I am not qualified to criticize the existence or the effectiveness of prisons, but as a member of society who has at one time worked as a Correctional Officer in a maximum security prison, I can and do offer this discussion below.
First off, I understand there are many reasons why people commit crimes. The crimes that involve victims who suffer injury and even death are the most heinous of all crimes. What I do not understand is why people commit those crimes.
Why is it a person wants to harm another person and enjoys harming people? What enjoyment can there possibly be? There is one reason I can understand the desire to hurt someone, and that reason is revenge for a loved one being harmed. That is a normal human emotion, however—in the Bible, it is written: “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”
I believe in God. I believe in the second coming of Christ, the final judgment, and both Heaven and Hell. I believe God will be just in His judgment, and those He condemns to Hell and in the care of Satan will remain in Hell and suffer its torment for an eternity. Do you understand what eternity means? It means the torment, the suffering, the pain, agony, and punishment will never, never, never end. It is forever. It has no end.
With that in mind, is any crime worth the final punishment?
Let’s assume there is an inmate reading this or a former inmate or even someone who has committed a crime but has not yet been caught, prosecuted, and sentenced. I ask you, then, why did you commit your crime?
Were you too lazy to find a job? Did you find it easier to steal something from someone who earned what you stole than to earn it yourself?
Did you enjoy watching someone bleed, cry out in pain, beg you to stop? Did you enjoy watching someone die? What gave you the right to end a person’s life? It was their life, not yours. You did not give that person life, so you had no right to take it. We only get one life. Once you lose it you will never get another one. Once chance we have. ONE!
Whatever crime you committed, you had a choice not to commit that crime. So, why did you choose to commit it?
Did you commit a crime for money? I am not going to include a drug habit in this paragraph, so what was the reason you stole, you burglarized, you cheated, you scammed, you murdered? Because you were too lazy to earn whatever you stole on your own time with your own sweat and effort?
Okay, so now you are caught, prosecuted, and sentenced. You are sent to prison, and because you are a violent person who cannot refrain from hurting people, you find yourself in a supermax prison where you are in isolation in a ten-foot by eight-foot cell, locked up 23 hours a day and have no social interaction with anyone but Correctional Officers.
Then you complain about how unfair it is to be isolated in such a way. You call upon attorneys to sue the state in which you are imprisoned. You claim your mental soundness is at risk.
Answer this question: Who put you there?
No, it wasn’t a Correctional Officer or the State, or the Judge or attorney or anyone else.
YOU PUT YOURSELF THERE.
There is no one to blame but you. You. You probably think of yourself as a man, a tough guy. No, you aren’t. You are not a man. You are a coward. You are a coward because you cannot admit to yourself that the problem is you. You do not have the courage to admit you are the problem. The problem is everyone else, right?
You probably think of yourself as a man, a tough guy. No, you aren’t. You are not a man. You are a coward. You are a coward because you cannot admit to yourself that the problem is you. You do not have the courage to admit to yourself that you are the problem. The problem is everyone else, right?
Let’s watch that silver back mountain gorilla kick the living s*** out of the zookeeper who foolishly got himself locked in the cage with the gorilla. The zookeeper is thrown, bounced, kicked, punched, stomped on, and eventually, the zookeeper is dead.
That gorilla just beat to a pulp that zookeeper. Now, is that gorilla a man? Is that enormous ape a man? No, he is still a gorilla.
Point: Kicking someone’s ass does not make you a man. Even a gorilla can kick someone’s ass. But the gorilla remains a gorilla.
So, what does it take to be a man? It takes what a gorilla doesn’t have, but you do—IF you can find it within yourself. It takes compassion, mercy, empathy, understanding of what you are and where you fit in this life.
Do you have those four things? Where are they?
Do you have the courage to apologize for the harm you did to others and be sincere? Can you feel the pain they feel? Can you see how wrong you were to commit your crime(s)?
What if those crimes were committed against you? How would you feel?
If you are in prison, any prison, and have complaints about being there or anything about how you are treated while there—who put you there? Who is responsible?
You are not going to be just plucked out of a crowd of people and shoved into a prison cell for the Hell of it. You are there because of what you DID. Had you not DONE it (whatever it was) you wouldn’t BE there. Now, would you?
When I was a Correctional Officer, some inmates told me there were good bosses and bad bosses, and I was a good boss. I didn’t have to threated inmates to do anything. All I had to do was tell them once.
Because I treated them with respect. I remember telling inmates, “I am just here to make sure you stay here. I am not here to make your life even worse than it already is.” I told them, “You know what the rules are, and as long as you obey the rules we won’t have a problem between us.”
One night as I was patrolling the main corridor of a prison, I overheard an argument between a Trustee and an Officer. I hurried over to that cell block and said, “Hey, hey! It’s two o’clock in the morning! What’s going on here?”
The officer told me the Trustee refused to wake up an inmate in a certain cell to tell him his cell restriction was over. It was the practice of the prison to wake up inmates in the middle of the night to give that notice. I don’t know why. It just was. The Officer was threatening to put the Trustee on report. I told the Officer to walk away for a few minutes and let me speak with the Trustee. The Officer complied.
The Trustee explained his reason for refusing, and I understood and told him so. Here was my solution:
“Listen, _____________, I understand you all work hard during the day, and you need your rest, so let’s do it this way. In order to pacify that Officer, go down to that cell and pretend you are waking up the inmate to give him the notice, but give me your solemn word you will tell him when he wakes up in the morning. Understand? I want your word on that.”
I showed that Trustee that I was willing to trust him. I was willing to take his word and that he would honor his word. He was a criminal. He committed a felony and was spending years in prison for his crime, but I was willing to trust him. I was willing to trust him as a man.
The Trustee did not disappoint me.
Later that morning, the Officer and I were in the Officers Quarters, and he wanted to fight me. He was angry! He was also about 200 lbs, whereas I was about 150 lbs. He wanted to wrestle me, and he would have beat me, but I wanted to fist fight. What happened was he got me on the floor, but I was face down and tucked my arms in tight and wound up laughing almost uncontrollably while other officers watched. The attacking Officer finally gave up.
One last note about this: Inmates later told me privately if I wanted them to dish out some punishment to that Officer all I had to do was say the word. That was one helluva compliment coming from an inmate. I was quite flattered. Inmates were willing to go to bat for me and assault another Officer on my behalf. I replied, no, I did not want any harm to come to that officer. The matter was over and that was it. No harm ever came to that Officer.
You see, I could have chosen to put that Trustee on report. I could have allowed harm to come to that Officer, but harming other people is not the way to live one’s life.
I’ve never committed a crime, and there have been times in my life when I was dead broke, hungry, thirsty, and desperately needed money, but committing a crime would put me in jail and even prison. I could blame no one but myself for that. Any misfortune that came my way would be of my own doing and well deserved.
I made a choice. You can, too. The question really is:
Are you man enough to make that same choice?
Who put you in prison?