Friday, January 27, 2006


Diane Wilson: An angel within.

One of the things that most rankles me about many fundamentalist Christians is their attitude toward prisoners. Now, prisoners are not a bucket of grins. Many of them are mentally ill. Many are manipulative, even sociopathic. Some are violent. And some are completely innocent. Self-professed Christians who wish harm on "criminals" should reflect on this: Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. --Matthew 25 Jacob's son Joseph was a prisoner. The prophet Jeremiah. Paul and Silas. St. Peter. Jesus. And now Diane Wilson Much like Susan McDougal, she is taking her time in jail as one more moment in which to love justice and do mercy. Consider what she reports about the Victoria County jail: * Inmates, most of whom are poor, have no idea what normal jail procedures are, much less whether they have any rights at all. * Inmates have legitimate grievances but have given up on filing them. * Access is not granted to the law library. * Inmates are denied access to lawyers, often until 10 minutes before trial. * Denial of healthcare is routine, but is often also used as punishment. For example, an inmate with gallstones was allowed to suffer until her gallbladder burst. A woman suffering kidney failure was denied treatment even though the jail knew she could die. A pregnant woman, who was suffering from uterine bleeding was incarcerated despite official orders that she not be. She began a breech labor. Instead of being given medical treatment, she was threatened with tasering. The baby arrived, but died due to the delay in medical treatment. The mother was handed her dead baby. This is a woman's jail. Men's jails are much worse. Some of the people in those jails are innocent. None of them deserve to be treated cruelly. Victoria County jail, at least, has an angel within.
"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

I can't talk myself out of believing that for Some People, the prison system is a convenient way of ensuring that large numbers of the lower classes "do it and decrease the surplus population". What goes on is conveniently out of sight, and most people would assume that the people in prison deserve whatever happens to them, including death from neglect or abuse.
Your instincts are correct, MEC.

Several right-wingers have told me, prior to the DNA testing that proved that a number of people on death row were innocent, that they had no qualms about people being put to death for crimes they didn't commit.

They admitted that it was likely that some prisoners had been wrongly convicted, but it didn't matter. The execution of innocents, they said, would serve just as well to terrorize prospective criminals away from a life of crime.

The death penalty issue is iconic of something much larger. The more common fate of prisoners is to be medically neglected, assaulted, tortured in a manner not fundamentally different than Abu Ghraib (e.g., sensory deprivation, e.g. stress positions), and so on. The people who form the bulk of the prison population have the weakest psychological defenses. Many become mentally ill in prison.

Most prisoners are not very lovable people before they get into trouble, and few are lovable after they have developed a good case of PTSD. But thank God for a Diane Wilson to visit with them. That lady will be among the first in the Kingdom.
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