Prison System



The U.S. male prison system is one large Gulag Archipelago, “the tombs of modern society,” to borrow Chuck Colson’s phrase.  No less an intellect than historian Henry Steele Commander said that the United States is in danger of becoming a garrison state.”  Incarcerating men is big business.  America’s publicly-operated prisons have to be fed with inmates in order to maintain the industry, and the privatized ones to maintain their profitability.

The U.S. Dept. of Justice states that over 7 million people (one in every 32 adults; mostly men) were incarcerated in Federal or State prisons, local jails or on parole as of December 2005, terribly overcrowding the system.  This country, inhabited by only 5% of the globe’s population, accounts for fully 25% of the world’s prisoners.  In a recently-published book, Thinking About Crime, Michael Tonry, a distinguished American law professor and director of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, reports that of any country on earth the US has the highest percentage of its population in prison.  The US incarceration rate is as much as 12 times higher than that of European countries.  Our rate of imprisoning citizens is approximately 600% higher than either China or Canada.   We have more people in prison than live in Nevada, West Virginia, New Mexico, Nebraska, Maine, Idaho, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, or Wyoming.  Prisons represent our 35th largest state.

The inmate population continued its rise despite a fall in the crime rate and many states’ efforts to reduce some sentences, especially for low-level drug offenders.  Nearly twice as many black men in their early 30s have been to prison as have obtained a bachelor’s degree, according to the report by the non-profit Justice Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C.

According to F.B.I. statistics, and the Institute for Juvenile Research, there are nearly as many actual, if not adjudicated, crimes committed by women as by men; yet ninety-four percent of prison inmates are male.  A Pasco County, Florida, jail inmate report for the month of February through March 12, 1974, which is probably typical, showed an average of 85.5 male prisoners and an average of three female prisoners.  According to a BJS report, one of every 109 men is living in prison or jail (Another report states the figure is one of every 75 men).  For women the figure is one in every 1,613.  If 94 percent of prison inmates were female, the problem and the injustice would receive far more attention.

Conditions in some men’s prisons are themselves crimes as great as those committed by the inmates.  Modern methods of imprisonment and rehabilitation neither precisely punish nor adequately rehabilitate.  Nonviolent offenders are treated much like the violent ones.  And men in jail are more likely to be raped than women on the outside.  It is done brutally, often, and is permitted by prison authorities as a means of controlling the prison population – and condoned by the silence of society.  One never hears rape crisis center entrepreneurs decrying male rapes in or out of jail.  Much more umbrage is shown over the treatment of jihadists in Gitmo.

Guards in a Michigan prison watched while mentally ill prisoner Timothy Souder thirsted to death.  Incarceration of men can continue even after death.  A Sacramento, California prison kept under guard a brain-dead prisoner, Daniel Provencio, accidentally (?) shot by a guard with a foam pellet.

John Murtari, a divorced ex-Air Force pilot, a fathers’ rights activists (founder of and colleague of mine, was jailed in a New York prison for peacefully demonstrating against divorce injustice.  Here are John’s words on conditions there, “I am happy to report the local sheriff is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  They have a lot of female guards.  They walk through our cage any time, even when we are using the litter box!  They are even there when we are taking a shower.”  Shades of Abu Ghraib!  (More on John in Part IV).  Imagine the outcry if women prisoners were humiliated as are males.

In contrast women’s prisons are more akin to college campuses with TV-equipped, furnished cottages.  No male guards are present to observe showering.  A “Women’s Spa Day” with pedicures, aromatherapy, and harp serenade was held on Aug. 21, 2004 at Grand Valley Institution for Women, a prison housing medium-and minimum-security inmates in Canada.  Among the almost two dozen inmates at the Spa Day were a woman who killed a child, and a female sex offender.  The Correctional Service of Canada defended the activities as a way to teach inmates how to cope with stress and other life lessons.  “It’s an attempt to make them feel better about themselves,” an official said.

The difference between men’s and women’s prisons are tacit admissions that there’s a difference between men and women.  But we don’t see difference-denying Feminists complaining in this instance.

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Last modified: March 30, 2017