Supermax prisons a sign of U.S. deterioration

Monday, August 6, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:49 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Very recently a young woman on Court TV was convicted of killing her husband, sentenced to life in prison and sent immediately to a supermax prison.

A person capable of committing a heinous crime reveals a fragile and fragmented personality. Most people don’t realize that to merely think “I want to kill that person” is to share the very same impulse as a physical killer, and they take for granted that only strength of personality blocks acting on such an impulse.

To send a fragmented personality to a supermax prison constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because not only are virtually all external stimulation removed from the prisoner, but all access to a healthy interior life as well.

It should surprise no one that prisoners resort to throwing urine and feces through their door slots because they spend 23 hours a day in solitude with nothing to help rebuild or strengthen their minds and emotions.

Supermax prisons are like veal factories to newborn calves except that people are unable to physically move, unable to see the sky or the sun because they are surrounded by artificial lights enforced 24 hours a day (this is known to alter and damage the endocrine system), and have no access to plants or animals. One news article revealed how, after several years, inmates rejoiced upon seeing a spider — a living creature.

The United States is not enlightened or civilized. To treat any human being like a calf preparing for slaughter is a shame and blight to our national conscience (if we have one). For the public to say, with great hypocrisy, “That person deserves it” when the public itself revels in books and movies of torture, dismemberment and murder shows a split in awareness that is virtually psychotic.

Locate the prison or supermax nearest to you. Ask about the conditions there. Find out if the inmates are even allowed a Bible or a Quran, or any book. Ask the percentage of inmates who are categorized as insane, and then ask what you can do to ameliorate the Bastille-like conditions of our most marginalized citizens.

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Rosalind Burbank Joseph August 7, 2007 | 2:59 p.m.

Thank you, Ms. Williams.
Please continue to write and inform readers on this subject.
And please continue to encourage them to become involved. It will fall on them and on us to change how the incarcerated in the U.S. are treated. The way they are treated affects us all.
- Rosalind Burbank Joseph /

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xochitl cienfuegos August 8, 2007 | 12:24 a.m.

Thank you so much for giving some truth to the public about these abysses called Supermax prisons. When will we wake up from this collective illusion that we are doing some good?

(Report Comment)
Lassey Johnson August 10, 2007 | 11:30 a.m.

Let us examine the legal concept of remedy.
How do you provide remedy to families who have lost loved ones to murderers like this?

#1. Execute the offender. Wrong! That makes society guilty of murder. End of story. I will not advocate implicating the good people of this country in a conspiracy to commit such a crime. War is bad enough without doing it by choice inside our own borders. Besides, it's not remedy. The one we as a society kill, is not equal to the one taken away by the murderer.

#2. Lock them up in the maelstrom that is our standard prison system, where they will likely kill again. This also accomplishes nothing. The offender continues. The victims do not abate their lament.

#3. Supermaxes. Hmmm. The person was rejoicing at seeing even a spider, because it was a living creature? I doubt that was true before.
In fact (if said person was properly convicted), they even once took life away from another (or multiple) fellow human beings.

Whereas option one seems to be the most likely avenue, it's not. Too many mistakes are made, and it's even more expensive than the supermaxes. Moreover, an incorrectly applied death sentence cannot be reversed.
Some may say we are bordering on violating the cruel and unusual punishment clause in the Constitution by using supermaxes. Well, it may be cruel, but it's not unusual anymore. And by the way, at least the offender (if properly sent there) has a chance at something the death penalty does not provide:
To no longer be capable of murder, and still be alive.
Sigh. Murder is stupid, no matter who does it. I will not, for now, say that I have any answers, except that preventing harm and death to society is the whole reason for law enforcement in the first place. Likely, supermaxes are giant expensive monsters and fascist-like medical and social experiments.
Anybody got any ideas? Remember, option one is right out. Option two doesn't work historically, and option three is what we're discussing.
Hey! I've got one!
Begin to enact systems of laws and popular will that don't worship violence! That's a cultural change. It's one we can do ourselves, and since these aberrations who commit murder come from society, it's likely they will become a rarity.
That's it. No more violence. It works. The seeds of it are deep in every aspect of Western culture, but they can be choked out with the opposite of violence.
It's a word people have become afraid to say. But we can revive it. (Unlike an executed prisoner, it CAN be resurrected.)
Love. It's time. Let love rule. A long time ago, we saw that word on bumper stickers. It was everywhere.
I want to see it again. Love is a lot more cost effective, by the way, for you conservatives (if there are any) who are reading this.

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