12 April 2014

Our Parallel (yet still not identical) World of Prisons

At one end of the incarceration spectrum New Yorker Magazine prints a Jeffrey Toobin piece, aptly named "This is My Jail"; a grim glimpse at a the Baltimore City Detention Center, an inner city jail that ought to be notorious; no - infamous! The place ought to be infamous.
On January 5, 2013, Tavon White, an inmate at the Baltimore City Detention Center, had a cell-phone conversation that was intercepted on an F.B.I. wiretap.
    “This is my jail, you understand that,” White told an unidentified friend. “I’m dead serious. I make every final call in this jail. . . . Everything come to me. Before a motherfucker hit a nigga in the mouth, guess what they do—they gotta run it through me. I tell them whether it’s a go ahead and they can do it or whether they hold back. Before a motherfucker stab somebody, they gotta run it through me.”
    White was a leader of a gang called the Black Guerrilla Family.
    The gang had such control over inmates in the facility that, as White put it in another phone call,
    “I got elevated to the seat where as though nobody in the jail could outrank me. . . . Like, I am the law. . . . So if I told any motherfucking body they had to do this, hit a police, do this, kill a motherfucker, anything, it got to be done. Period"
And yes, it's worth signing up for the free monthly trial subscription to read the whole article.
Here's the URL spelled out - http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/04/14/140414fa_fact_toobin
At the other end of the prison spectrum
Bernie Kerik, once a top cop, once Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections. He was later indited, and sentenced, for accepting bribes, tax fraud and, frankly, lying about it. He opinions about prison now that he was incarcerated, have changed. Who would have known?

Laura Dimon, a columnist at PolicyMic, wrote:

He's been called a hero and a leader, a liar and a crook. Praise or condemn him, it's hard to argue that he doesn't have a damned interesting story. He said that throughout his career, he thought he understood the criminal justice system.
     But it wasn't until the tough "lock 'em up" cop with the Tony Soprano-like swagger was suited up in prison uniform, mopping floors and living in a small room with three other men that he realized: He knew "nothing," he said, until he was on the other side of the bars.
Another interviewer, Lisa DiPaulo, (who specializes in chatting up the famous) wrote in The Secrets of White Collar Prisons got him to talk about his impressions of spending time in a "Club Fed" prison for the rich and influential. The article, appearing in the slick lifestyle e-mag Dujour has another convicted criminal, Jack Abramoff, lamenting (on Kerik's behalf) “You don’t want to be the celebrity of the prison, by the way,” Abramoff also shares: “It’s never good to draw attention to yourself in a prison. Nothing good is gonna result from that.”

Perhaps the most useful insights shared with Ms. DiPaulo by Bernie Kerik are after she asked "What was the most shocking thing about being on the other side of the bars?" He said this:

“The punishment should be the deprivation of freedom and liberty,” he says. “But once you arrive at prison—I was shocked by the psychological punishment.” This is unexpected. “You are constantly berated, degraded, demoralized,” he says. “You’re herded like cattle.”
    The isolation from family also takes its toll. “You can’t show your child love and support and guidance in absentia. You damn sure can’t do it in a two-hour visit in a visiting room. You can’t discipline your child while you’re in the system, because the last thing you need is for that last conversation you have with your child to be a negative one,” he says.
    “You cannot fathom the pain, the heartache, that the system causes parents and their kids. Nobody gets it. Nobody understands it.”

Ms. Dimon, graduated from Columbia's School of Journalism in 2013 and her work focuses on criminal justice issues. She also wrote The Invisible Life Sentence, a piece on how our harsh and unforgiving society essentially "sentences" almost anyone whose been incarcerated, to a marginalized life; unless, of course, if your are already wealthy (and can completely avoid being sentenced) or if you are a well connected former career politician. The following link will take you to the complete article.

Here's the URL spelled out - to Ms. Dimon's article: http://www.policymic.com/articles/86691/nypd-commissioner-turned-felon-has-a-message-for-america-now-he-s-been-to-prison?.

Ms. DePaulo's creds include writing for GQ, DUJour, and other lifestyle magazines. Her take is, perhaps, a caution to the high and mighty that if they do go to prison, they might be forced to live in a cell "where you are barely able to turn around in the cell without bumping into something..."
    Point being, the conditions are nothing, nothing like those endured by the inmates at Baltimore City Detention Center.

Here's the URL spelled out - to Ms. DePaulo's article: http://dujour.com/article/inside-white-collar-prisons-bernie-kerik-jack-abramoff

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