Prisoners in the public eye by J.T.

In 120 degree weather the air circulators started to break. This problem in an already overpopulated and underfunded prison could be deadly. Seeking support the state corrections director took this issue to the lawmakers themselves. The response was cold and dehumanizing to the prisoners. A representative said that one approach to take when solving the overpopulation was to turn the circulators off, simultaneously saving the repair money and suffocating some of the prisoners to death. While this was almost certainly just a joke in bad taste it accurately reflects the public attitude toward prisoners and their underfunded prisons.

In the prison system money is everything, just like in free life. The difference in the prison system is that you are one of the first things to be underfunded in a crisis. If there is a collapse in the economy it isn’t hard to convince people into cutting prison funding. The prisoners necessities are seen as less important than the free people’s pocket change. It is the difference between prisoners guarding other prisons and abusing their newfound power and a strict, rehabilitating jail. The money is the wall between all out chaos and gang rule in prison and a punishing structured experience.

When being sent off to prison you may notice some minor details. These details can tell you how much the state cares for its prisoners, and more importantly what your life will be like. If the bus seems to more than a year or two old you may be heading toward a underfunded prison. The prison may have sacrificed the purchase of new busses to keep prisoners in separate cells, or maybe they had to put prisoners in shared cells as well. In many cases it’s a safe bet to think you may be bunking up with your new “friend”. They could be nice, but if you’re unlucky you may become a slave, selling your body for cigarettes and drugs. When being sent off to the slammer you can know what the situation will be due to some minor details.

In 1971 a psychologist by the name of Philip Zimbardo conducted an infamous experiment. The stanford prison experiment as it was called put students in the positions of guards and some others in the position of prisoners. This led to the guards abusing their power, beating and dehumanizing their prisoners. They dehumanized them by assigning them numbers and thinking of them as prisoners not humans. The experiment had to be shut down early at stanford due to the abuse and stress caused by it. This experiment is the same thing that has happened in the past, prisoners get a position guarding other prisoners and they abuse their power. This experiment was for psychology but it proved that prisoners guarding other prisoners due to a lack of empathy from the public can lead to disastrous consequences.

Due to unfortunate circumstances in the past some prisons have been forced at one point or another to use inmates as guards. This is only an issue when a prison is underfunded and can not afford to pay for salaries. Having prisoners as guards leads to many issue typical of systems that have an imbalance of power. The guards may abuse and overuse their newfound power, making life worse for all other inmates. They may use their power to beat or get items from other inmates. They may even incite violence in the prison. They will be biased in disciplining and catching bad actions. For example if an inmate’s friend was in a fight and winning, the fight may go on longer than normal, but if he is getting beaten the other guy may be disciplined excessively in response to the fight. Underfunding can lead to desperate prisons cutting costs by cutting good guards.

In the general public’s eyes prisoners are all scumbags who don’t deserve the funds that the prisons need to function. This view needs to change, people need to see the consequences of their lack of empathy. The lack of care from the public leads to bad situations for the prisoners such as sharing cells with the most violent criminals, prisoners being granted extra power and privileges, and advancing to abusing those powers. The lack of understanding can also lead to prisoners not getting the right to protection they need. If the prisoners are not protected from one another slaves will be traded and drugs and cigarettes will be the currency in the prison. The public needs to open its eyes the the effects of its view over prisons .

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