Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Monday, July 2, 2007

Amputated Lives

[This was written at the beginning of my last week in prison.]

While the primary purpose of visitation is to spend time with family, you also see the same family members of other inmates frequently and get to know them also. (Some inmates, however, seem to prefer that their family not meet other inmates.) This past weekend was the last opportunity to see them.

As I stated in an earlier post, there is an odd kind of camaraderie that develops based on shared heartache. I believe it reinforces the humanity of the men that are in here and the very real collateral consequences of imprisonment, especially for those whose sentences are particularly harsh or, in more cases that people realize, for those who I believe to be completely innocent. While they are in prison, there are family members who are struggling to make sense of an amputated life.

In an case, I had an opportunity to say goodbye to a few people I will likely never see again but sincerely hope the best for in the future after this ordeal is over for them.

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