Strange modes of non-thinking seem to have slowly pervaded large segments of the federal prison bureau and have been accepted as the normal. The average private first class prison guard seems to mold his pliable attitude to whatever official policy percolates down from above. His antenna are sensitive enough to pick up faint nuances of his superior's orders. If the Associate Warden Custody is a "treat 'em tough, Law and Order" man the guard will, robot like, treat 'em tough; if his superior's wishes are for restraint to be shown, then it is. The more succesful even learn to anticipate and act out their master's wishes before being stated. All of which does not encourage an independent thinking process, but merely Pavlovian practice in furthering their conditioned reflexes.
In time our keepers become so accustomed to their own bureaucratic Newspeak recitation of hackncyed self-contradictory slogans, parroted in the style of a well oiled automaton, that they don't even question themselves any more. Is the very thought of doubting the prevailing "bureau policy" so abhorrent that they banish the very idea of daring to doubt? Is this lemnming-like follow the leader character trait necessary if they are to avoid wondering about the basic morality of their actions? A blind subserviant acceptance of whatever is of such stuff are promotions made of. Ever onward and upward. A Wash. D.C. assignment may even await the fortuitous few who never exercise any critical judgments of their own.
What type of mind -- not person -- is required to sit on the prison disciplinary board and dispense just-us as it's dispensed here at Marion? Remember that people are being arrested, here and in other prisons, and given indefinite sentences in Long Term Control Units. In many cases, they're not even charged with breaking any regulations but merely told "we don't want you in our population. One unfortunate has over six consecutive years in lock-up, one over four years, etc. Of course, it's not difficult to understand someone doing this; money, position, steady employment, and gratification of sadistic impulses will buy many people. But how are they themselves persuaded that they are right, doing right, on the right side? Maybe it's a process of thought as detailed in The New Republic years ago, that in order to enslave someone without inefficient techniques such as guns and clubs, the best method is first to convince him that he's free, lives in the best of all possible worlds, has the highest standard of living in the world, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Truly convincing your slave of these points stops any possible questioning in advance. Perhaps this technique accounts for part of the mental make-up of many " correctional officers."
But, after performing their duty, what do they think about what the prisoner thinks? The one type of inmate behavior and attitude most acceptable to them is that of the cringing sychophant who is always completely in agreement with their every utterance and continuously lets them know it with a servile smile. If he reinforces this with a few nuggets of information he may even be labeled rehabilitated --. and then all things are possible.
But woe unto the prisoner who just "endure~." Some,of course, haven't the foggiest of what is expected of them, so they know nothing else to do but endure. Others know, but can't bring themselves to what they consider the debasement or lowering necessary to achieve favor, so they endure. Others of a more defiant nature express their resentment of life in lock by verbalizing their just resentments. So they too endure. The keepers, of course, record these words as proof that they're dealing with do or die desperadoes and thus, that preventive detention is only too good for them. Their logic is such that they themselves wonder - why any inmate would dare to question their arbitrary classification for Long Term Control Unit. They really can't understand any doubt expressed which challenges their authoritarion dispensation of endless years to be served in segregation. By some strange process of reasoning -- foreign to a normal mind -- they feel completely justified in having a man who has not even been accused by them of breaking any rules, locked up for what may be the rest of his life. Any objection, from stoic silence to vehement vocalization, is interpreted as further corroborating their judgment. But, if the prisoner has enough self-control and experience to restrain his natural impulse to protest these injustices, then in time, after a year or two, even the most vigilant will relax and make a candid remark critical of his captors. And that blows it. Here is now proof of his "attitude." This is now used in the record as one factual piece of evidence as to why he's locked up. Law and Order in action. I say their Law is out of Order.
So it would seem as we approach 1974, portents of l981~ are here. Shades and shadows of Franz Kafka' " The Trial" are in operation - here - now. One of the victims was my friend Jackson "Curly" Fee: beaten -- dragged to the boxcar -- dead -- standing on air. As A.E. Housman said, "A neck made for other use, than strangling in a string." The manager of this Control Unit, however, informed us that he was "faking" and would have to "change his attitude."
Since then: one heel tendon cut; one wrist cut; one collapsed; one continued past our 13 day hunger strike in protest of Curly's death to the 17th day and then hospitalized; one to the psychiatric ward; one mysteriously transferred (he had knowledge of Curly's death). One of the more relaxed guards told me that the guy in the psychiatric ward, "could have been faking." Capable of lesrning? Apparently not!
Dr. Richard R. Korn, Professor of Criminology at Berkeley (as reported in the hearings before the House of Representatives, Subcommittee #3, Vol. 7-B, page l530-34) aptly described the "correctional" process when he said, "The sickness is in charge of the treatment. ... We are not the doctors, we are the dieease."
So what cast of mind does death, mutilations, hunger, and insanity produce in our keepers? What you would expect -- a deep resentment at these trouble making convicts causing us all this trouble. Rabindranath Tagore understood this attitude when he said, "Power takes as ingratitude the writhing of its victims."
So the question is still valid in the federal prison bureau 1900 years after Juvenal asked it, "But who will watch the keepers themselves?"
(See home page for current address)Ronald Del Raine
Ronald Del Raine
Long Term Control Unit
Marion, IL. 62959
approximately 1000 words
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