conviction, are brutal. I tell them that there are pointless acts of cruelty inflicted on the inmates on a routine basis, that the sheriff has for years, flaunted the rules governing treatment of prisoners. I tell them that it seems the general policy at these jails is to make the experience as dehumanizing and degrading as possible.
And you know what these fine, decent people say?
“Well, I’m sure it’s like that so that the people there will never want to come back.’’
I used to be surprised by that answer. Not anymore.
I can only assume that these people have never really thought it through. Maybe it is because the sheriff - I wish I could remember his name, but like most Arizona sheriffs, he is content to do his job without any fanfare - has been trotting out that “it’s for their own good’’ nonsense for the past 16 years.
It’s his pat answer for acts so senselessly mean-spirited that no rational argument can be made in their defense. It’s always the default argument: We are being cruel for the good of the inmate.’’
And somehow, many decent people have simply adopted that twisted logic without holding it up to the light of reason.
It's pretty simple. Treat a human being like an animal and that it what he is likely to become. Oh, that less-than-human ex-con will be back in the neighborhood, sooner or later. Sleep light, OK?
This week, I saw on the local news that the sheriff will address a cut in his budget by turning the screws on the inmate population. So, it’s likely that the gulag conditions at his jails will be even harsher. That will take some creativity.
And chances are, there won’t be a peep of protest from the community, which seems anesthetized by the sheriff's mantra that being tough on crime is synonymous with terrorizing people who are already in custody and, hence, are no long an eminent threat to the community.
OK. Let me jump in here to say that I am not suggesting that the jails be “country clubs.’’ You often hear that drivel whenever someone of conscience complains about cruel treatment of prisoners. If you want to have a serious, grown-up discussion about jail conditions, please resist the urge to blurt out that foolishness. No one has ever suggested that inmates be treated as though they are on a vacation trip to Disneyland, OK?
But I will suggest that a human being, made in the image of God, should not be subjected to treatment that would be considered inhumane and illegal were it inflicted on a dog.
Now, if you are of the mind that prisoners should suffer needless cruelties, that a pound of flesh is half as good as two, stand on that argument. If you conscience doesn't cry out in protest, ignore the subject altogether.
But, please, let's put aside this insulting idea that making a man less than human is somehow for his own benefit.
Can't we at least be that honest?


Punchy said...


CJinPhoenix said...

I think you have an unique & interesting perspective here -- a little liberal and a little down & dirty -- sorta mainstream meets outsider. I would love to see you make a living this way.

vwpgtom said...

I only hope the populous feels the same way during the next election.

It's time for Joe to go.