“Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient—people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled.” — Piper Kerman
There’s an owl calling out for some reason. It’s 1 pm in the afternoon just after a rain storm–not exactly what I’d expect.
I’ve been on prednisone–an abolute miracle, for a few weeks now–not exactly what I’d expected, either. That’s one of the (few) benefits of whatever-it-is-I-have and/or prednisone. Caught in the drudgery of 9-5 five days a week, it would take me some digging sometimes to find out how one day was not just like another. Now it’s like a fluorescent tie-dyed shirt: even without my glasses, I can see that neon blob a mile a way.
That’s something, I guess.
I had just started to lose weight, too, and suddenly I’m besought with the eats–I knew it was coming, but I thought I could manage it. The past week? Not so much. But it was expected. Sort of. What wasn’t expected was the inability to handle multiple annoyances at one time, some convergence of trivial things–stupid things that really are so minor–that all swirled around in a centrifuge of rage. That was unexpected. And so, when the Josh Duggar scandal first broke (way, way, way too many links to make it easy), I had already been possessed by this ectoplasmic ghost of rage, like Slimer from Ghostbusters if his molecular construct was composed of acrimony and anger, bitterness and belligerence, just awaiting the moment to pour forth sliming everyone with poison.
This really doesn’t convey the true slime potential of Slimer, but it works.
Somewhere in my gut, I had hellfire and pitchforks, tar and feathers just ready, ready to pounce. A pacifist ‘roid-rager with a cause.
It sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit. Or a Tom Robbins novel.
The problem, at least for me, is that this sort of rage sucks every bit of, well, everything out of me, and leaves me empty. My mind doesn’t work; my body doesn’t work. I can’t put a sentence together, and I can only drag my feet, too exhausted to even pick them up to walk properly. I am absolutely useless and limp. Flaccid, even.
I know there’s a penis joke there somewhere.
And then there’s the anger hangover. Complete with headache and nausea and all. The uselessness lasts for hours, sometimes even days. Sometimes it’s only when I’m in the midst of this post-rage-ejaculation that I realize how good I have it, hangover and all. Once upon a time, this was a daily occurrence. Once upon a time, my life was brief spans between outbursts. After the sliming, after the hangover comes a clarity of thought I haven’t quite nailed down at any other time.
My reaction to the whole Duggar fiasco was purely visceral: pitchforks and tar and feathers for everyone involved except the girls. I wanted to break the situation down point by point and show how both their supporters and they themselves are dangerously delusional. I wanted to call them out. Tell the world what pieces of shit they are.
But that’s rage talking.
It’s been done by people far more eloquent than I am, and judging by the comments of their supporters, it would do absolutely no good.
If my goal was self-serving, to dump the poison, then I’d be successful. But if my goal was to practice rational thinking, to serve a purpose which was good, to practice compassion when it was difficult–which is what I strive for when I’m not possessed by rage Slimers–then this shit-dumping would serve no beneficial purpose. It would literally be an exercise in futility.
And so I started thinking.
With the need to punish (the Duggars and myself, I’d assume) temporarily out of my system, I began looking at what angered me a bit more objectively. To wit: Why was I so angry? What was the single point I was most angry about? It was, from my reading and observing their interview, that the girls were not protected. Not just that the girls were molested once, but it had happened multiple times and, despite whatever precautionary means the parents took, more girls had been molested. Over a period of many months, if not years. The girls were not protected.
And it made me rethink our entire justice system. The definition of justice is a bit too esoteric for my brain today, but I wondered what if? What if, instead of using prison to punish those we deem worthy of punishment, we used it to protect those who would be further victimized? If someone commits a violent crime, especially a sexual crime, and continues to do so, then that person has demonstrated, for whatever reason, a pattern of dangerous behavior. What if, instead of putting him in prison to punish him, we put him in prison in order to protect future victims?
As far as I know, there is no rehabilitation for sexual predators, so I would think they would be good candidates for life in prison.
If we weren’t so interested in retribution and vengeance, we would do away with the death penalty. If we weren’t so interested in retribution and vengeance, we would have lots of free space in prison if we let those go who had not committed, at the very least, violent crimes.
Other systems could be put in placed for other things, for crimes that involve money, etc. A bit too much for me to work out right now as I’m in a anti-violent criminal sort of mood. If we weren’t so interested in retribution and vengeance, these prisoners could be put to work seeking solutions to end sexual violence, seeking anger management mechanisms, doing some kind of work in prison that would allow them to contribute to society despite what they had done. Perhaps we could even develop systems to allow them to “earn their keep” in a manner of speaking. Make something that could be sold–half the money for the prison, a quarter of the money to prisoners (for themselves or their families), another quarter to fund causes that work to end violence. Or counseling for their victims.
Or something positive.
If we weren’t so interested in retribution and vengeance and worked to change the prison system, then we’d have to change the way we viewed poverty, addiction and mental illness, so many other things. It would transform our society.
In mental health, we have to control a patient’s dangerous behavior by the “least restrictive means possible.” You can’t put a patient in restraints when seclusion will work; you can’t use four-point restraints when two will work. It’s not punishment–it’s redirection. It’s about protecting the out of control patient, the other patients, and ourselves. Perhaps it would be a good place to start.