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 .
In A Place to Stand a commonly recurring theme is the loss of humanity. He mentions his loss of humanity in jail, in solitary confinement, and when he is with his Teresa. It seems as though when he refers to loss of humanity, he is referring to events in which he does not act like a human, or does not want to act like a human, and thus his existence is not that of a human. I myself have never felt like I have lost my humanity. Sure I have been shamed, embarrassed and annoyed, but I never have really been prompted to act in an inhumane fashion. In addition, I have never really felt like a human being, but as myself. I think a person can not feel like a human until they have been forced to act as an animal. on page 134, Baca mentions” I’ve never gone into my memories so vividly before.” After attacking a person in prison, he was sentenced to solitary confinement. In solitary confinement he looks back on his life, and realizes all of the beautiful parts of it “ Outside I walk alongside grandpa, carrying his black lunch pail in the red wagon I pull behind us… When I am with him like this, life is beautiful.” After acting unlike a human being, and having his humanity ripped from him, Baca realized he was actually a human before going to jail. He realizes the parts of his life that were normal, and happy. During that time with his grandfather, he would have never looked at himself as a “human” but after acting unlike one he is forced to realize the contrast. The aspect of realizing what one has lost after one has lost it is common in many scenarios. In my life, I only realized how truly impactful my grandmother was after she died. I only saw her maybe twice a year and only for a few days at a time, but after losing her, whenever I visited I would almost expect to see her. In addition, when my dog passed away, my life felt a lot emptier as well. I would imagine I could hear him walking around, or find him running up to me and barking when I opened my door, but while I was with him, I never felt like he filled anything that could be taken away. In the book, Santiago Baca remembers his happy times after the change as a distraction, similar to what I did with my dog, as a way to accept his current state. His future was ruined, and he was not leaving prison for at least another 5 years. Only after losing his humanity could he then have an urge to strive and maintain some. After isolation he picks up his reading in a more intense fashion, ready to work hard to regain what he lost. He could only arrive at that point after he realized all he lost.
Accepting loss and living with change can be very motivational. In A Place to Stand Baca needed to go through this traumatic change and loss of humanity to realize a goal to strive for and ultimately live a successful life.
Today, race and mass incarceration is a huge problem in the United States. Prisons are becoming over crowded and felons are receiving a lesser punishment due to space problems. A large majority of those getting arrested are African American or Mexican men. The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the nation largely due to the war on drugs and the “get tough” policy. In many states, blacks are admitted to prisons on drug charges twenty to fifty-seven times greater than whites, even though studies have shown whites use illegal drugs more than blacks. One case showed that whites use crack cocaine eight times the rate of black. They say that the justice system is colorblind, however there are a lot of flaws. We are making blacks and browns seem as they are second class citizens. Our prisons are now overflowing and those being incarcerated are blacks and browns by an unproportional amount. This system of mass incarceration is an effort to create a permanent undercaste in America much like the Jim Crow laws.
Today 1 in 14 blacks are behind bars compared to 1 in 106 whites. Something about that doesn’t seem right. When police officers patrol for drugs they are more likely to target poor black neighborhoods than poor white neighborhoods. They are permanently an undercaste in the United States. Stop and frisks are also coming more and more common. The average black male in a lower class neighborhood gets stopped and frisked approximately 5 times a year . The question on whether lower class neighborhoods are intentionally targeted is still up for question. While most cops say it is entirely random, the facts prove otherwise.Today, people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population. More than half of the prison population comes from drug busts in lower class neighborhoods, this means an overwhelming number of minorities.
Prisons are becoming overcrowded and people who need to be locked up due to major crimes are not being held for as long as they need to be,The National Research Council reported that half of the 222% growth in the state prison population between 1980 and 2010 was due to an increase of time served in prison for all offenses. There has also been a historic rise in the use of life sentences: one in nine people in prison is now serving a life sentence, nearly a third of whom are sentenced to life without parole.. This is due to the thousands of people being locked up on accounts of drugs. Today officers should be fair when targeting communities with drug busts.
Poor colored neighborhoods are not the only ones using or selling drugs. Officers should patrol evenly and cut down on drug busts to avoid overcrowded prisons.
Due to the neighborhoods largely targeted by cops, statistically it looks like minorities are responsible for most criminal activity in the United States. Police purposely target low income housing communities, as well as stopping minorities on the streets. Poorer school districts are guaranteed to have a higher police presence than a school in a rich part of town. The ACLU study found black children made up the majority of juvenile arrests. And 88 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 12 arrested for violating curfew were children of color.
Mass incarceration is making minorities an undercaste in America. The way cops choose to patrol neighborhoods should be changed. White communities should be targeted equally to black communities.