Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hotel California - Ozark Style

Ah, incarceration. The twice-daily butt fucking and the thrice-daily beatings… what can be more fulfilling than to be in a room the size of a Tokyo hotel suite with one open-air toilet? “Smells like you loved that bar-b-que yesterday, Tex.” I would never be able to poop.

The penal system here in California has become a major source of statewide pride. We have more inmates per capita, serving longer sentences, for the most ridiculous crimes, than anywhere else on the planet. Granted we’re not as bad as Iran or Singapore or Turkey, but then they don’t aspire to the level of civility that we do. Or do we…. Hmmmm.

I feel like this about prisons: they are about two separate but related and important questions. One is should they exist; the other is what should they be like. What connects them together for me is this idea of a social contract. Mills spoke about the social contract and how if you treat others correctly you will get treated correctly in return. My idea of prisons is that they are the ultimate punishment for taking that social contract for granted.

That’s why I am not on my usual team for this debate. While I believe that torture is unwarranted (unless it’s the Arab guy who was giving me the eye at Sunnin yesterday. He is so Al Qaeda), the idea that we are not giving our prisoner’s top notch medical care and their creature comforts is craziness. These dude and dudettes decided that the covenant that exists between us, the one that our society stands on, wasn’t important enough to them. They decided to break that contract and fuck someone over. That, to me, means that we don’t have to be so nice to them on the flipside.

So if it’s a question of sending convicts to Tennessee to end overcrowding and make it safer for the guards then ship them out. What the hell do we care if they aren’t for it? Three hots and a cot, some books and an hour outside: that’s what you get when you break the social contract. It’s the fear of that deal that keeps a lot of people inside the law and outside of jail.

And if you’re wondering: I think that the greatest break of the social contract is to take another life. You do that to someone and you forfeit all of your rights under out society. So yes I am for the death penalty for First Degree murder convictions. I think that if you want to make that choice and you get caught, then bing, boom, out the door you go.

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