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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

US Prisons are Only for Nice People

Back in 1991, a man was arrested in Milwaukee. This is his synopsis bio from Wikipedia:

Dahmer mugshotJeffrey Lionel Dahmer (May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994) was an American serial killer and sex offender. Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys – most of whom were of African or Asian descent – between 1978 and 1991, with the majority of the murders occurring between 1987 and 1991. His murders were particularly gruesome, involving rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism. On November 28, 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death by fellow Columbia Correctional Institution inmate Christopher Scarver with a bar from a weight machine while on work detail in the prison gym.

When he was arrested, police found a human head in his refrigerator. "Further searching of the apartment revealed three more severed heads, multiple photographs of murdered victims and human remains, severed hands and penises, and photographs of dismembered victims and [other] human remains in his refrigerator," we're told. Dahmer experimented with creating what he called "zombies" -- mindless, compliant sex slaves -- "by drilling holes into their skulls and injecting hydrochloric acid into their brains." A complete inventory of his apartment revealed that "several corpses were stored in acid-filled vats, and implements for the construction of an altar of candles and human skulls were found in his closet." He had a human heart in his freezer.

Dahmer went on trial in 1992 and, oddly, there wasn't any big debate about what to do with such a clearly dangerous individual. He was going to prison. In the small town of Portage, Wisconsin. See, that's what the Columbia Correctional Institution is for -- warehousing seriously dangerous people.

Thinking about Jeffrey Dahmer, it's hard to understand the reasoning behind a move by a Wisconsin Republican to make sure criminals aren't sent to the state's prisons.

Associated Press:

A Wisconsin lawmaker wants to keep terrorists out of the state's prisons.

State Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, is preparing to introduce a bill that would prohibit the state Corrections Department from accepting anyone who was an inmate, prisoner or detainee at Guantanamo Bay unless they've violated Wisconsin law.


Kaufert said he's concerned detainees could be sent to Wisconsin prisons. He said guards shouldn't be forced to interact with suspected terrorists.

OK, let me get this straight; Wisconsin's prison guards shouldn't have to deal with dangerous criminals. I'm sorry, but isn't that pretty much the entirety of their job description? Is Kaufert under the impression that Columbia Correctional's a day care facility or something?

Of course, Kaufert's not alone is his misconception of American prisons. It seems there are plenty of people in Washington who believe that prisons are completely incapable of handling dangerous criminals.

Raw Story:

US President Barack Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by early 2010 hit a snag Tuesday as his Democratic Senate allies moved to deny his 80-million-dollar request to shut the facility.

The decision came after a fierce campaign from Republicans who charged that Obama lacked a plan for dealing with the 240 detainees at the notorious jail, and warned against imprisoning, trying, or freeing any of them on US soil.

Wait, we can't even try them in the US? Why? If you think they'll build a mass accelerator cannon and escape with their army of robots, you're confusing a religious lunatic with Lexx Luthor. And we don't even know if they're all religious lunatics. Why? Because we haven't tried them yet!

But hey, we can't expect the criminal justice system to deal with a bunch of crazy cultists. Putting dangerous people in American prisons is just crazy talk. They're designed for pillars of society like serial killers, neo-nazi gangmembers, and child rapists. There's no way they could handle terrorists -- well, other than American terrorists like anti-abortion nut Eric Rudolph or Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. But I'm sure that -- all the random killing and mayhem aside -- Rudolph and Kaczynski are wonderful people and harmless as bunnies.

At the heart of this is an attempt by the right to embarrass Obama. Only extremely stupid people are worried about putting a member of al Qaeda in a US prison -- let alone trying one in a US court. And we aren't going to release someone who's actually guilty. Show of hands -- who thinks we ought to keep innocent people in custody forever? Who thinks that's justice?

But Senate Democrats, led by the seriously awful Harry Reid, are falling for this idiocy. Reid always falls for idiocy. This is the man who has heart palpitations at the mention of the word "filibuster." Offer even a hint of resistance and Harry folds -- every time.

At a press conference yesterday, Reid told reporters he's against putting detainees in US prisons, while offering no alternative. In fact, he engaged in idiocy, as this bit of transcript from Think Progress shows:

REID: I'm saying that the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, do not want terrorists to be released in the United States. That's very clear.

QUESTION: No one's talking about releasing them. We're talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.

REID: Can't put them in prison unless you release them.

QUESTION: Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit?...

REID: I can't make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.

What the hell is he talking about? "Can't put them in prison unless you release them?" Since when? Was Dahmer released, was Rudolph, was Kaczynski, was Tim McVeigh? Seriously Harry, if you could clear up what the hell you're talking about, that'd be great. Because right now it looks like shameless and stupid bullshit worthy of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter.

If we can deal with guys who eat human hearts and shoot acid into people's brains, we can deal with terrorists. We have before. This whole issue is either people being stupid or pretending to be stupid. I won't make the distinction in the case of Harry Reid, because it doesn't make any difference.

As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, "You are who you pretend to be." If Reid and Wisconsin State Rep. Dean Kaufert are pretending to be stupid, I say we take them at their word -- they're stupid.


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M said...

This whole thing is fucking ridiculous.

Harry Reid is ridiculous, and quite honestly, I'm getting sick of his "leadership."

Democrats have the House, Senate, Whitehouse, a recent republican defection, public support and world support, but he acts like doing the right thing is debatable and hinges on the mercy of republican opinion. The same republican opinions that lead to this whole clusterfuck in the first place.

So let me get this straight.

Terrorist stotage = Bad?

Nuclear waste storage= Good?

Prison Teacher said...

As a teacher inside a state prison system, I have noticed the disparity regarding the incarceration of young black men as compared to their white counterparts. I feel that many reasons exist for the imbalance, but none more powerful than the lack of proper socialization of too many of these young men. I have taught in alternative schools, public schools, private schools, juvenile correctional centers and adult prisons and I have personally made note of what many of my young African-American students have shared with me. Too many report that they were raised by mama or grandma instead of having the support of a father figure. Some of their stories have broken my heart. I know that feeling sorry for these young men is futile and only makes me feel bad. I have racked my brain with trying to come up with a strategy that will help to address the issue.

I finally came to realize that there is no simple answer for such a complex issue. As Americans (black, white, red and brown), we need to all pitch in and do our part to help. Organize youth groups, form basketball or football leagues, ask rolemodels to speak at schools, etc. The important thing is to get off our rears and start doing something. Simply paying lip service (complaining or blaming) to the problem will not do very much at all. For my part, I have authored a book, which helps young African-American males to negotiate prison and start to get their lives back on track. I truly believe that this book is a great tool for the purpose for which it was written.

The book is called Black Choices, a young black man's guide to prison survival
ISBN: 1-60813-727-9, 83 pages, 6 x 9,

The book can be ordered through or by calling 301/695-1707

Remember, the way to start working on the problem is to start working on the problem. As a white man in America, I am appalled at the treatment that a whole race of Americans endured for too many years in the greatest country ever created in God's master plan. Now is the time to start helping these young men serving in the neo-slavery time-period. It is sad indeed to see the talent that is being wasted inside America's correctional systems. Make this the day that you really take notice and do something to help. It is going to take a united effort to address this most disturbing trend.