America’s succubus: The nightmare of the criminal justice system in the United States

Francis, L.

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. " America's Succubus V ( The Nightmare of the Criminal Justice System in the United States ) An Essay By: L.Francis . If what I have been led to believe is true,that great works of Art,Music,and Poetry are birthed through the endurance of loss,despair,and great suffering,then the creative gifts that I have to offer the world should at this point be phenominal... Since the Summer of 2002 I have endured the complete and total loss of my freedom,parts of my humanity,and bits and peices of my very soul.Despair? This I have intimately known.It is birthed through the endur- nance of abandonment,heartbreak, and betrayal at their highest levels. Then, there is the suf- fering. A palpable thing. The essence of which line the walls and fill the negative spaces that I have been forced to occupy. All of these things and more have awakened within me,then subsequently honed my once hidden and dormant gifts and talents. Yet they have also created in me the sensation of hav- ing the lining of my heart whittled slowly away. Carved; Like using a dull knife,to shape by force, a peice of driftwood, that had floated aimlessly through a moon-less night,on a vio- lent, unforgiving sea. Then, abandoned by that tumfluxustndy onto a desolate beach, left there only to be fashioned by the elements into an ugly,unrecognizable thing.Unclaimed.Unwan- ted. My current condition is not unique. At least in the sense that there are countless tal- ented individuals whom possess extraordinary gifts whose lives have been lost within,and have fallen victim to'a fractured, and broken Judicial system. More often than not, this is the end result and by-product of misguided,overzealous investigating <fifflfi£fls-,b1antant instanc- ies and examples of prosecutorial misconduct, and discretional abuses by judicial authorit- ies. Each of whom represent a system that serves justice on a silver platter,but only to those that can afford to eat from it with a silver spoon. A system whose name is a gross‘ misnomer. "Justice" truthfully means "Just-Us", the plutocrats that the system was designed to provide benefit for, and "Just Us", the underpriviledged, minority individuals to whom it provides none once they find themselves caught in the cogs of the merciless Criminal Justice Machine. A machine described in theory to mete out justice impartially,advertised as fair and equal, but in reality is anything but. To exacerbate matters is the fact that few people outside of these government sponsored " Interment Camps ", where men and women are unconsci- onably warehoused, truly realize,or have a reference point for, the daily,often times life and death challanges that individuals encounter once they are consumed by this VJust-Less" _ 1 _ 1 «system and are comitted into America's penal institutions. The life of a prisoner is not life at all. It is noflfirg short of a b1eak,pitiful exis- ltance within an inhumane,artificia1 enviornment that issxfiemjfixflly proven to degrade an‘ individual's sense of hmanity to base levels. Barbarism,brutality,depravity,assault,murder, and other extreme acts of violence, along with an over-all dehuanization of the mind and _ spirit are mere par for the course associated with incarceration and prison enviornments.This atmosphere creates such an oppressive emotional,mental,and psychological burden on the human psyche that the affect is intolerable.The inhumanity of which,perpetrated not only by the physical aspect of confinement,but also, maybe even more so, by the accepted, collective culture and attitudes of malignancy, and negligent indifference displayed toward inmates by prison staff and administration who seem to be throughly entertained by it all. _Schadenfreude. The German language has provided us with a single word that accurately and ever so succintly describes the general attitude and Views of prison employees as they relate to inmates. It means : "...pleasure felt at the misfortune of others ”. Yet the mal- sentiment that the majority of prison gwnfiserd officials harbor toward prisoners is uglier still. Contrary to the popular belief in the stereo-typical archetype assigned to the incarcer- - ated individual,not everone found within a prison enviornment are animals. Yet honest1y,some are. The majority of whom wear government issued uniforms. For these individuals it is not enough that the inherent features of an institutional setting are oppression, repression, and depression. Most View prisoners as deserving the harshest treatment imaginable and they main- tain no reservations toward going out of their way to ensure that this sentiment is actuali-T zed. Either by the sentient deprivation of basic human rights and dignity, or by the outright refusal of essential health care services, no unethical treatment is off limits. It is not uncommon for prison guards to abuse their authoritive position at every avail- able opportunity and it is done so by varied forms. Most utilize it as a platform to subject incarcerated meniand women to their personal, racist dispositions,idealogies, and skewed world views. Racism, as a form of abuse and psychological torture is ever present within the prison system. This behavior is only indicative of the American racial divide and the system- atic,institutionalized racism unique to the United States that encourages it. This fact be- comes evident when one considers that there is no serendipitious explaination that could acc- ount for the Afro-American statistical majority representation in the U.S. Prison System,when in society they account for roughly 12 percent of the total population. Vflnen prisoners.suffer abuse at the hands of prison gpmxb flxi only protection or available recourse to combat these authoritive transgressions is the use of a farcical,convoluted grievance process. It is the equivalent of supplicating to the oppressor to be less tyranical. _ 2 _ Quite often this makes a prisoner's situation far dire. Prisoners who choose to utilize the " Administrative Remedy Program " as a means of redress are nearly 100 percent of the time the recipient of and subjected to some method or form of retaliation. This is accomplished through subversive means such as the loss of grie- vances, "random" cell searches where personal property is confinscated then destroyed under the auspices of "rnisance contraband”, or the unscheduled prisoner transfer to another insti- tution hundreds of.milesw1fi:of.a prisonerls_home region. The overt acts of retribution can include, but are not limited to, verbal micro-aggression by staff or an outright physical assault. A clandestine form of extortion is also used when a prisoner is issued frivilous institutional infractions that carry a monetary penalty. The worst of it al1,upon a whimsical and manufactured allegation a prisoner may be sub- jected to the cruel and unusual punishment of the psychological torture from a near 24 hour per day lock-down situation in solitary confinement known as the "S.H.U.". Pronounced "shoe", the Special Housing Unit is where inmates considered to be in violation of prison policy are sent. Inmates deemed difficult,or to be classified in need of "special handling” while in S.H.U. may find themselves chained naked to a cold,hard,steel bunk,sprayed with pepper spray, and left alone in the dark lying prone in a puddle of their own urine and a pile of feces from which the insects and rodents may feed upon. The historical prejudices of the collective American psyche and the legacy of Slavery in America have no doubt created the circumstances and mitigating factors that cause many minor- ites, specifically Afro-Americans, to enter the prison sysum1 in the first place.The cycle of ignorance,poverty,violence,incarceration,and death that plauge the Black community en masse is encouraged and perpetuated by the idealogies and discriminatory social constructs deeply entrenched bathe fabric of American society that finds it's historical roots in this country's founding. The socio-econimic toll of the American style of justice and unique brand of policing the Black community is near incalculable. The lasting effects of which have resulted in an upheaval and literal razing of the foundations of the Afro—American familial unit.The outcdne; Generational Poverty. An effect that appears to have been the product of design.Also,by app- arent design, it is by no means-happenstance that although Afro-Americans axxuntfortie maj- ority of prison populations Nationwide, they are an obvious minority in terms of prison guards, executive authorities,and legislative officials. A direct correlation can be derived from a minimal minority participation at top organ- izational levels to the manner in which prisoners are.treated,guarded, and policy written as about.Laws concerning prisoners,and penal institutions are influenced by individuals from "Majority" communities and these laws are composed according to those system of values from a _ 3 - stand point of decidely different world views,experences,cultural and personal beliefs.The prism through which criminal justice matters are viewed and decided are based upon}then distorted by their community's societal and social advantages that bar no concession for the historical Afro-American experience in the continental United States. "...one captured in war...", One version of Webster's Dictionary defines a prisoner as : and in the decade and a half of incarceration in the Federal system I have observed evidence first hand that has led me to conclude that in fact a veritable war seems to have been waged against the Black,male populace of America. As almost formidable weapon the plutocracy of our Grand Nation has employed the stragetic use of the penal system to propagate through prolifer- ation of the second class status assigned to,and the deplorable conditions experienced by,the Afro-American proletariat. Consider this : Most prison guards are of Caucasin descent,the spawn of the principal perpatrators of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Their captives are the progeny of the human. cargo stolen from African shores to become a bastardized Nation,alienated with no connection to their true identity and heritage. The current dynamic of prison is very similar and remini- cent of the archaic qfixen of slavery as it patterns the Overseer/Slave configuration of an Old World Southern Plantation. The vast majority of Federal prisons have been constructed in rural areas around the V country. These geographical positionings have dual effects.Each are of great benefit to the . captor.To the captive,no so much.Also reminicent of the economics of Slavery. Te presence of penal institutions in these rural,pmainfinafi1y Vflrite communities provides it's citizenry with a stable,recession proof source of employment.It is extremely beneficial to their community at large as it provides an economic infusion to flE:knal.economy,the prison guards,as well as their familial dependants.A quantifiable avantage is created there by in the form of a government sponsored foundation upon which the families of prison employees may build.This can be tabulated in terms of the strength and economic stability provided. Oaneraflyydeaflrfivkials that fill the cells of prisons to capacity are considered no more than the "little black batteries" that provide the energy to keep the Prison Industrial Complex Machine operating on all four cyclinders. Interdependantly,each component of the machine is connected.The occupational force of the local police enter the "Concrete Jungles" of America as did the slave traders of old entered the defenseless,unsuspecting villages of Africa.The objective the same; Hunt and Capture the Black male. Remove the Father,Son,Grandfather,and Uncle; The strength and providers of the community to be taken only to leave behind strife,poverty, need and want. When the paternal figure is removed from the house hold dynamic,shipped hundreds of miles away from home, and planted in a governmnet institution the detrimental effects are near inst- \ -g,_ antaneous.Almost immediately the strain of distance,absence,and the fight for everyday surviv- al weaken then destroy the bonds of family.Fissures become fractures and finally the foundation of a family falls.The effects manifest themselves in the lives of the family members left behint In a Federal institution an exorbitant price tag is attached to any item remotely consider- ed a creature comfort.Even the most basic necessities are offered at a premium in the prison comissary at a 175% mark-up.Food items of sub-par quality.that are beyond suggested dates of expiration are provided in an almost caqxflsnyrmrner '.A simple phone call can cost at a minim- um of $3.45 for a mere (15)_minutes.To cover these expenses,a prisoner is typically at the mercy of family member generosity and ability to provide,or the lack there of. L. 1 When family members are motivated out of love and concern for the incarcerated to send monetary support,these funds are taken fnnaa comunity already stricken by poverty and economic depression.In this way the prison system further depletes the already minimal resources of these families and at the same time perpetuates the cycle of ;poverty and the social-ills asso- ciated with their present lower class status.The result produces an evident disadvantage and further widens the chasm seperating the minority community from it's White counterpart. The institution of family is the nucleous,or the foundation upon which communities and societies are built.Strong,well adjusted familes translates to strong,well adjusted societies as a whole.This simply stated,yet complex equation may never be actualized within the Afro- American community on a grand scale so long as the.status quo mentality towards mass incarcera- tion as it relates to the Black community remains as it is currently viewed. In America ,the Criminal Justice System,for all practical purposes, has become a transducer of sorts.It has also become a vehicle used to terrorize,torture,abuse, and mistreat, not only Afro-Americans,but also all other minority groups,as well as poor,underpriviledged Caucasins; This terror campaign continues a daily basis throughout the Nation despite this interdiction delineated in this country's sacrosanct founding document. No distinction is made as to whether the form of mistreatment is of a physical or psycho- logical nature. In theory, the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. illicitly discourages any sort of abuse or neglect.Unfortunately,the practical implementation of the Constitution is another matter entirely,as torture in a myriad of forms persist in the A prisons of the United States. The monotony of institutionalization found in a prison enviornment qualifies as a mild fonn of torture.Recently the courts have examined the harmful psychological effects of soli- tary confinement on the huan psyche and it's correlation with the rates of inmate suicide and how the numbers are augmented by the sensory deprivation associated with the nature of solitary.Still, there remains other forms of torture that have yet to be addressed. _ 5 _ From a scientific stand point,the denial of conjugal visitation not only ruptures and , helps to crumble the foundation of a family,it is a form of population control and it prevents progenitive familial growth when a prisoner is denied his right by natural law to exercise his ability and power to procreate.This denial is also a verifiable method of psychological torture. Sexual relations with a member of the opposite sex is an integral part of what it means to be human.That is because the innate desire,biological need ,or evolutionary compulsion to procreate' the species is hard—wired into the D.N.A. of Mankind;For this reason, and on an individual level, sex ranks in the lHiearachy of Needs" (a scale of basic human needs that transcend mere went ),along with air ,food,water ,and sleep.These are the basic needs that must be met before a normal human being can concern themselves with other needs such as freedom from fear,love,dignity,competence,and other growth needs. Plainly stated,to benaskedioriotherwise forced to subdue that innate longing for intimate‘ relations is like being forced to forego the need for sleep,air,food, and water.Sex—and intie macy both exist on the same plain as these other insurpressible human necessities.It is patently absurd that all Federal prisoners and most State prisoners are subjected to conditions that deprive them of an outlet to express this important human need.The deprivation of such is a clear example of psychological torture because an individual is forced to unnaturally subdue 4a compulsion that must be expressed.Ihis forced supression causes untold psychological harm and ngfiigts itself in abnormal,or deviant behavior;(ie:suicidal thoughts,anxiety,depression, lack of self worth, ect.).The subjection of an individual to these sorts of conditions rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment and should be considered a violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S.Constitution. The myriad of struggles faced by prisoners on a daily basis are legion.A large majority of "which are beyond a simple,:firguLm;or solidified definition or description.Despite first-hand vexperience from the more than (15)years I have spent in the Federal system, and of all the horr- ors my eyes have witnessed,it still remains difficult to comprehend ,much less define all that I have endured.There are no words to relate,comparisons to make,or reference points to create that could have fully prepared me for what truly awaits an-individual once they cross onto the otherside to break the threshold into an alternate reality. Prison is a world within a world.It is a place where the original laws of nature no longer apply.A world vhaxatfimais relative,distorted, and warped.It is as if at the moment of my arrest when the steel shackles were placed upon my ankles,and the manacles upon my hands, that they had some talismanic quality to transport me to a realm where the dead walked,forgotten by the. living. A place where the souls of the lost become trapped in single moment,compe1led to reflive a perpetual nightmare ad infinitum.Until an end—less string of days meld into what seems to be a singular one. . Insanity.Psychologists posit that most prisoners,on one level or another,have mental tealfiiisars -.This proposition contains a kernal of truth.The fact of the matter is that if a person was considered mentally and emotionally stable upon entry into the prison system,the conditions one must endure are sure to remedy that by the time he exits.If one ever does. How do you cope? The mind does create a method.Yet,not necessarily a healthy one. The first time you witness a fellow prisoner beat with hands,feet,orty the weilding of a bunt object,literally senseless to the point where if they ever wake from the coma the trauma icaused,their faculties of mind are never again the same,at that point you become ultra-aware of your surroundings.It is a sort of functional hyper-vigilance and practiced paranoia.The realiz- ation that you won't be protected by staff becomes apparent.That duty is youris alone.The grav- ity and responsibility of that charge is re-inforced the moment you watch a person stabbed, mercilessly, then left to bleed to death in a puddle of their own life serum due to late staff response or outright sentient delay and negligent indifference.That is when your survival inst- incts begin to hone themselves to fine tuned efficiency. f.Suddenly you are able to assess a situation like never before.An almost supernatural,com— ic book quality "Spider Sense" developes. You become able to enter a fluid situation~and hmn- ediately recognize danger,it's source, and the active participants long before any actions are iniciated.The subtle changes in behavior,body language,voice intonation, and facial expressions that people exude become as easily decipherable as a children's book. The arts of self defense, and the craft of weapons manufacture from seemingly innocous items become second nature and in time you are able to produce them with skill and artisan quality. In prison recognizing enviornmental cues is also important to your safety.When noise levels are at their highest decibel it is a sign that threat levels are low but never non—existant.The tense quiet before the storm is the indication that something is amiss. It is then that danger is iminent.No loud or otherwise discernable declarations of war are made before the battle ensues.The most dangerous of which are racially motivated riots because in those situations there are no idle participants.Whether one wants to be or not they will be drawn into the melee. Prison provides it's very own and unique brand of law,unwritten rules,and politics.Poli— tics of a Machiavellian caliber that one must learn to navigate better than Niccolo himself if it is their desire to survive the prison experience relatively unscathed.The fluency wifln which you do so often determines at what rank and position you fill in the social hiearchy of the prison and in what light you are viewed by fellow prisoners.Determinant upon whether you are liked ,feared,respected,protected,despised arfrumedligxz can decide ymnifime in the literal, sense.The quality of your life is directly affected by it and it could very well mean the diff- erence between life and death. "Honor Amongst Theives" is a concept that to a degree has it's place in the over-all social order underlying inmate interactions.For example, government informants have an open bounty upon their head.It is paid in the form of prisoner gratitude and the currency given is respect and status to whom ever exacts the collective revenge aganinst a "Judas" who recieved his "30 peices of silver" in the form of time cuts for "substancial assistance" to the gov- ernment. Extortion,assault ,and murder are the comon lot for these individuals.Either that or perpetual residence in VP-C", the protective custody of solitary confienment.A situation that could cause one to ponder an end like that of the original "Judas Iscariot".Only the child‘ molester is further down the totem pole of prisoner society and higher on the proverbial "Hit-List".They recieve similar treatment,except the child molester fixesrrmtxfly assassinat- ion bm:ame often targeted for sodomization if and when they cross paths with an individual mentally depraved enough to find some joy in the deed.And the child molester can be certain tha‘ 1.) those individuals exist and; 2.) it is only a matter of time before they meet. Every subsequent aspect of incarceration is governed by the science of control,management, and repression.As these are the institutional primary objectives, rehabilitation of prisoners garners no sway.The concept of ‘Divide and Conquer" is utilized as a tactic.Seperation by race, creed,organizational affiliation,religious designation;gangs,»and geographical cliques are» encouraged by prison administration. It is an effegtj_Ve am useful S11-at%y, .Each prisoner has their individual assignation.The executive authorities employ every means available to maintain these assignments and detailed dossiers are compiled on every prisoner and are frequently updated. As the day in the life of a prisoner becomes months,then compound into years,the inner workings and dafly'ewzms ,no matter how strange,become common place.One starts to undergo a desensitization process that makes you acceptant of the violence.At a certain point it is view- ed by a prisoner as a simple inconvenience and nuisance in the way of your planned recreational activities for the day.In an effort to cope with the unceasing madness of it all,a prismer sub- conciously accepts the institutionalization process of the mind and behavior as it is the brain's attempt to find normalcy and order in the midst of chaos. The total sum of psychological strain on a prisoner is immense.The mental burden near in- tolerable.There is truly no way to cope ,nor mechanism to reverse,repair ,or repress the con- tinuous bombardment of brain altering damage caused by full immersion into a prison enviorn- ment.A situation only compounded by the emotional toll of the familial and personal struggles created from,then magnified by,the situation as a wholel Only through the understanding of the totality of these factors in combination can one garner a brief glimpse into the world that prisoners truly reside. From a prisoner's perspective,the passage of time is not marked by the ticks of the cheap quartz watch that is sold in the institution commissary.Neither by calendar notations.When _g._ o\ the sands of time fall then pool within the eternal abyss beyond huan reach and ability to ' retrieve it is noted by the concious mind of a prisoner in the eyes of the near unrecognizable iface that greets him in the mirror by the light of dawn.It is the countanance of a stranger with an emerging coronal pattern of grey that frames this face.One marred by age lines pre- maturely caused by the over-whelming stress and anguish that have become his constant compan- ions. It is the face of a man that is but a mere shadow of the unrealized potential of youth loss to the"Criminal Justice Succubus" that has gained itls strength by feasting upon the life force of men,leaving in itls wake the husk or shell of what once was. On a more intimate and personal level, I have marked my time by the major transformative events that have befallen me since the start of my incarceration.Also by the impact that those events have had on my relationships and familial connections.In my quest to retain any sembla- nce of the individual that comprises my core essence and identity I have attempted to maintain a firm grip on my most redeeming qualities,despite the negative impact of prison.It takes quite a bit of effort to protect their integrity because living in a prison is like attempting to swim through a cesspool of human atrocity and hoping to emerge utainted.. To combat.the mental stagnation associated with prison , and the institutionally promoted mental regression back to childhood promoted through the ubiquitious presence of board games, I playing <2mds, and non-thought provoking reading materials, in lieu of viable education al- ternatives of real world applicability, I have made strides toward self-programing.On my own violition I have acquired (2) languages,written poetry,novels and short stories spanning the spectrum of genres,acheived a championship level mastery of chess strategy,studied the compli- cated,nuanced landscape of legal theory beyond a novice introduction,and have at every oppor- tunity fed my appetite for learning by devouring a mountain of literaty titles with rapacious- ness and voracity. Unfortunately, none of my efforts toward self rehabilitation can truly sal- ve the psychological damage of my condition. The stability of my psyche remains under a relentless assault.It calls into question daily, .the purspose of my existance. Although I harbor no inclination to subcome to the suggesstion, the incessant whisper of self-termination is forever present in the deepest recesses of my mind. It is caused by the ”Hurculean Task" of simply surviving to the next hour,with the hope to make it through to the next day in the same relative condition of mental and physical stability with which you began.A task that becomes increasingly difficult with the passage of time. I There is little doubt that the issues facing prisoners fl1at arecausedby the physical aspects of confinement are difficult. What makes them worse are the extraneous fators that one must also contend with. This aspect is the magnification of misery.The emotional variable of the the whole equation . , It is heart wrenching to see the dfiagfinfimnt‘ in my Mother's eyes for the hopes and_ dreams she'd had for her only son's success,happiness.and life that have all been differed by incarceration. There is a certain difficulty in the acceptance of the death of my Father when it came at a time when we had just began to tackle the topic of the causes of his mini- mal presence in my life and had begun to learn eachother for who we were as men.It was the p abrupt end to an undersanding and budding relationship cut short by the realities of mortality. A reminder that incarceration will prevent me from being a superior father to the one that I myself had. I As the only brother of (2) sisters I am unable to- lend my strength of physical presence when it is need most.Ofily by photos of my neices,newphews, and the children left behind have I‘ been able to participate in their acheivements and developemental milestones as they have gummy into adults of their own right and prepare to embark on the journey of life.All of these things I have experienced ak1r2wiflI1m.flraviufl_ ,synergistic companionship of a woman's phy- sical presence,love and support,under the threat of the fact that I may never again know what it means to experience that level of intimacy due to being incarcerated. Tere exists no anxiolytic to supress ,cure ,or has the power to ease the physical pain, and anxiety caused by the all consuming desire fim:the female counter-part.Suicide is an att- ractive option to the prospect of spending the rest of one's life never being able to love again.What a prisoner is left with is only the memories of the once passionate exchanges once shared, and the feminine essence of a woman.Memories that are often revisited and savored like that of a sweet,intoxicating wine bouquet.Memories that can be just as sour as they are sweet.Ones that become like vinegar on the tounge and are viewed with a certain ambiva- lence.Like hemfirg flxaechms a promise made by the woman you've loved,during orgasmic throes to be the bearer of your seed alone ,only to later find that gift given to someone else in your absence.lhe1xmm heartbreak does not nearly emcompass the emotion felt. How does on cope .with it all? Actually,you don't.It is impossible to cope with the true nature and essence of what prison is.One simply endures and hopes that he awakens_from the nightmare before the succubus completely devours his soul... By: L.Francis (L.Francis_writes@yahoo.com) _ 10 _

Author: Francis, L.

Author Location: West Virginia

Date: December 15, 2017

Genre: Essay

Extent: 10 pages

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