Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

The Least of Our Brothers

The ACLU filed suit last week on behalf of Prison Legal News, a publication that has since 2008 attempted to send reading materials to those incarcerated at Berkeley County Detention Center in South Carolina.  After repeated attempts at giving prisoners access to multiple publications, the publishers were informed that only soft-backed Bibles delivered straight from the publisher are allowed inside the facility.  No other reading materials allowed.  You can check out the NPR article [here].

During my internship this past summer, I had the pleasure of acquainting myself with a young man about my age who was on the work release program through the State prison up the road.  Intelligent, eloquent, morbidly obese with kind eyes and an inquiring mind, this young man looks forward to time with his family in the next few years.  Convicted of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, he was jailed at 17 for 17 years…even though he was not the bearer of the weapon and from what I could gather was not actively involved in the crime at all.  Tragically, those he was with murdered the man they robbed, depriving his family of his presence for the rest of their lives.  Everything about his case made me incredulous.   Due to plea bargaining and mandatory minimums, his peripheral activity in this crime bought him 17 years in state prison, while his “friends” received a fraction of his time.

Since 1998, Georgia has had the policy of requiring offenders of 20 specific crimes to serve 90% of their sentenced time.   In 1995, pardon, parole and early release were abolished for a list of similar crimes in Georgia [Source].   Even though the State’s own Department of Corrections establishes that greater education of the prison population lowers recidivism by a significant percentage, they no longer offer any post-secondary education unless the prisoner has some way to foot the bill themselves [clickety].

Giving prisoners basic availability to reading materials accomplishes so many goals.  It educates the population, which is always the best way to lower crime, period.  It reminds prisoners that they are, in fact, still human worthy of at least minimal cerebral stimulation.  It allows them to explore their spirituality, which, hopefully, is a catalyst to better behavior.   It reminds us that the Constitution still means something.  Treating our prisoners well says much about us, no matter what we think about “them.”

South Carolina isn’t exactly known for its prompt adherence to the Constitution when it comes to civil rights, but this is so blatant on so many levels, I’m shocked it took so long for the ACLU to get involved.  What of Muslim, Jewish, Pagan and atheist prisoners?  It has been postulated that a government contract with the Bible publisher is involved, but the privatization of the prison system and the contracts it produces is for another time…

When we “other” a complete portion of the population, we dehumanize them.  We tell them that they are no longer deserving of respect, that they are merely animals in a cage.  They become cheap labor, who become society’s indentured servants, never fully able to pay their debt, rarely allowed to contribute in an effective way and so they are marginalized…and that is where the danger to society begins.

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Written by thelittlepecan

October 11, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Liberal

11 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Well said and so very sad.


    October 13, 2010 at 12:45 pm

  2. As a goody-two shoes for the earlier portion of my life (and being the daughter of two;) I thought that the legal system in this country was adequate and worked as advertised… after an unfortunate experience with the CA system RIGHT after I gave birth to my second daughter.. I am horrified by how things actually work and what really goes on in the system. I would love to do something/help create change.. but how?


    October 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

  3. Oh my, a welfare debate 0.0 This topic touched a nerve with me and I'm sorry for going off on a tangent earlier. It may not have pertained to the specific question that you were posing in your blog.


    October 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

  4. @ Alyssa-Welfare debate coming soon. You and I should have a good time with that!This young man met the group he was with that very evening. They invited him to tag along to go on a beer run. He had his hunting rifle in the trunk of his car-a legal weapon. I don't think he was driving and obviously I only know his side of the story, but I do know that even with a prominent attorney on his side (his father) he could not compete with the way the plea bargaining system works, allowing the other, older men to testify against him….


    October 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm

  5. I think most of our "systems" in this country need to be overhauled. Justice, welfare, health care…you name it. The "system" is failing in a big way. No, it does not mean they should be thrown away. They should be treated fairly and at the very least given books to read. That is appalling. I live in South Carolina. This state does not cease to amaze me in it's stupidity. Alana, the young man you speak of will suffer the same fate as another man I know. When he is released, he will not be able to get a job and that charge and stigma will forever hang above him. A decision that a immature 17 year old made will forever change the outcome of his life. I know that some people say that he made the choice and knew what would happen. But, can a person that does not act the way they did 10, even 15 years ago deserve to still be punished today? People can change and I think it's sad that society doesn't allow them to lead a productive normal life, after they did the time.


    October 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

  6. Our prison system sucks. Sometimes I think that people don't really understand just how long a year is. I sit my youngest child in time out for two minutes and you'd think it was a year for him. Too many people are being sent to prison, and they just sit there for years. They're treated like crap, unless they're rich and get into a nice posh prison. Mostly,it's miserable.But we don't think about it because they deserve it. They committed the crime, so they do the time. They are being punished. But just because they have been proven guilty, does that mean that we throw them away? That we deny them access to books? To their religion? What is this, Siberia? They are not garbage.

    Mother Phoenix

    October 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm

  7. @ Jim-we have that. Geez, if we'd only all go to church it'd be fine.


    October 11, 2010 at 8:14 pm

  8. Prison industry contracts are…reprehensible.


    October 11, 2010 at 8:06 pm

  9. What we need is a penance system instead of a penal one.


    October 11, 2010 at 8:03 pm

  10. LittlePecan, serving up a helping of our nation's hypocricy. You're so right. The dehumanizing of people rarely ever leads to right action, in my opinion (but it does lead to lining the pockets of the prison industry.) Camel, meet Eye of


    October 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm

  11. I totally agree with you. Especially the last paragraph. If you lock people up, treat them like shit, deprive them, and no one on the outside ever does anything about or even pretends to give a crap….then what kind of people are you releasing out into the the public when their time is served? People who HATE the general public for their ignorance of how prisoners are treated. That's why I always say our prison system makes the criminals WORSE instead of teaching them not to commit crimes again. Other countries are much nicer to their prisoners, only make them serve a fraction of the time they would in the US, and they rehabilitate them instead of punishing them. Those countries also have much lower crime rates. This is not a coincidence.


    October 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: