The system crushes prisoners and guards alike
Re “Mass. inmates claim brutal crackdown” (Page One, Feb. 1): It is peculiar that guards and prisoners have not realized that their interests are aligned. The prison crushes them both. It denies humanity to both. In fact, it operates on the premise of this denial and could not function otherwise.
Just short of quitting their job, guards are forced to dehumanize prisoners daily. Strip searches, solitary confinement, and turning away parents who wish to visit their children are regular occurrences. It’s hard to imagine doing this job without either finding sadistic pleasure or needing to silo one’s humanity simply to earn a buck.
Imagine being told by your supervisor that you need to extract a mentally ill prisoner from their cell by pepper spraying them, beating them, and shackling them to a restraint chair. How does a guard go home and help their child with homework? How does the prisoner return to their own child?
It comes with a cost. Each side pays with trauma, untenable environmental conditions, and lives.
Between 2010 and 2015, 16 active or retired correctional officers committed suicide. In 2017 alone, there were 14 prisoner suicides. Clearly, the prosecutors and judges who fill the prison do not pay the cost of incarceration. It is not paid by legislators who fail to provide sufficient resources to the poor. Guards, prisoners, and their families pay the cost.
It’s time we realize that the prison system is a failed social experiment.
The writer, a former prisoner in Massachusetts, is a member of the state’s Special Commission to Study the Health and Safety of LGBTQI Prisoners, and is director of policy for the Boston chapter of the organization Black and Pink.
This calls for an independent investigation
Any kind of violence against corrections officers is intolerable, and their safety should be regarded as priority, no matter what. The reports of alleged abuses, beatings, and mistreatment of prisoners, however, need to be investigated by an outside source, not by the Department of Correction or any other state agency, and this investigation needs to happen now.
There are usually a few reasons that inmate violence occurs. Perhaps this violence could have been avoided with some good old-fashioned intelligence gathering. Getting to the bottom of what caused the upheaval and the allegations thereafter will help Correction Department leaders enhance the safety of inmates and officers. Clearly, two wrongs still don’t make a right.