The inevitable degradation of one man’s mind while incarcerated
Smith, Andrew Jackson
The epitome of nothingness has to be prison from the perspective of any amply motivated person. If the content of this very essay seems largely void then indeed my point be made. Can one write of that which he is not conceivably a part of? Certainly one can perceive in his mind of that which to write of. But what then when the mind no longer engages in wakening dreams and imagination?
In times past a theory dominated the field of neuroscience that described an idle mind at certain times, perhaps to restore or regenerate the normal functions of the brain. However, in more recent times it has been determined that this theory is inaccurate and indeed the brain is never idle.
Social skills are attained by a learning process as an individual interacts with his surroundings. This is an on-going and progressive process which ends only with cessation of life. Upon incarceration, the first thing noted amoung inmates is the secluded individual atmosphere contrasted dramatically with the close proximity to one another due to over-crowding and natural results of captivity. As for myself, this initial booking at the county jail, after I had gone into psychogenic shock upon hearing my fiance was dead, was a torturous experience which still haunts me in both sleeping and wakening hours.
Social species and particularly mankind has a disproportionately large cortex of the telencephalon much for the explicit purpose of interacting with others in our culture. Extreme events, abnormal in relation to the environment, and which shock us frequently constitute signs and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder evidenced by both anatomical changes in the structure of our brain and physiological changes in the function as well. Incarceration surely qualifies in some instances to cause PTSD and in all instances to preclude and abruptly halt normal social development. It is most likely that lengthy captivity causes long lasting or permanent psychological damage.
My own experience due to a wrongful arrest in which I was framed by the D.A. and Police has left me emotionally and intelectually damaged. The hallmark of psychological damage due to captivity will be recongnized in the future after scientific sound research and documentation as not only cessation of maturation, abnormal personality disorders, but also regression in cognitive abilities. This all could be verified today by various brain imaging; observation, and interview/testing techniques. There is no doubt copious substantial data available to gather on damage due to captivity from POWs and overseas prison systems, not to mention clandestine renditions. Often even developing nation's psychological dwellings for the mentally ill can demonstrate these harmful effects of forced isolation from society, while attempting a therapeutic setting, ie mental hospitals.
With over three million incarcerated in this country and over 3% of the population under some corrective supervision (parole, probation, jail), we will impact our society once this isolated island of outcasts are integrated back into society, and most will be. In order to predict with precision what is taking place in our prisons and the affect upon it's recipients an interesting experiment is readily feasible. We could take law abideing, well educated persons willing to volunteer and insert them into prisons under the pretense of having been incarcerated for crimes.
This author would be a good candidate to report on what is going on inside our prisons, having a B.S. in nursing and major in psychology with other allied health training and framed for murder.
After experiencing daily violence and having to fight daily for food and losing approximately 75 pounds in 15 months and becoming severely ill without treatment often, I was transfered to the Alabama Department of Corrections. Within the first week I began to write letters to our House and Senate concerning the corruption in my case, the nefarious conditions in prison and my own state of deteriorating health without medical care. I receive one response to over a hundred letters from a senator whom probably sympathized with my being a disabled veteran.
When the impact of the effects of forced exposure to perversions daily, the overall absence of all morality, the anti-government sentiment, and coping outlets expressed in extremism of religions surface in society it will be too late to undo the damage and we will be well on our way to fall and total collapse as a nation, the process is under way now. We will soon see youth leaders emerge with a violent and subversive agenda routinely throughout the United States. Our global influence as a morally sound nation and admiration will be lost. What is it that makes these type leaders and those that follow them?
Prisons serve one positive function to safeguard the public from criminals and currently do so as the expense of psychologically damaging those isolated. If a man is not criminally mind prior to lengthy incarceration he will be after, and accompanied by violent and psychotic. Both a psychotic and violent mentality are necessary to survive in prison without becoming someone's (or many persons) routine prey.
Inmates in state prisons quickly learn to adopt a protective behavior which must include threats of violence, apathy for others, and above all a self-centered focus. In fact, those that profit most and fare best in prison are the narcissists and sociopaths who enter already with a disdain for others and a genuine inability for compassion. Psychologically normal inmates must mimic the ideology and inclusive criterea for behavior consistent with personality disorders. And at some point, habitual activities/behaviors stop being something performed by one's self and instead become the "self", that is the identity of the person, what naturally characterizes the individual. These personality disorders are near impossible to treat and being mass produced in America's prisons as a result of the harsh and inhumane conditions inside the fences on a continuous basis.
How long will America remain on the extreme pole of this continuum before taking a responsible interaction toward proper treatment of the incarcerated. Instead of politicians and judges determining what suffices as adequate, humane, and beneficial treatment, we must incorporate social anthropologists, neuropsychiatrists and human rights workers into our punitive system in adequate ratios to inmates to be effective. By the time this initiative is taken it may be beyond salvage.
This inmate maintains sanity by habitual exercise, teaching secular and religious classes and staying isolated from others while in their most continuously, yet knowing rapid and gross deterioration of both my mind and body exist. I pray my Spirit remain intact, daily.
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