May 3, 2007

A certain crime, a certain prison?

As a popular saying goes, "Let the punishment fit the crime" do you feel that a certain crime should land you in a certain prison? For example, should white collar criminals be locked up with street criminals. Or in other words, should murderers be locked up with felony theft cases? Or should convicted murderers be commited to a specific prison of their own? Should a stock insider trader spend ten years in a prison, bunking next to a child molestor.

My view on this is that there should be some separation between prisons. I believe that an illegal stock trader should be required to bunk with some guy who raped 14 little girls (or whatever the match should be). This would ideally create a safer prison system as a whole. Reason being is that the less dangerous prisoners, while they should still be under maximum security (for risk of escape), should not be placed into an area in which he/she will most likely learn more criminal activites. Also, gang kingpins who are doing a life shot will not be able to pass information on to lower gang members who may only be in for a few years.
While criticisms may say this is costly, it would pay for itself in the long run by reducing gang violence and future crimes on the streets.

Cruelty and Capital Punishment

As I was looking over our captial punishment materials for class, I thought back to a couple of articles a read a few years ago, I believe from a "Taking Sides" book. I found them very interesting. The two authers contradicted eachother on which form of punishment was more cruel: Capital Punishment or life imprisonement.
Arguments for the capital punishment side include:
- causes obvious death
-mental anguish of knowing the exact day you will die
-errors during the execution procedure
-incarcereation on death row (the most extreme solitary confinement in prison),

Arguments for the life imprisonment side include:
- causes a long. drawn out death (usually from sickness)
- spend what could be more than a half a century in a cell 23 hours a day
- mental instability caused by this isolation

I personally feel that the death penalty is far crueler than life imprisonment. The sheer thought of knowing the exact time I was going to die would make me loose my mind in a heartbeat. While it may be more cruel, I still feel that the death penalty should be kept on the table as it is today. I feel that because of its cruelty, it does have a high deterance rate. Also, a certain amount of cruelty should be allowed, given the prisoner on death row most likely also cruelly killed another human.

I decided I would extend this debate to the class, in hopes to start a debate itself.

Mitch Metty

May 1, 2007

Newjack Vs. Army Basic Training

As I was reading Newjack, I started to think back about how it was for me at basic training for the US Army. Ted Conover brought back memories for myself because the training was similar in ways, but also had its differences. Conover overall, thought it was difficult to get used to a strict routine and have the instructors yell at them constantly. With the numerous amount of inspections of their clothes, along with their rooms, it was a stressful time. The main reason for this is to break down the person as a normal civilian and to then rebuild them as a corrections officer who is alert and pays attention to detail. I dealt with the same things. We would get yelled at constantly, have inspections, and go through physical training. I had it worse though. Unlike the correction officers academy that tries to build a good corrections officer, I was trained to be a killer, a warrior. That may sound barbaric, but the bravery and courage of fighting wars demands a lot from a person. The atmosphere of breaking down the civilian that all of us know and to build a warrior was not easy. I had went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, one of the only two places with all men. Because of us all being men, the training we had was more intense and harsh. While I was going through basic training, there were times where I hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally. I cried on occasions. The good thing about the corrections academy is that at the end of the day and on weekends, they could go home and back into civilization. I on the otherhand stayed in the barracks for 10 weeks nonstop with phone calls home maybe once a week. Army basic trianing is a 24/7 operation. I could talk a lot more about my experiences, but that could take up many pages. In closing, even though Conover and the story he told about the academy being brutal or tough, it is nothing compared to what I went through. I would've traded places with Conover in a heartbeat.

April 29, 2007

The other inmates?

It is true that correctional officers are in many ways, the "other inmates." They are cut off from the outside world for the eight to ten hours when they are on their shift, and during this time, they experience several of the pains of imprisonment. The safety and personal security of officers is always at risk when they are surrounded and outnumbered by convicted felons. Officers are also deprived of many common goods like magazines, books, and gum because they fall under the enormous of list of items considered contraband. Although these items seem harmless, the staples from magazines could be used as weapons and gum can be used to jam locks. In addition, officers have little autonomy or lack of privacy due to security cameras and strict prison regulations. But beyond the pains of imprisonment there are other reasons to call correctional officers the other inmates.
Like prisoners, officers are also part of a hierarchical social organization. While prisoners at the top may be thieves and those at the bottom, sex offenders, the warden is at the top of the prison administration and at the correctional officers are at the bottom. There is also a unique officer sub-culture with its own code of silence. An officer is never to take the side of an inmate or report the misconduct of a fellow officer. This is similar to the convict code, where prisoners are to keep their distance from officers and are forbidden to snitch. Moreover, working in the prison environment desensitizes officers to violence and hardens them. In the same way, prisoners must also maintain a tough exterior to protect themselves, and in the process are also desensitized. In order to survive inside the walls, officers must keep their guard up but never show it, while always being prepared to react. Prisons are institutions with unique cultures and social norms, and those inside their walls are shaped by them.
But there is one important aspect of being a correctional officer that makes it inaccurate to call them the other inmates. That is, at the end of their shift, no matter what, they get to leave the prison and go home for the other sixteen hours of the day. Reguardless of the time they spend experiencing the effects of inmate life, officers still have their liberty. They have the freedom to choose a career in law enforcement, earn a real living, and live their lives however they decide. Therefore, it is inappropriate to refer to correctional officers as the other inmates.
-Jenna Hernke-

April 27, 2007

Prison Guards as Inmates?

I would argue that prison guards are similar to prisons in many ways. Prison guards are forced to endure some of the some pains of imprisonment as the prisoners. First, prison guards lack autonomy in the prison. Their uniforms do not allow them to blend in to the prison atmosphere. Rather, they stand out against the prisoners and are easily identifiable from the rest of the prison population. Throughout their day, they can never be totally autonomous (as many others can in their jobs). Second, similar to the prisoners, the prison guards' personal security is almost always threatened. They can never totally relax at their jobs, just as the prisoners can never relax for fear of some attack. I would also argue that they suffer liberty deprivation on their jobs because while most people get lunch breaks and other small breaks throughout the day where they can leave the building, prison guards are at their post the entire day.


finally, the farm entry, K. Alex Finseth

K. Alex Finseth

I finally watched the farm after weeks of searching. The film was very interesting in seeing how different people view their incarceration. Some felt that once you’re in, you are done for, you’re not going to get out, your life is over and you serve no purpose, and then there those who feel that you cant give up once you’re locked up. Life has a greater meaning. These people were focused on either rehabilitation or seeking redemption from God.
The most interesting piece of this movie was Vincent Simmons parole hearing. He had spent a lot of his time in prison working on his case. He went through the court system to get information from the trial that put him there and he wasn’t getting any help. He claimed that the police investigating the rapes just wanted someone to pin the crime on, he claimed that he had official medical records from the trial stating that the two girls who were raped were still virgins. He had all this information that he gave to his parole board, and they didn’t bat an eye at it. Even after the trial it sounded like they were trying to convince themselves that he was guilty.
This reminds me of the mind set of the prisoners and their keepers. They are at a constant battle with no room for trusting on another. If I was in either position I wouldn’t trust anyone my self, but that’s what makes this whole system corrupt. I looked up Vincent Simmons to see if he had gotten out yet, the last thing I found was a site asking for help. He has been in prison for 28 years now, that means only 72 more to go.
I think that Vincent’s parole meeting went so bad because of the cameras and political agendas of the board. They wont loose sleep over an innocent black man being locked up in prison, they loose sleep over making radical decisions, and looking bad to the public.

The Other Prisoners

I believe that prison culture and experiences do make the correctional
officers the "other" inmate. They are a unique kind of prisoner,
however, with characteristics that come from being socialized in the
prison environment. Just as new prisoners, fish, get hazed into prison
life this also goes for the new guards, New Jacks, as well. They have
to earn the respect from their fellow peers. There is a hierarchy
within the staff from warden down to the officers. The inmates have
their hierarchy too from thieves to snitches.
The guards have to abide by a routine. They do their rounds and follow
orders from their superiors. Prisoners also have their routines and,
for the most part, they adhere to the rules. The correctional officers
spend a lot of time just sitting around and passing the time until they
can go home. Obviously the inmates sit around as well and do their
time. Everyone smells the same smells and sweats in the heat.
Sometimes the COs acquire nicknames just as prisoners do.
While the inmates have their convict code, the COs have their prisoner
officer code. They maintain non familiarity, a code of silence and
loyalty. Over time, the guard can easily become more aggressive and
authoritative as portrayed in "New Jack" and in the film. This can
easily carry over into their personal life and even into how they raise
their children. Prisoners can become more aggressive the longer they
are in the system also. Being exposed to violence and the tension
within the walls eventually gets into one's soul. The correctional
officers choose their lifestyle just as inmates had chosen paths of
crime. These similarities cause me to believe that the prison guard is
the other prisoner.
-Holly Sprenger

April 26, 2007

Prison officers - the other inmate?

While there are many similar experiences that inmates and prison officers face, I wouldn’t go so far as to label the officers the “other inmate?. I am not denying that there is a prison officer code, a code that is very similar to the convict code. Indeed both prisoners and officers have very distinct subcultures. Many aspects of the cultures are similar because officers are influenced by inmates and vice versa. But if we are going to label a prison officer as the “other inmate? then why not call a cashier at a store the “other customer?? I’m not trying to equate prison officers to cahiers or anything, but just to show that because two groups are functioning in the same environment does not mean that they have the same experiences.
The most important thing that distinguishes a prisoner from other members of society is that inmates are being contained, against their will, for twenty-four hours a day, every day. Prisoners are completely immersed in their subculture all of the time. On the contrary, prison officers have to live two different lives, one in the prison and one outside of the prison. Many officers in the films we viewed as well as Ted Conover in New Jack testified to how hard this was on a person. Imagine then, how hard it must be for the inmates, when they get out of prison. They may not even remember the identity they once had when they were free.

Guards as other inmates?

To make my point succinctly, I do believe that the guards are the other inmates in prison. The guards have to endure the same atmosphere that people are warehoused in. The inmates pejoratively affect the day to day grind. This is a thankless job with great suffering for little pay. There day will consist of routines following the routines of the inmates. Yes, the guards do get paid and they do get to leave but they are as much apart of the prison sub culture as the inmates. If they are a crooked guard, the inmates lean on them for good or special treatmen. if they are a guard doing their job the best they can they are subject to the volitile nature of the inmates. The amount of mental and physical stress that a guard goes through is inconceivable.

Guards: The Other Inmates?

While I believe that guards' lives in some ways resemble inmates' lives, it is incorrect to make the claim that guards are the "other inmates."
While guards spend much of their week in a prison, surrounded by some of the worse people on Earth, they do not spend twenty four hours confined, with someone watching them consistently. When they are done with their eight or ten hour shift, they are exactly that: DONE. They get to walk out of the prison and head back into society for the remainder of the day. They get to smell all of freedoms' joys. They get to go home to their spouses, play with their children, have a beer, and grill in the yard. Prisoners in no way have nearly this much freedom. Freedom to a prisoner is the time spent playing basketball out on some of the crappiest courts in America.
Within the prison, guards have it much better as well. They are not confined to a cell, rather they are confined a whole cell block. They get breaks where they can go sit down away from the inmates. They are not required to eat the same slop over and over again. Instead they can bring their own food in, or leave and get food if they would like.
Overall, the guards have it much better than prisoners, and are in no way "the other inmates." Prisoners are forced to live in this life twenty four hours a day. Guards are required to work their shift and go home. Lastly, if the guards can't handle the pressures of prison life, they always have the option to quit.

The Other Inmates

Having watched "The Other Inmates" it makes me understand how the Prison Officer may view himself as an inmate as well. We need to examine how a Prison Officer conducts his activities, and what his expectations are within the prison. They are expected to be in a specific uniform, follow stringent rules, be on a certain schedule, and other structured items. This is eerily similar to what an inmate is expected to do. We can see how this can be then viewed as being the same as an inmate.

In addition to this, we need to evaluate the Prisoners code and the Prison Officers code. Both have very similar rules/restrictions. Don't snitch, don't get close to inmates/guards, etc. These are in place to help with the harships encountered in the Prison environment.

Prison Officers also feel like they are "Doing Time" when the come to work. They are only in for 8-12 hours versus 10-20 years, but it is still the same type of feeling. They are basically "locked up" when they are at work, with little to no contact to the outside world.

The film was very educational and informative in the life of a Prison Officer and what they deal with on a daily basis.

The Other Inmates

Considering the conditions of their working place, I understand the reasoning behind calling prison officers "the other inmates". They are surrounded by hundred of conivicts, many of whom are dangerous, and have nothing but a baton to use as a weapon. The stress of this situation must be great, but the fact remains that these prison officers can leave anytime they want while the prisoners do not have this option.

What it boils down to is choice. It used to be that working as a prison officer was one of the highest paying jobs one could hope for without any secondary education. Many went into the profession because it was the best way to privide for their families. While the job was dangerous, the officer and his/her dependents relied on this money so just up and quitting was not that easy. In recent years there have been more requrements put into place to become a prison officer. Now having a college degree (a mimimum of an Associates) is necessary in many regions. Now one does not just fall into prison work, but directly chooses to pursue it. I would not call them an "inmate" while they are at work more than any other occupation, regardless of what the job entails.

There are other similaities between the inmates and the officers, for example both have "codes" that stress loyalty to one another, but codes of this sort are common at many workplaces. A major similarity that the video did not point out is that both inmates and officers get bored a lot. While the job is often stressful, the large amounts of downtime does not exactly lend itself to the image of a 24/7 chaotic environment. Despite similarities between the two groups, I think the analogy is too extreme to be of much use.

guards called inmates

I completely agree with the comments about guards, or "correctional officers", being the other inmates. I do believe that the guards have freedom and rights that the prisoners do not have, however, there are similarities of the guards and inmates. These guards, on a daily basis, have to pretend and hide from their fear of the inmates. At any time the inmates can overpower the guards and take them down. In a way, the guards are secretly the inmates and the inmates are the guards. Although the guards watch over the inmates daily, the guards have to work together in order to hold the order in the prisons. As soon as the guards stop working together, the inmates may start taking over. The convict code and the code of the guards both need to be followed in order for both sides to stand up for themselves and the guards need to hold the order. Fear never can be a question in the guards' eyes and they have to be the ones that can be thankful they are the ones that can go home to their families at night and not be labeled as "the other inmates."

The "Other inmate"

After watching “the other inmates?, it is safe to say that Prison Officers are like those of inmates who lives in a prison. The reason why I say this is because veteran Prison Officers spent most of their career inside a prison just like inmates. Prison Officers and inmates are similar in couple of things.

For example, Prison Officers and inmates have their own “codes? inside a prison. These are called “Prison Officer Code? and “Convict Code“. These codes shared some of the similar type of things, like don’t snitch, don’t talk to Officers or inmates, social distance, and etc.

Prison Officers and inmates learned behavioral things within their group. For example, inmates learned things from other inmates during their times there. What I meant by this is that inmates learned techniques to become a better criminals like stealing a car and or how to burglarize a house.

For Prison Officers, they learned how to treat inmates through other Prison Officers. Prison Officers also takes on a role of law enforcement through their daily experiences, assignments, policy and manual.

Prison is violent and foreign world for both of Prison Officers and inmates. Violent comes in the form of assaults inside a prison (both of Officers and inmates will soon or late be assaulted).

There are course things that are different between Officers and inmates. Freedom is the most important. Officers have more freedom where they could go home to a “normal? life in society after their shifts. Inmates are restricted to do things that they are entitled to like time in a cell and daily workouts.

In summary, I believed that Officers and inmates are both “inmates? within a prison. Officers and inmates have their daily routines and are vulnerable to assaults while they are there inside a prison. Officers and inmates have their own codes about what to do or not to do between the two groups. But there are things that are different between Officers and inmates. Officers could get away from the prison after their shifts and live a “normal life? where inmates are restricted from staying inside the prison’s wall. Other than that, Officers and inmates are like “inmates within inmates? inside a prison.

The Other Inmates?

Whether it is accurate to refer to prison guards as the other inmates is the question. For the most part everyone can agree that the job of a guard is not the most glamorous that there is. But as we saw in the film they are a close nit group of their own, they look out for each other and ensure each others safety. We could perceive this as just another gang amongst the many gangs that we find in prisons. In short I would be more than willing to say that yes perhaps officers are the other inmates. As stated in the film they may actually only be their for eight hours while the actual inmates are their for twenty four hours. As guards they have to also deal with the reality of the prison. In all this these men have to remain calm and not show their weakness. The rules of prison life may not totally apply to them but there are certain rules that they will still follow. They can never show fear, they can not be known as the one who talks too much. This is what is called the Prison Officers Code, just like the prisoners the officers are also bound by this code and this is something that has the guards feeling like the other inmate.

By Julius Eromosele