Monday, August 1, 2005

Brutality and Neglect of Prisoners is Inexcusable 
B. Cayenne Bird

B. Cayenne Bird is a 37-year veteran journalist who volunteers her time as founder and director of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect UNION. The UNION is active in prison reform and criminal justice issues. She is a mother and grandmother and focuses on human rights and restorative justice. She is also the host of television series "Cayenne Common Sense" and publishes a daily online newsletter. She doesn't have a current photo 

 By B. Cayenne Bird
August 1, 2005
In a civilized society such as ours, there is no excuse for committing acts of brutality, although we expect such behavior from the mentally ill. That mechanism which enables the mentally ill to follow the rules is broken. When they often predictably act out their illnesses in a violent manner, we put them in prison because we believe they are a danger to themselves and others. They are ill and are supposedly removed for recovery in a “time out” facility we call a prison or jail.

In a sane world, the medically and mentally ill would be treated and healed as much as possible and returned to society in much better condition than before they were incarcerated. This is what most taxpayers think is happening as they have trust in the public servants which they have commissioned to oversee the errants costing Californians nearly $6 billion a year. But healing is not what is taking place at all. Instead of hiring people committed to rehabilitation of mental and addictive disorders, the State has hired many dysfunctional, often violent, law enforcement types who are worse than those who are imprisoned.

We allow law enforcement people to neglect, psychologically tortment, kill and maim prisoners and regard that unspeakable brutality as acceptable behavior. What kind of twisted logic is this and what is being done about it? 

Since 1960 some of us have evolved from the Neanderthal state while others still drag their knuckles. Let us give them the kind term “knuckledraggers” for future reference. For example, scientists mostly all agree that the mentality of beating a child into submission over anything as simple as him wanting a candy bar in a store is exactly what creates an adult who sees violence as a way of handling even the smallest incident not to their liking. This is a shallow, immature problem-solving outlook usually held by people who were themselves abused as children.

Too many uneducated officers, supposedly sworn to uphold the law, feel that “knocking around" someone - whether it be a child, wife or an inmate - is the answer to every issue. This is the exact warped mentality that got most of the inmates exactly where they are today - in prison. And this is the exact mentality that leads anyone who is aware of what really goes on in a prison to believe most of the CO's themselves also belong in cells.

If a prison is being run properly and in a humane, healing manner a CO should not have to worry about his means of control leading to "litigation". Intelligent people are not going to buy into a pity party over guards being unable to use 'excessive force' with inmates! Brutality is against the law and with the crude weapons that inmates naturally devise in an environment of constant psychological and physical torment, force against them is as cowardly as shooting fish in a barrel.

Brutal guards should be fired and prosecuted over this criminal behavior but this is not happening because the families of prisoners are too uneducated and/or fearful to get together and file enough lawsuits to force this needed reform. The CDC employees who are seemingly the most violent get promotions for this type of aberrant behavior. None of them deny it and are in fact brazen about trying to make excuses for this rampant unlawful brutality. The phrase that a prisoner’s actions “threatened the security of the institution” allows guards to literally get away with murder and other heinous acts without so much as a scolding. In Central California, the newspapers are so accustomed to inmate deaths, they don't even run the announcements, which enables the brutality to take place even more often.

The reason these violent guards are worried now is because they are for the most part lowly, uneducated people put in positions of extreme authority. What kind of person would take a job locking people in cages and punishing them day in and day out for being medically and mentally ill? There is a very fine thread between prison employees and criminals or the atmosphere of violence couldn’t exist. 

For their income levels, guards should be required to have at least an AA degree and medical training, especially in basic first aid. After they stand on a prisoner's throat, an action that happens in every prison in California almost daily, they should be trained well enough to administer CPR to save the taxpayers millions in lawsuit payouts for this animalistic behavior. Most of the guards physically resemble bar bouncers and they are no better than the worst mentally ill inmate on death row with their belief that brutality is acceptable behavior. Even many of the females are on this sick power trip that is destroying people in the taxpayer’s name and doing anything but protecting the public safety. Revenge or retribution-style justice doesn’t work, nor has it ever worked as a real solution to crime.

In their little mind-sets, these tin gods strap on a crowd-size canister of pepper spray and a heavy metal club which quickly exalts them to the supreme authorities of their own small domains. Cave men operated in the same manner since the meat went to the ones who were physically the strongest and had the biggest clubs. They do not use proper chains of commands or intelligent people skills because they don’t have the mental capacity to even comprehend another way of thinking outside of brute force. 

Their communication is often in grunts and clicks and their report writing skills are even worse, To many guards, their work is all about force, psychological intimidation and not at all about custodial care. On a constant and daily basis most guards de-humanize and inflict cruel and unusual punishment on people who have no way to fight back for no other reason other than to make themselves feel powerful. They adhere to a 'good ole boy' network and cover one other’s actions- whether they personally agree with them or not! This is the reason for the Code of Silence and the media ban in my opinion, is to cover up and hide prisoner abuse in order to keep the industry raging on.

These guards do not just exert their power on those who have shown a reason to need it—the mentally ill who cannot possibly follow rules. NO! They also pick out and bully certain inmates simply to be their victims for sport. When an inmate or their family does attempt to fight back, they cut them off from all outside contact, knowing full well that most of their loved ones cannot afford the needed legal representation, and they continue to carry out their evil deeds in this sick power “game.” Or they punish those who can least tolerate isolation by casting them into prisons within a prison called administrative segregation or the "hole."

Reform was promised by this Governor, yet on September 7 a public hearing will be held from 10 am until noon for changes in ad seg rules at the Water Resources Building in Sacramento, 1416 Ninth St at N, that makes the torment of the mentally ill even worse. CDCR is so cocky that they have already put these new regulations into effect under the pretense of an emergency. Instead of having a review of why an inmate was cast into a cruel box at the end of 30 days, there will be no review for 90 days, prolonging the torment which shouldn't happen in the first place. 

The prison guards and administration are driving people who are already ailing over the edge and getting away with it. How does this benefit anyone?

And those who will be most alienated from their sons, fathers, mothers and daughters most likely won't even be at this public hearing because they do not understand the legal language of the rules changes. They react too late, not that their voices would ever actually be heard since they can't write big checks to the lawmakers to buy favors.

One can only assume these actions are the result of feeble-minded and misguided persons as an attempt to make up for some need of power missing within their own lives. They are just as mentally ill as the inmates who are entrusted to their care but there is no accountability when the guards act out their illness, even when they murder, maim or cause prisoners to be hurt in many other ways. This is happening every day and it flies beneath the radar of a banned media for the most part. Most of the legislators are put into office by law enforcement labor unions and paid to go along with it. Oversight isn't working.

This attitude that for a CO's safety, they should be given free reign to basically beat the life and spirit out of any prisoner who isn’t totally agreeable to them is a normal way of thinking in the prison jungle but it is wrongheaded. In the free world, people are sent to prison for that very same faulty judgment! 

Possibly if the guards from day one exercised some sort of human decency and promoted mutual respect they would not have so many problems. I understand that there will always be those problem inmates who will act out their mental illness, but for the most part the administration and lawmakers themselves have created the issues they have and all for one awful reason: To keep the budgets flowing and to use fear tactics on the public to justify these horrible punishing jobs. 

Those who are using the tact from the dark ages of locking people up in cages and tormenting them are treating people as if they are livestock. There are no statistics anywhere that prisons, jails, harsh laws and even the death penalty do one thing to prevent or deter crime. Yet there are many studies in restorative justice techniques that are proving to be much more beneficial to the public safety. The overcrowding contributes to the inhumane conditions and the sentencing laws need to be changed by initiative if necessary, but the families are from the poor and uneducated side of town and don't know how to exercise their tremendous power as voters.

Prevention of mental illness and addiction would be the most sensible way to reduce crime, as well as eliminating poverty through a strong economy, yet these get little recognition and a low priority from the lawmakers. We as taxpayers allow them to go off on this misguided human bondage industry for the sake of a profit. 

We’ve come a long way in our society, except where crime is concerned. It’s time to organize and vote the Knuckledraggers out of power if we are going to become a better civilization. There are 3 million Californians connected to a state inmate. That doesn’t include those connected to l.5 million parolees, those in jails, federal prisons or juvenile halls. Those who have insider knowledge to taxpayer-financed abuse need to get together and put a stop to it as the cycle of retribution never ends and comes back in the form of tormented and dangerous next door neighbors.

The reason the Knuckledraggers are in power is simply that they know how to raise funds, elect legislators to office who will serve their interests and get out the vote. Isn’t this a sad state of affairs that we allow people who are as mentally ill as the inmates to hold the jailer’s keys over us for the sake of a buck?

Whining about it doesn’t put an end to the problem. It is still possible to shake off these chains of oppression by using the same organizing techniques they used to get to their present tower of power. 

All of this inhumanity, none of it a solution to crime simply due to voter apathy. You see big crowds at sporting events and nobody attending important legislative hearings. 

Prisons aren’t hospitals and prison goons aren’t nurses. The work currently being done to expose these abuses throughout America by the National Prison Commission on Safety and Abuse is worth reading. To protect the public safety,we need to get involved and active in eliminating those who believe they are above the law and clean our big houses.