Former Senator (and Presidential father) Ninoy Aquino when he was imprisoned in a military stockade once remarked, “Eating in gold utensils while incarcerated does not mitigate any pain.” Well, something to that effect. Imprisonment, as it were, is indeed an agonizing episode in a person’s life. And worst, the condition of any custodial facility does not even inspire human rights.
There are incidents however that remarkably dot and create some kind of respite to the drab and monotonous condition of prison life. These are instances when celebrity convicts are admitted into the prison community to serve time. They are a whiff, a breath of fresh air to the prison population. They are the apple in the eyes of gangs, the potential economic saviors among the destitute sector of the incarcerated enclave, the favorite consultants of everyone, whether prisoners or prison officers alike.
They exude a different aura from the standpoint of the prison community; they are a cut above the rest. Their smile seem to be profound; their demeanor exacting and cautious. They are more given to contemplation than exuberance. They are less criminal from the stereotype. They are just simply aloof.
Fellow prisoners flock to them like insects to a fruit. They merit respect and they reciprocate with equal intensity. They have the resources to extend assistance directly to a subservient fellow or indirectly to his family outside. Those inmates around the celebrity would shower their principal with a host of considerations—from massage, to doing laundry, from cooking to securing. The celebrity is treated like nobility and inmates are willing subjects. From the standpoint of the prison community, the celebrity is a hard act to follow but easier to please.
Hence a sector they are, a slim and dim a percentage, imperceptible but quite engrossing. They are the privileged, the silent movers, the thinkers and advisers, magnificently ensconced and highly esteemed. Their friendship is prized. They in turn are accorded with deference by the prison community as a whole, by a fan base of believers. They are treated like very importantly. They are from the ground a recipient of VIP treatment.
Only security feedback would reach administration. That there is an institutional divide comprising of those not treated equally is beyond the pale of analysis. All of the inmates are in the same space, restricted by walls, lumped in a dormitory and compelled to serve time. All are known by their prison numbers and as a necessary consideration, they are all statistic. Nowhere is there a special number, neither there is a special consideration for computing time serve according to rank. Everything revolves around a standard, a customary law known as prison rule and no one is expected to toe the line. Institutionally, there can never be any VIP treatment at all.
But for all intents and purposes, what is glaring in the daily scheme of things in prison is maltreatment. The dormitories, packed exceeding are in a state of building fatigue. It could collapse after a brief tremor. Ventilation could no longer be obtained because of overcrowding. Medical services could barely be delivered, hampered as it were by lack of equipment notwithstanding competent crew of physicians on the roster. These and more. Result on the physique of the inmate is telling. Signs of torture even if not physically abused are expressed in their state of health. And in some respects if one hears that there is special treatment by inmates on a few of their deferred companions conducted, it is as if the correctional system has committed a grievous fault.
The public, the general population, the free community still adhere to the belief that prison should always be a place where maltreatment must be the order of the day.