WHAT INCARCERATION DOES TO THE MIND OF A PRISONER
If there is anything horrible that civilization brought to humanity, it is the curse of incarceration which is the most brutal. It makes a person dull, emotionally irascible, grumpy and snappy. It inexorably attacks what is positive in a person’s mind and virtually transports him on the level of irrationality.
While wild animals may either die in captivity or be tamed after operant conditioning, Man never undergoes the same procedure given the same situation but he becomes psychologically debased in the process. He may impose a few rebellious streaks like tempting or threatening his custodial supervisor or rearrange his environment to suit his orientation, but on the whole it his own personal demons which he would encounter most of the time.
And the task of overseeing the process or penalty of imprisonment surprisingly belonged to the only government office named after a virtue: Department of Justice. In this perspective, justice is presumed to be on the side of imposing disturbance on a person who offended society. It is not the operative justice we seek spiritually which enhances mankind but the terminal kind of justice which punishes, castigates and reduces man to the level of animal.
Why not transfer the agency in charge in the procedural supervision of incarceration to the Department of Education if we believe that offenders have a big chance of improving themselves, of repenting towards a positive end, of restoring back a social outlook in preparation for their immersion to the mainstream of society once released. If we are not convinced and we are still tribally oriented, we can transfer them under the Department of National Defense and systematically exterminate them individually or collectively. We cannot be pretentious. Either we believe that an offender will eventually be good or subscribe to an understanding that once a criminal will always hopelessly be one.
While it can be said that an offender may have committed a crime against society and therefore should be seen less of a man or even inhuman but for government to presume that the person is such defies logic.
At the rate cases of acquittal are almost regularly determined by judicial review as indicated though monthly releases, it cannot be gainsaid that conviction is airtight. Some inmates are released after finding innocence, this after a long period of incarceration. The celebrated case of local film actor Berting Labra comes to mind. After he was charged of Murder and sentenced to death penalty, he awaited confirmation from the High Court only to be acquitted after 13 years in death row! And there are lesser persons who would also receive the same verdict.
USA, notwithstanding its matured judicial system, had its own share of the same experience. Remember a few days past, an Ohio man was sent in the calaboose and after 29 years was acquitted? There is nothing wrong therefore with our own criminal justice administration going by recent criminal justice incidents in advanced economies.
Our judicial system therefore works; slow it may seem but is working nonetheless.
But what have our system done to the mind of those they have transgressed? Can an expression of “I’m sorry” reclaim the lost years of a person? In USA, a person wrongly imprisoned is paid so many dollars for every year of detention including refund of legal fees paid for his defense. Over in this blighted society, one must have to go through a lengthy procedure if only to be remunerated with token allowance. And another query is what we do to those convicted.
Recently, we passed a law revising the Good Conduct Time Allowance (RA 10592) with a clear view that hundreds of prisoners would be benefited and would considerably reduce the perennial problem of congestion. Prison authorities would rather lay low in its implementation with arguments that there will be more releases. Previously, prison administration was crying out for overcrowding but when a law has been passed to address it, they go to the other direction that it may inadvertently allow the entry of criminals into the mainstream of society. Now, how do we apprise those we look up to as correctional authorities when the only way they can pronounce “true” or “false” is “tralse!”
This is not a plea for the innocent but a treatise on those incarcerated. This is not even a piece of crusade for those advocating for the abolition of imprisonment. It is needed if indeed we subscribe to humanism. But let us assign that agency in charge of incarceration where it should ideally belong. Depending on how we view criminality though—we may train offenders to be good citizen or just line them up and make fertilizers out of them. It’s a choice and not a matter of justice.