But as far as I'm concerned, the other side has had their say. For years.
So I don't apologize. If you disagree with me, write Kay Lee.
I'm just expressing a thought... gbw
Actually, Jimmy's not equipped with the mannerisms that might protect a normal man in prison. He doesn't have what it takes to properly defend himself. When he tries, he's a giveaway. His apish displays only serve to mark him as a buffoon and an idiot. He hunches his shoulders, his lips roll out, his eyebrows knit, and his imitation of menace collapses like wax into internally directed rage and the impotent lashings-out of the powerless in a world too complicated and cruel.
But Jimmy is crazy, too. Getting worse as time passes. He's somehow been turned into something slightly dangerous and definitely unstable. He doesn't pretend to care what others think, and has pissed off everyone he's come in contact with. And his noisy rebellions are so pitiful, he's easy pickings for the predators in whatever state facility he's housed in. Thankfully, the inmates here at New River Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida, won't have to deal with him anymore, not for at least 300 days, which is how long he must stay in the box for his most recent attitude crimes.
Make no mistake - Don't get sappy - Jimmy is no fun. And the 300 days will grow and grow as he accumulates more "inside" charges from pissed-off guards. The day Jimmy is released from prison, he won't step through a gate, he'll emerge from a cave.
Originally he'd checked himself in, a right that every inmate has if he feels threatened by other inmates or a particular guard. Alone in his cell he lashed out, sinking into an echo of life, screaming all night, talking to himself in odd voices, collecting and throwing his won shit, accruing all those D.R.s* that give him more solitary confinement as punishment for his sins.
The guards hate him, and even when he's calmed down they take the opportunity to lean on him. He's angry, dumb, easy to run a game on, and like I said, will spend the rest of his sentence inside the 6' by 9' sarcophagus that protects him from the world. He's a dog barking in a cage, threatening the officers, spreading his waste on the walls like a monkey, and beating time to an internal clock that other people can't fathom.
*DR: Discipline Report
It's hard to believe he's only 18.
That's right. He's 18. He's the unwanted child of a drug addicted prostitute, and he's spent most of his life on the streets or in juvenile correctional joints. He made it to New River by having sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl, but there's more to it than that. There's always more to it. Jimmy was only 17 at the time, and ignorant of many things in life. He was an accident having an accident, and everyone lost in the end. So, now, in the hole, Jimmy is considered unredeemable, the end product of a calamitous chain of neglect that was started before he was even conceived.
...And made worse on the day Ronald Reagan cut funding for government social programs and mental health facilities in America.
Jimmy is just one guy, though. There's plenty more where he came from. As most of you know, our city streets are acrawl with the homeless, a good percentage of whom are crazier than the most imaginative Hollywood creation. In the early eighties the Reagan administration, responding to the economic recession, decided to cleanse the federal budget of unnecessary spending. They downsized some things and cut funding completely for the rest.
Social programs took the biggest hit. Giant, unwieldy agencies were much too expensive. Rather than restructure them, it was easier to stuff them in a closet. So, they decided that there was little room in government for the unwanted, the mentally ill, or people with special problems not easily diagnosed. If you can't see it - like a goiter on the neck or a broken leg - it doesn't exist.*
*Ironically, the downsizing of social programs mirrors eerily the boom in prison construction.
They felt that a voluntary system, paid for by the private sector, would be more efficient. As a result, our homeless shelters and streets are showcases for the unwanted, the excessively slow, and the slightly or moderately delusional. Many of these people end up in jail, cared for by untrained guards, housed in facilities not designed for them, living a life fraught with stumbling blocks and penalties that almost always make things worse.
Often they end up locked down. Sometimes for years. States like Florida are steadily building new lockdown (close custody) housing units, scattering them across America to house problem inmates the cheapest way possible. And many of these new solitary inmates will get no real professional help. They'll be denied any physical activity beyond an occasional hour alone in a "dog run," until their sentences run out. Their particular pathologies will incubate and metastasize, and their problems will eventually become everyone's problems.
Now, in the hole, Jimmy's alone. The solitude is not just internal, but actual. Inmates bring him his meals, slide them through the slot, and leave. He's allowed a Bible, that's all. A transfer to a "psychic" camp might help him, but the findings of his psychological evaluation were reportedly tainted by a conspiracy of D.O.C. guards who want to "teach him a lesson."
On the day he's released from prison he'll be completely around the bend. Finished. Fried. A menace to society. After all that time in the box, Jimmy won't function. He'll live on the street for a time, or under a bridge. He'll hurt someone, go back to prison, get in more and more trouble before he ends up at Florida State Prison X-wing. He'll have had a short string of victims and will face a long life measured in stone and steel and the shouts and taunts of angry men. Maybe he'll kill or be killed.
Whatever happens, Ronald Reagan's policy will have sparked the process that years later allowed a bunch of no-neck guards and venal inmates to dispose of Jimmy. It will have rid America of at least one crazy, sad, not all there, unwanted eighteen-year-old kid. And Florida will not be responsible for Jimmy's descent into Hell. Florida will have done its job.
My question is this: Would it absolutely Kill the people of Florida to get this guy out of here, have him and others like him put somewhere they can get some professional attention? Would it Kill Florida to get them away from cynical prisoners and guards? Why in Hell can't people see that the world would be a better place for that? And by the way, it would be cheaper than brutality. Sanity is always less costly. And less shameful.
In the last century we used to lock the mentally ill away in asylums dark and forbidding, where they were forgotten for years, brutalized, subjected to all kinds of inhuman treatment until eventually they died. Now, at the turn of the millennium, we're back to square one. We chain them up, toss them in isolation cells for years, and let them scream.
And then we blame them for screaming.
And then we let them out.
Jimmy's causing trouble now. As you read this he's in his cell alone talking and shouting and kicking the bars. He'll be there tomorrow when you go to work. He'll be there next month and next year. Yesterday he learned to shit in his food tray.
Soon they'll let him out. I hope it's in Your neighborhood.
By Gary Brooks Waid with Mark Rivard