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  • pmlarsonmiller

    People who struggle with mental health have a difficult time on the outside – afraid to leave their homes due to anxiety, unable to function due to depression, consumed by their OCD, bipolar and eating disorders, etc. I have been privileged enough to have access to treatment for issues in the past, and I can say that even in an adequately staffed hospital setting with access to necessary treatment, it can be a traumatizing experience in and of itself. The lack of respect for human life and the stripping of dignity within prisons is absolutely abhorrent; money means more than life, and this is what society has become. Criminalizing and murdering people (in more ways than one) for profit.
    People on the outside, if they ever think of prison at all, are disillusioned to believe that inmates are getting better healthcare than those who are not incarcerated. People jump to complaining before they take the step to educate themselves – how about they read something, research these issues, put faces to the failed health “care” system within prisons – read any number of memoirs from prison, news stories, reports. If one cannot find compassion and be moved to do something about the violation of human rights that occurs every day then they choose denial over humanity. 
    Additionally, there needs to be a critique of the greater social structure that targets specific populations to endure these inhumanities and brutalities, in addition to confronting issues with health care even on the outside of the prison walls – those who are poor, if they have not yet been criminalized and swept into the criminal justice system, have a difficult time gaining adequate access to health care simply due to lack of funds. 
    Unfortunately, healthcare is not treated as a basic human right in our country; many cannot afford it and suffer from various ailments without treatment – those who are privileged: have jobs with benefits, have the money to pay out of pocket, have adequate insurance, etc., can truly feel secure and confident that they will be taken care of no matter what their condition or situation. 

    • KayWhitlock

       @pmlarsonmiller Well said.  Thank you.

  • Panyia

    “Unfortunately, the demonizing of “criminals” – and whole groups of people presumptively considered “criminal,” such as young people of color, black men, immigrants of color – by politicians and mass media is so pervasive that many are willing to buy the idea that any brutality inflicted on prisoners is not only justifiable but desirable.” 
    – Sadly, too many of us buy into what these powerful people tells us to believe in.  So many times I want to blame the whole capitalist system and I want it changed. Maybe have the poor people be powerful (even thought they are poor) and have the rich people be powerless?  I really don’t know but some how make some changes?  But many times I do wonder how it would be like if that is to happen.

    •  @Panyia Capitalism is indeed a major piece of this problem — people become disposanble in pursuit of profit
      Sad indeed

  • McKenzieDaul

    To begin with, information like this always strikes me as simply fascinating. I only hope this information gets out to the entire society soon! Because with this awareness and insight I believe change will be mandatory. The mental health piece of the criminal justice system always interests me.. I wonder how many inmates truly do have some sort of mental illness. I mean most have to struggle with depression and anxiety sitting in a concrete blocks for hours, days, months, and years at a time. It seems to me nothing is taken seriously within the walls of prisons, whereas on the outside these are seen as serious problems that need immediate treatment to prevent any harm to oneself or others. How come it’s any different for inmates. I do not necessarily think medication is always the cure but at least acknowledgement and not always an assumption that the inmate is resisting or acting out.. Or maybe the acting out and resisting comes from the understandable anxiety. I had so many emotions when I read about the women being shackled while pregnant or in labor. If that is not cruel and unusual I do not know what is. Amazing article, I am hoping more and more people start understanding these prison realities because we are talking about human life being totally taken advantage of, tortured, and relied upon for profit. 

    •  @McKenzieDaul such a great comment — yes

    • KayWhitlock

       @McKenzieDaul Hi, McKenzie.  Thanks for such a thoughtful and excellent comment.
                One thing, however:  you say, “It seems to me nothing is taken seriously within the walls of prisons, whereas on the outside these are seen as serious problems that need immediate treatment to prevent any harm to oneself or others.”
                In reality, since “decarceration” – deinstitutionalization of many thousands of people with severe mental illness in the 1970s and defunding of many community outpatient mental health centers in the ensuing decades, I’m afraid that affordable, appropriate, safe treatment that respects the rights of people with mental illness is not available for most who would benefit.  With respect, I do not believe that mental illness is seen as a serious problem that needs to be dealt with compassionately by society within our own communities.  Rather, “the problem” has just been relocated to jails and prisons, with inhumane and brutal results. 

  • Thank you so much Kay & Nancy!
    WORTH (Women on the Rise Telling Herstory, an amazing organization of formerly and currently incarcerated women in New York State) is developing its Birthing Behind Bars project to address the myriad issues of reproductive injustices behind bars, including the shackling of incarcerated women while in labor. Through the project, we will not only collect and compile stories from women across the country who have experienced pregnancy while incarcerated, but we will also strengthen their capacity and ability to share their stories. Too often, issues of reproductive justice are separated from issues of incarceration. Birthing Behind Bars will tie women’s individual experiences to the broader issues reproductive justice (or injustice) behind prison walls. These stories can be used to help push a state-by-state analysis of the intersections of reproductive justice and incarceration.
    WORTH was instrumental in ending shackling of pregnant women in New York State. In 2009, members of WORTH, other formerly incarcerated mothers and their allies took up the fight to outlaw the shackling of women in labor in New York State. Formerly incarcerated women spoke about being pregnant while in jail and prison, being handcuffed and shackled while in labor, being separated from their newborn babies almost immediately. Their stories drew public attention to the issue and put human faces to the pending legislation. New York became the seventh state to limit the shackling of incarcerated women during birth and delivery.
    On March 21, 2012, Arizona became the 15th state to have any sort of legislation restricting or banning the shackling of women in labor. Florida’s legislature passed an anti-shackling bill on March 8, 2012 (International Women’s Day), but it has yet to be signed by the governor. Why is it 2012 and 35 states still allow this atrocity to occur?

    •  @Vikki Excllent vikki — thank you so much for that update
      Kudos to Birthing Behind Bars!
      and great to see you as always :)

    •  @Vikki ps I know that Schwartenegger vetoed the CA bill and i expect that Florida;s will face th same fate :(

  • Heather Ellis

    I truly believe that if more of the public was aware of these atrocities than more people would speak out on behalf of the inmates. I know it’s hard when many people in the public can’t afford it themselves they feel angry when they hear falsified stories of the lavish treatment prisoner get, but if they knew the truth they could put their anger in the right places. As a future health care worker I am just appalled by stories like these. It’s especially sickening to think that the only reason she was in jail was because of being undocumented, and because of that, and I’m sure her status of being transgender she was deemed criminal.

    •  @Heather Ellis amen heather
      Awareness is our only hope towards bringing change

    • McKenzieDaul

       @Heather Ellis So true! If society took it upon themselves to view this information instead of popular culture news and gossip we would have a lot more people questioning and challenging this flawed system, which affects all the others! 

  • Susan Pashkoff

    An excellent discussion, thank you Kay. This is simply appalling and I swear every time I read something on the human rights violations of prisoners, I am shocked that the US is not treated as an international pariah. In the face of the European Union Centre on Human Rights allowing people accused of terrorism offenses to be extradited to the US where of course they are ignoring documented repeated violations of civil and human rights of prisoners, I am horrified. I am sorry to divert the discussion, but the judgement came out yesterday and it is on my mind as I already have written asking them to be tried in the UK if there is any evidence of guilt (which they have not done and have kept people both incarcerated and then tagged in violation of due process and UK civil law). Sorry to distract the discussion, but one of them is missing an eye and both arms and they will be sentenced certainly to maximum security prisons in the states and then I read this and the EU says that their human rights will not be violated. They spend a lot of time covering up each other’s human rights violations, don’t they? Am disgusted and furious.

    •  @Susan Pashkoff Not a distraction at all Susan..
      The EU is wrong — the USA cjs is an endless series of human rights violations
      thanks for that update

      • Susan Pashkoff

         @nancy a heitzeg I sent the letter (email) that I wrote in support of one of the men whom is being extradited to your email so you can keep track of the case; his name is Babar Ahmed.

    • KayWhitlock

       @Susan Pashkoff Hi, Susan, and thank you.  So many examples of injustice and bulldozing of human rights. 

  • JaimieBeavers

    This is so upsetting. Nobody should be treated the way these prisoners were treated. It is unjust and unfair. The shackling of pregnant women in prisons still exists in 43 states! This is just heartbreaking. Nobody, especially pregnant women, should be treated so poorly. Pregnant women need special care and treatment – not shackled and chained up. 

    •  @JaimieBeavers the shackling is especially horrific..
       and yes — all over including federal ICE Detention Centers.. There has been some movement to abolish this practice but not a lot of legislative success

    • KayWhitlock

       @JaimieBeavers So true.  What permits this to go on is the criminalizing of women of color and poor women, so that giving birth is seen as the production of more criminals.  This is obscene and inhumane beyond words.

  • rubyr

    This is just sickening. What a world!!
    Thanks for another very important diary.

    •  @rubyr hey ruby
      yes sickening and so frustrating that the false memes re what prison is like persist..everywhere

  • kay unfortunately can’t be tonight — but as always much gratitude to her for this piece..
    Te contrast between the “myths” of the criminal injustice system and the realities are always stunning

    •  @nancy a heitzeg A heartbreaking expose on the prison health care system, Nancy.  Thanks to you and Kay for tackling these issues week after week and debunking all the propaganda and mythologies that prop up this sickening system.

      •  @Seeta it is heart-breaking…
        and thank you seeta for hosting — indebted…
        Concerned btw as to what “justice ” for Zimmerman may or may not look like… Sigh..

        •  @nancy a heitzeg me too…. I think Zimmerman should be ordered to pay restitution in the form of service to the black communities he so despises.

        •  @Seeta that would be perfect

        • KayWhitlock

           @Seeta Completely agree, Seeta.