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: A life of violence
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Sep 9th 2010
I have very little contact with the "system" beyond how I experience it daily in my classroom.
From what I can tell, there is little or no attempt at keeping these kids from offending again... and almost nothing applied toward prevention.
A while back we had a young student who could barely read. He was in our school system long enough that he eventually made it to the point where he earned his diploma. All through "juvie" schools.
Another kid came from one of the hardest backgrounds I have ever heard of. Last year around Halloween i gave the assignment to write your own horror stories. He continued to work on his for more than a month and used photo editing software to make a video to go along with it. It was disturbing and emotionally and powerfully cathartic. I don't know if he realized it, but it was clearly about what he was going through. It was a bout a tortured young man dealing with his own, literal, demons. He did a great job and we all took great pride in his work. Another bright kid with a bright future.
Can you see where this is going?
They were both killed earlier this week after robbing the wrong guy.
Sep 10th 2010
@joshdahl I'm sorry that you have to get so close, and so involved, and see that after all of the work that you accomplished with those kids.
I never see the inmates I work with once they are transfered from the institution I work at. Some are released to the street, a large number are sent back to the country of their origin and the rest are shipped out to federal prisons around the country. Before an inmate is sent off of my unit, I try to meet with them and shake their hand and usually the best thing I can say is that I hope I never see them again, that I hope that they never come back to this facility again. The worst thing I can say, is see you later, implying that I think they will come back.
I have a twenty year old inmate currently, young kid, covered in tattoos, eyebrow tats, etc., who was asking me how to start a legitimate buisness. He has drug money left over that the Feds never found, and a piece of property that they didn't take. He wants to know how to put a retail shop there, like that sells shoes and clothes to the gangster-type culture. I looked up some info for him, and his response was basically that it would be much easier and cheaper for him to start importing large amounts of drugs again. That instead of going legit, doing paperwork, paying taxes, etc., he'd just have to have his warehouse and some trucks and some guys.
And we know how that will end up. I don't think he even wants to go back to crime and all of that. I think he's just scared of all of the complex details going legit would mean.
Sep 10th 2010
"straight" life can be real;ly terrifying for these guys.
I know a kid who is at another facility now who could not even read his own tattoos when he first showed up here. He is 2nd or 3rd generation gang-involved. Being locked up and getting respect for doing his time well is all that he knows. He knows how to get respect from the other residents and from everyone who works here. He knows when to be nice and when to be not nice.
This world makes sense to him. He knows what he needs to do to get the respect he needs in every situation that come sup here.
In the outside world?
There are so many variables.
To him, threatening a random stranger with violence is a lot more comfortable than ordering some fries at a McDonalds. In his mind, he does not know what he needs to do to stand in line and get his food.
How will he handle it if someone behind him bumps into him?
Too many factors that he cannot control.
It must become unbearably stressful compared to the simplicity of a violent altercation with the police.
That is what your tatted kid is going through.
He does not understand the stresses of starting a business and is afraid of that uncertainty.
Sep 10th 2010
@joshdahl & @govspy - Wow. Just wow. I mean, I'm not naive, I know some of these things implicitly, it's just to hear them "out loud" just breaks your heart.
I'm always outraged by "tough-on-crime" politicians whose rhetoric is "lock 'em up and throw away the key" because THAT RARELY HAPPENS. Most offenders get out and if all they've experienced is warehousing in a Hate Factory, then they're not going to be "productive members of society after they've paid their debt to society." (Um, what about the debt that Society owes THEM? What about the teachers who didn't even bother to teach them to read?) I think such politicians should spend some time in a corrections facility and they'd never speak that way again.
Re : Institutionalization - how common is that, in your opinion? How many inmates really are more comfortable in prison because the outside world has too many variables? Percentage wise, I mean.
Let me tell you where I'm coming from with this - I've been working on a novel about a guy in prison who is basically somebody's "punk" and I must have trashed it and started over twenty or thirty times. I don't want it to be too sensationalistic or didactic, I want it to illustrate the huge problem we have in this society with issues like crime and punishment. I want to shock people with it, make them realize that everybody gets out eventually and when this guy's walking the street again, nobody's going to see a rape victim, they're going to see a convict, a man who's angry and rightly so. And maybe make them think that "Hmm, tough-on-crime sounds great but maybe it'd be a better idea to train these people rather than just lock them up."
Have either of you ever read the book "Fish" by T.J. Parsell? He was seventeen when he robbed a photo-mat with a toy gun and got sent to a tough institution. He got raped his second day. Eventually, he got out and got into computers, made some money and I believe is now the head of Stop Prisoner Rape. It's quite a good book and it affected me deeply. I reccommend it without question.
Thanks for your time.
Sep 11th 2010
Mister Hex- I'll get more specific father down, but you made me think of, and I heavily reccomend
The Hot House
(there's no wiki entry). It's a little outdated, things have changed physically, but the attitude is very much unchanged. You get a viewpoint from the inmates themselves, one of the inmates explains how he is able to punk out a fish.
It's an insider's view of (at the time, the most dangerous Federal Prison in the country) Leavenworth Penitentiary. It was home to
, one of the most dangerous inmates in prison today, who is exempt from the death penalty, even after murdering two (some say three) inmates and one guard, he is under a "no human contact" rule and will never be set free.
I work in an institution that the federal inmates have nicknamed "Alcatraz" because of how tough we are on security regardless of the inmates' security level. They would much rather go to a more dangerous Penitentiary just so they can (as they call it) walk free. USP's have large recreation yards where inmates can walk outside and get fresh air and exercise. Plus they have less restrictive visiting hours, better food, more religious programs, more access to jobs and better pay (average pay here for inmate labor is $0.05-$0.25 an hour). Compared to here, inamtes have much more freedom at what you would think was a higher security, and honestly more dangerous institution.
Because of how appealing USP's are, a lot of inmates really don't care about being locked up. It's less "institutionalism," and more just an acceptance of, if they are going to do time, they'd rather do it somewhere more comfortably. (Of course, if I wanted to do "comfortable time," I'd want to do it in
Loeben, Austria's prison
The institutionalized inmate, made famous by "Brooks" in "Shawshank Redemption," where life on the outside is harder to adapt to than life on the inside is primarily for the lifetime criminals, and the kids who spent the majority of their developing years behind bars (a lot like the kids we've been describing above). It's not uncommon, but it takes time to develop. Nobody's doing six months and coming out institutionalized. I'd say gang culture does make it easier for some inmates to develop their lives becoming more accustomed to prison life, and less sure of the real world, because of things we spoke of earlier, like the inmate versions of "respect" and "honor."
I might go more into this later, but I gotta go back to work...
Oct 18th 2010
For the young people I work with the "life oif crime" has institutionalized them long before the actual institutions get to them.
They are led to believe that a life of crime is the only way to get what you want. One very sad thing about this is that "what they want" is so... unoriginal. It is like they are selling out their lives for a shot at dreams that are not even their own. There is no longing or deep desire. Instead it is just what you do.
These kids are made into pieces in a machine very early on, and not by the schools or the government. Instead, it is the gangs and higher level criminals in their own neighborhoods. Those machines need little soldiers who willingly die and go to jail for the "cause". That cause, of course, is a constant revenue stream to the very small percentage of older criminals who are not living in prison. And, as none of these drugs are actually produced in America's ghettoes, that money ultimately moves on.
All of these lives are being thrown away just for the chance to hold on to some money for a few minutes.
I ask these kids what they would do with the money and they don;t even know.
I even ask what they would do if they had the power to do anything in the world, all they can come up with is "rob a bank".
It is very sad.
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