The island effect: Social marooning in corrections as extra-judicial punishment

Throop, Daniel S.



The Island Effect: Social Maroaning in Corrections as Extra- Judicial Punishment Daniel S. Throop Abstract Objectives: To examine the causal factors of social death within punitive structures of correctional isolation, and to assess the negative outcomes associated with such extra-judicially applied forms of punishment in the creation of collateral consequences. Method: Research is centered around relevant academic texts, sociological studies, and MA-DOC correctional policies. Results: Findings affirm that the effects of correctional isolation destroy social networks and undermine successful reentry. Conclusion: The abuse of the state’s power to punish via social isolation results in relational genocide. Keywords: Island Effect, Social Marooning, Extra-Judicial, Social Death, Collateral Consequences, and Relational Genocide. Contents Introduction ........ ........................................................................ ..1 Origins of Correctional Isolation ................................. ............... ..3 Physical Isolation & Social Death ............................. ................. ..4 Emotional Isolation ............ ............ .... .... ..... ..... ..... ..6 Psychological Isolation .................................................................. ..7 Internalized Isolation ............................................ ...................... ..8 Reentry & Recidivism ................................................. ............... ...9 Policy Analysis .............................................................................. ..1O Panoptic Communication ........................................................... ....13 Extra-Judicial Punishment ............. ...... ..... ................... ..1 6 Collateral Consequences ............................................................. ..1 7 conclusion... ............................ ..... ............. .... ................... ..1 8 Endnotes Introduction Upon the vast ocean of humanity, prison atolls dot the seascape like small slabs of stony hopelessness. Societal castaways who wash up on the shores of these islands of isolation are destined to experience a dark degree of desertion. The intense feelings of loneliness which ensue are the hallmarks of social marooning, whereby one realizes that no rescue ship is coming for them. Time and distance corrosively combine to erode all remaining remnants of external relationships to the point of a person’s virtual non-existence to society, i.e. social death. Internal relationships amongst peers, staff, and volunteers are also targeted for destruction by correctional authorities as all forms of social contact and communication are severely regulated and often contrabanded. The overall reduction of interpersonal support systems through the removal of a prisoner’s access to connective bridges of community are harbingers of the Island Effect, which reduces the friendly and familiar to the alien and alone. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections (MA-DOC) captains eighteen such islands with a total population of 11,149 human beings.‘ When one factors in all of the families and friendships which were once associated with such a large prison population, the sheer numbers of the socially dead amount to nothing less than state-sanctioned relational genocide. (Relational genocide being the systematic extermination of a person’s interpersonal relationships, cumulatively, i via social starvation). Fueled by the mournful tears of the socially marooned, a tsunami of sadness sweeps across the archipelagoes of corrections until the personal identities of the incarcerated are reduced to mere flotsam. As Yale anthropologist Donald Braman asserts, “In this sense, the incarceration of an offender is not simply the sanctioning of an individual, but part of a broader corrosion of social bonds——bonds that sustain people, particularly people in 0 difficult circumstances’? It is the goal of this research to illuminate, more fully, the extent to which punitive forms of social isolation in correctional systems adversely impacts the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of the socially condemned, while also highlighting the collateral consequences which are created as a result 1 MA—DOC Strategic Plan 2010-2015. 2Braman, Donald. Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment. New Press.2002.New York, NY. (PP.135).Print. of extra-judicial correctional policies. Existing scholarship fails to incorporate the full gamut of collateral consequences, especially regarding interpersonal and relational losses, which are extra-judicial in that they are arbitrarily accrued punishments meted out by correctional authorities, not the courts, at a post- conviction level. Such unrestrained punitive power is not only devastating to both the human condition and reentry, but is wholly counterproductive to the advancement of public safety, which, afterall, is the purported mission of the MA- DOC. Supporting evidence for these claims will be derived from multiple sources. Academic texts; Crime and Punishment in American History, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment, Discipline and Punish, and Hellhole will be used to correlate the concepts of isolation and punishment, while emphasizing Foucault's Panopticon as it applies to the inhibition of social contacts in the prison milieu. Specifically, how mail is opened, phone calls are recorded, and visits are physically and electronically surveilled. Scientific studies regarding prison visitation and solitary confinement will be reviewed, and MA-DOC documents/policies which prove to be hostile towards the formation and maintenance of prosocial relationships will also be cited. All of these resources will combine to answer the one overarching thesis of this paper: How do correctional policies in Massachusetts utilize multi-layered forms of isolation, as extra-judicial punishment, to gradually bring about the social death of those within its care? Origins of Correctional Isolation The origins of Massachusetts’ isolation-based correctional policies can be traced back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During this period, a pivotal paradigm shift regarding punishment was taking place, as public shaming spectacles were largely abandoned in favor of more private and exclusive methods. Stanford Law Professor Lawrence M. Friedman describes how; New ideas about the sources of crime fed the urge to reform. They located the source of deviant behavior in society itself in the environment. But if society itself was corrupting, for some people, what was to he done? One solution was a kind of radical surgery; remove the deviant from his (weak and defective) family, his evil community, and put him in an artificially created and therefore corruption-free environment. From these nations sprang the penitentiary system.’ Consequently, the malevolent machinery of corrective social surgery had been irrevocably set in motion. To divide and conquer, through social isolation, became the law of the land. Correctional apparatuses evolved rapidly and were all centered around punitive programs of isolation. Massachusetts opened its first prison, at charlestown, in 18054, and by 1878 it led the nation in‘ ation of the probation system"’. Friedman states that, during this struct I build-up, “All the new penitentiaries, whatever their differences, were committedto silence, to a certain amount of isolation; and, more fundamentally, to discipline and regimentation. When the prisoner entered the gate, the staff stripped him of his individuality and reduced him to a common fate""'. Today, Massachusetts operates eighteen prison facilities, and the MA-DOC has honed its horrible craft into an art form. Correctional authorities now employ four primary forms of isolation to induce the complete social death of those within its care: physical, emotional, psychological, and internalized. Each of these deadly components, then, merits careful review. 3 Friedman, Lawrence M. Crime and Punishment in American History. _ Basic Books.1993.New York, NY. (PP.77). Print. 4 Ibid (79). 5 Ibid (163). 5 Ibid (79). Physical Isolation & Social Death Physical isolation is the first phase of social death, and it usually begins with one’s arrest and confinement. Symbolically, the arrest process represents a total loss of power as well as autonomy. On a corporal plane, however, an arrest can be a painful affair, as law enforcement officers often utilize overly-aggressive tactics by which to subdue their suspects, even the non-violent ones. Theological scholar Mark Lewis Taylor notes that “The logic of enforcement is clear, knowing the seriousness of police plans is rooted in a spectacular seeing”. Therefore, arrests are dramatic by design so as to tangibly display state power as a dominant force. Regardless of the circumstances, an arrest is about subjugation, and it serves to physically remove a person from their own community while abruptly transplanting them to more alien environs. At this juncture, penal enslavement commences in concert with confinement. Prison ‘walls bluntly sever social ties by restricting access to social networks, but even more insidiously, by literally blotting-out all vestiges of surrounding society. Not only is a person unable to participate in civic life any longer, but he is also now cruelly blinded to its very existence and vice versa. It is the visual death of all that one once knew. Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson posits “lithe slave no longer belonged to a community, if he had no social existence outside of his master, then what was he? The initial response in almost all sla ve-holding societies was to define the slave as a socially dead person”. Certainly, some people may disagree with the equation of prisoners to slaves, but the parallels are undeniable. In fact, the 13"‘ Amendment to the United States Constitution actually codifies criminal slavery in declaring “Neither Slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall 7 Taylor, Mark Lewis. The Executed God. Fortress.2001.Minneapolis, MN. (PP.34).Print. 8 Patterson, Orlando. Slavery and Social Death. Harvard University Press. (PP.38).Print. have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction ’‘9. Armed with Constitutional authority, Massachusetts can justify the on-going dissection and physical degradation of its, largely minority, prison slave class. Initiation into its correctional institutions involves a systematic reduction of one’s personhood, which includes, but is not limited to: uniform dress, numbered identification, solitary confinement, forceful restraint, strip searches, urine screens, constant supervision, and the censorship of communications. Patterson echoes the purpose of these policies in saying; The slave is violently uprooted from his milieu [arrested]. He is desocialized and depersonalized. This process of social negation constitutes the first, essentially external, phase of enslavement. The next phase involves the introduction of the slave into the community of his master [MA-DOC], but it involves the paradox of introducing him as a non-being [Con #]. This explains the importance of law, custom, and ideology in the representation of the slave relation". Practices like these accomplish one thing; the extinction of social identity. Social identity wanes within repressive systems of wanton disuse like prisons. Simon Clarke defines it as, “Social identity is about the category and attributes that a person is deemed to possess in relation to athers””. Unfortunately, the austere physical isolation which correctional facilities impose upon those behind its walls does not allow for qualitative external relations to be fostered or reciprocated. Preexisting relationships basically wither and die, crushed by the combined weight of physical distance, lengthy sentences, and hampered communicative abilities (especially in the ever-expanding digital world). Under such limited conditions, it becomes impossible to keep up with one’s former life, so one is inevitably replaced in social 9 United States Constitution. Amendment 13, Section 1. Ratifled December 6, 1865. Print. 1° Patterson, Orlando. (38). 11 Clarke, Simon. Culture and Identity. Sage Handbook of Cultural Ana|ysis.2008. (PP.512).Print. Circles and must suffer in silence as what should have been their starring role in life is now assumed by some other actor. Consequently, the course for even deeper isolation has been plotted. Emotional Isolation Emotional isolation is often characterized by a depressive out of sight---out of mind sensation, and is accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and despair. As external relationships fall off like scabs, one must painfully turn their gaze from the ghosts of old allies to the social detritus which constitutes their new peer community. Correctional psychologist Craig Haney elucidates how; Prisoners who labor at both an emotional and behavioral level to develop a prison mask that is unrevealing and impenetrable risk alienation from themselves and others, may develop emotional flatness that becomes chronic and debilitating in social interactions and relationships, and find that they have created a permanent and unbridgeable distance between themselves and other people '2 Acclimatizing to a strange new social group, not of one’s own choosing and in a harsh arena, while simultaneously anesthetizing oneself to external_relational losses is not an easy task. However, assimilation is a feat which the MA-DOC expects to be performed emotionlessly. The emotional toll of isolation slowly murders the soul, as interpersonal losses mount. Every obliterated marriage, friendship, and family connection creates wounds which cannot be cauterized. Newly returned citizen Five Oman Mualimm-ak shares how “The scars that isolated confinement leaves behind may be invisible, but they are no less painful or permanent than physical scars” ”. No amount of internal camaraderie can ever adequately suture the trauma associated with social liquidation, and some have more to lose than 12 Haney, Craig. The Psychological Impact of Incarceration: Implications for Post—Prison Adiustment. US Department of Health and Human Services Conference Report. January 30-31, 2002. (PP.82). Print. 13 Mualimm-ak, Five Oman. Solitary Confinement’s Invisible Scars. Prison Legal News. February 2014. (PP.48). Print. others. Correctional researchers Grant Duwe and Valerie Clark point out how “For those who are married, visits with either spouses or children may be difficult because they create more stress and are often reminders of how their incarceration is preventing them from raising their children or pro viding for their families”"‘. The emotional destabilization of entire families often leads to psychological detachment. Psychological Isolation Psychological isolation is most frequently correlated with solitary confinement, which can be a bit of a misnomer in that all forms of confinement are essentially solitary. French philosopher Michel Foucault encapsulates it as; “The crowd, a compact mass, a locus of multiple exchanges, individualities merging together, a collective effect, is abolished and replaced by a collection of separated individualities”'5. Every man is an island, so at this stage of isolation solitude becomes a matter of subjective gradation. Of course, solitary confinement is, as an institution, by far the most notorious and extreme form of correctional deprivation known to man. After all, there is something very chilling about the concept of a prison within a prison and the accelerated rate of self-decay which it produces. All MA-DOC facilities possess some degree of solitary confinement, but two entire prisons, MCI Cedar Junction and Sousa Baranowski, are devoted to housing a combined 1,948 maximum-security prisoners“. Solitary confinement is unnatural, to say the least, therefore it inspires equally abnormal adaptations by its subjects. However, the psychological cost of survival is incalculable. Atul Gawande highlights how “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may 14 Duwe, Grant. Blessed Be the Social Tie that Binds: The Effects of Prison Visitation on Offender Recidivism. Clark, Valerie. Sage. Criminal Justice Policy Review.2013. (PP.290).Print. ~ 15 Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish.2”d Edition. Vintage.1995.New York, NY. (PP.201).Print. 16 MA—DOC Strategic Plan.2010—2015.Print. Become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic inju ” ’7, and he goes on to say that “...simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people” ”. Perhaps the cruelest aspect of psychological isolation is how it erects new walls in the mind, breaching one’s last line of defense. Clarke notes how “The actual walls of houses of confinement, of the madhouse and the asylum, created walls inside people as they feared the gap between the norms of rationality and their own potential madness” "". lnternalized Isolation Willfully placing human beings in solitary confinement is no different than throwing non-swimmers into the sea without life jackets, because both outcomes will be fatal. Radical segregation from even meager internal support systems, after the previously endured massacring of external relationships, is just too much for the psyche to bear. Gawande adds that “One of the paradoxes of solitary confinement is that, as starved as people become for companionship, the experience typically leaves them unfit for social interaction” 2”. Mental unraveling marks the genesis of island fever, and without any other social sustenance to be found, the mind resorts to cannibalism in order to maintain a modicum of buoyancy. A general numbness sets in at this point, but the placid surface belies the maelstrom which is brewing inside. The final form of correctional isolation is also the most distressing, as it is of the internalized variety. Self-isolation is a defense mechanism which reduces an individual to the status of an automaton and results in complete social withdrawal. Haney insists; A clear and consistent emphasis on maximizing visitation and supporting contact with the outside world must be implemented, both to minimize the 17 Gawande, Atul. HELLHOLE. The New Yorker. March 30, 2009. (PP.4). Print. 18 Ibid. (1). 19 Clarke, Simon. (515). 2° Gawande, Atul. (7). division between the norms of prison and those of the freeworld, and to discourage dysfunctional social withdrawal that is difficult to reverse upon release“ Considering that 92% of the prison population in Massachusetts will eventually be released”, it would appear advisable for the MA-DOC to ensure that newly returning citizens be given more of a chance to swim than to sink once freed. Reentry & Recidivism Professor T.Richard Snyder boldly challenges the public consciousness regarding corporate responsibility for reentry by saying; “When we lose sight of the umbilical connection between criminal acts and the larger societal collectivity, it is a simple step to deal with crime by dealing with the criminal as an isolate--a simple but tragic step. In so doing we make true redemption impossible, for redemption must include all within the scope of the symbiosis"'3. With this sentiment in mind, it becomes apparent that current MA-DOC directives, which feature punitive forms of isolation, are diametrically opposed to meaningful reforms, hence the MA-DOC’s rather unspectacular 40% failure rate in terms of recidivism“. Imagine the depth of damage done to the socially dead who float around long enough to spy the shores of society, ever so briefly, only to be swept back out to an empty sea, again and again, by the cruel currents of recidivism. As long as prisons are steered by indifferent captains, the hulls of humanity will continue to be shattered upon the sharp shoals of punishment. Snyder relates how “A spirit of punishment permeates the prison; it cannot be escaped. There are oases, but for the majority 21 Haney, Craig. (88). 22 MA—DOC. Strategic PIan.2010—2015.Print. 23 Snyder, T.Richard. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment. Wm.B.Eerdmans.2001.Grand Rapids, MI. (PP.71).Print. 24 MA—DOC. Strategic P|an.2010~2015.Print. 10 prison is only a desert, a wilderness of punishment” 25. Oddly enough, physical enslavement, emotional abandonment, psychological decay, and internalized withdrawal do not appear to lead towards the buried treasures of reentry and rehabilitation. How, then, is it possible for such counterintuitive correctional policies to continue unabated? The answer lies in the community’s tacit approval of revenge-based punishment against those whom it defines as ontologically dead already. Snyder states, “The classifications of people of color as inferior and of criminals as garbage to be thrown away have combined to foster a response to crime that is one of vengeance and punishment” 2‘. Policy Analysis Ironically, the official MA-DOC mission statement reads; “Promote public safety by managing offenders while providing care and appropriate programming in preparation for successful reentry into the community””. However, like a misty mirage cresting upon a humid horizon, appearances can be deceiving. In reality, the MA-DOC actually does more to undermine public safety than it does to promote it, and like all fear-based mechanisms of control the term itself is used as a blank check to euphemistically justify exclusionary punishments, such as; denial of visitation (conjugal and general), furloughs, and even family funeral attendance. Certainly, none of these sources of social contact can be honestly construed as risks to public safety. In fact, Duwe and Clark have proven the opposite to be true, reporting that “...the public safety benefits resulting from increased social support for offenders—both in the institution and the community-- would Iikely outweigh the costs involved to bring about systemic change” 2‘. 25 Snyder, T.Richard. (5). 26 Ibid. (54). 27 MA-DOC. Strategic Plan 2010-2015. Print. 28 Duwe, Grant. & Clark, Valerie. (292). A comparative analysis of MA-DOC policies which inhibit and, in some instances, criminalize social contracts within correctional structures will reveal a startling disconnect between its stated « mission and its actual practices. For example, the MA-DOC mission claims to promote programming, but the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) severely prohibits any social contact between prisoners and volunteers. 103 CMR 430.24, Category 3-25 explicitly penalizes “Communicating, directly or indirectly with any staff member or contract employee, volunteer, or a member of their family at their home address or telephone number, or for non-official business”. Additionally, many volunteer programs (i.e. educational, self-help) are blanketed in anonymity clauses which impose a very impersonal power differential not conducive with trust-based relationship building. If programming is “preparation for successful reentry into the community” as the MA-DOC’s mission statement claims, then why is the formation of positive, new relationships with volunteers, staff, mentors, and teachers (who are all members of the community themselves) so strictly contrabanded? Obviously, the MA-DOC’s position is to play their usual security trump card as a catch-all justification, but to what end does denying kind-hearted people (who may have worked with someone for years in various programs) the ability to even offer letters of support to the parole board? Any violations of what the MA-DOC ambiguously defines as “Illegal Communication””wil| result in the banishment of the volunteer and in disciplinary segregation time for the obviously incorrigible prisoner who presumed to make a friend by sending a message in a bottle while socially marooned. Program invitations to external contacts are also inexplicably denied, which again illustrates the incongruity of MA-DOC mission and policy. For instance, no known associates, friends, or family members are permitted entrance into MA-DOC facilities beyond the visiting 29 103 CMR 430.24 & 103 CMR 481. room. Therefore, the external social networks of prisoners are never afforded the opportunity to attend internal program functions which take place beyond standard boundaries. In an effort to bridge this social divide at MCI-Norfolk, the Toastmasters program proposed to hold a special event in the visiting room so that friends and family members could share in the growth of their loved ones. The Director of Treatment replied “I am in receipt of your letter and special activity application dated February 19, 2012 requesting, for a second time, a Friends and Family Event for Toastmasters. Please be advised this request is denied. While I support the Toastmasters program, the ability to conduct a Friends and Family Event is not feasible at this time” 3”. Departmental regulations also target inmate to inmate friendships. 1 03 CMR 481 .21 (5) declares “The prohibition on inmate-to-inmate correspondence applies only to Department of Correction inmates incarcerated in a Department of Correction or county facility in Massachusetts”. It stands to reason that once all external relationships have vanished, one would naturally seek friendship from those around him or her. Christine H. Lindquist affirms how “Social ties formed by inmates inside of their institution may develop into a crucial resource for dealing with the stressors associated with incarceration” 3’. In theory, internal social ties sound like they may be helpful, but prison populations are transient. Therefore, the diversity of sentences and the inability to control transfers basically stamps even these communions of the dead with an unknown expiration date. Correctional policies extend beyond the walls, and any violations of them will result in a swift return to captivity. In an act of pure sadism, the Massachusetts Parole Department requires that parolees not have any contact whatsoever with any other individuals who 3° Sweeney, Kelley. Internal Letter from MCl—Norfo|k D.O.T. March 28, 2012. Print. 31 Lindquist, Christine. Social Integration and Mental We|l—Being among Jail Inmates. Springer. Sociological Forum, Vol.15, No.3. September 2000. (PP.436). Print. 13 possess a criminal record 32. Understandably, there is some legitimate concern over the maintenance of negative affiliations such as gangs, organized crime, or criminal conspiracies. However, to be forced to turn one’s back on genuine friendships forged over years of shared struggles is just plain wrong. How can a person who knows all too well the pain of social abandonment be expected to visit such heartlessness upon a fellow castaway? ls criminality still thought to be contagious? Foucault responds that “Underlying disciplinary projects, the image of the plague stands for all forms of confusion and disorder; just as the image of the leper, cut off from all human contact, underlies projects of exclusion” 33. Panoptic Communication The MA-DOC conditions compliance to its communication codes through the expert use of surveillance filters. Foucault describes his concept of the Panopticon, a powerful sense of scrutiny, as follows; Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers“. The creation of inverted observation by correctional overseers represents a cunning ploy by which to make prisoners self-regulate their communications in mail, telephone calls, and visitation. Corresponding with loved ones through traditional snail-mail in a digital e-mail age is like sending people antiques and vainly expecting reciprocity. The fact is that free society simply does not utilize the United States Postal Service as its primary mode of communication anymore, and over 45% of what little mail which does still trickle into 32 120 CMR 3oo.o7(2) Parole. 33 Foucault, Michel. (199). 34 Ibid. (201). *Panopticon adapted from Jeremy Bentham’s original. MA-DOC facilities is just for personal money orders“. Therefore, receiving a piece of personal mail in 2014, despite the technological gap, can feel like a real lifeline from the free world. Of course, all incoming and out-going correspondence is subject to being opened, searched, returned, fluroscoped (scanning device), read, and rejected as contraband depending on its contents. Such determinations are made by correctional staff who are authorized to do so under 103 CMR 481 mail regulations. Not knowing who else may be reading one’s words or screening pictures of loved ones often induces self-editing to occur in true panoptic fashion. Verbal communications are also problematic. While telephone calls may seem more convenient than snail-mail contacts, obstacles such as physical access and financial expense quickly dull the luster of this option. In MA-DOC facilities, physical access to phones is restricted to certain times of the day, calls themselves are limited to twenty minutes, and prison overcrowding only further exacerbates the long lines of the socially marooned waiting to use them. In terms of expense, price-gouging by MA-DOC service provider Global Tel Link (GTL) became so ridiculous, especially for long distance calls, that the Federal Communications Commission had to intervene“. On top of all this, the MA-DOC employs auditory surveillance to listen to and record every call, which again causes individuals to be unnaturally scripted with their speech. The automatic functioning of power continues. Prison visitation usually entails a small degree of physical contact, although some facilities only permit glass-partioned visits, and as the only form of socialization which allows such closeness it is also the most heavily surveilled. Before even entering the visiting room, prisoners and their outside guests alike are searched and screened. Entrance procedures can be very subjectively applied, and 103 CMR 483.16(1) states that “Any visitor, even one who has obtained prior 35 Keefe Commissary Network. RFR Contract Bid. (PP.113). Print. 36 Prison Legal News. February 2014. Print. permission to visit, may be denied entrance to the institution or told to terminate a visit and leave the premises. M. G.L. c.26‘6, 123 makes it a criminal trespass to refuse to leave an institution after being ordered by an officer to do so”. Essentially, this ambiguous policy provides staff with broad powers of exclusion and discipline. Hypothetically, a person could be denied entrance for something as trivial as a wardrobe issue, and if they stick around to dispute their denial of access, they could then be criminally charged as punishment because the MA-DOC does not negotiate with visitors. MA-DOC Commissioner, Luis 3. Spencer, has recently added another layer of panoptic security to visitation procedures in the form of drug detecting canines. On the surface, such a policy seems to be reasonable as a means of deterring the introduction of drugs into the prison system. Spencer states that “While we realize that visits are an extremely important part of your lives during your incarceration, the Department will not allow your reentr_y and treatment efforts to be derailed by illicit activities” 37 . The insincerity of this statement is couched in the timing of its release, which was actually the MA-DOC’s response to the arrest of correctional staff for selling drugs to prisoners in MCI-NorfoIk’s CRA drug recovery program. Ironically, Spencer’s new drug detection policy does not apply to correctional staff members entering MA-DOC facilities, but rather only punishes the friends and families who still dare to build bridges between the two worlds. The cumulative impact of opened mail, recorded calls, and video- surveilledldrug dog-sniffed visits is the systematic discouragement of social contact. The Panoptic reigns supreme in diminishing the purity of human communication and interpersonal conduct with social networks. The daunting nature of maintaining prosocial relationships under such isolated conditions explains Professor Joshua C. Cochran's findings that “The most common visitation pattern prisoners 37 Spencer, Luis s. MA—DOC Memo. March 6, 2013. Print. experience is no visitation”‘°"’. After all, who can honestly be expected to indefinitely endure the logistical challenges of time and distance, let alone the indignities of drug dogs, invasive searches, and stigmatization associated with supporting someone in prison. Ultimately, almost all contact wilts to a point of identity deficit beneath the punitive gaze of the MA-DOC. Extra-Judicial Punishment Forensic psychiatrist Stuart Grassian, who has conducted studies in the Massachusetts DOC, calls it like it is in saying “Punish him, punish him, punish him: T hat’s the only thing the correctional system knows to do” 3"’. Interestingly enough, the MA-DOC does not operate under the auspices of the judiciary (as many people seem to believe), but is in fact an executive branch agency“. Therefore, the MA-DOC’s penchant for punishment is extra-judicial in nature as such penalties are inflicted at the post-conviction level, arbitrarily, by correctional authorities and not the courts. It is an important delineation to make, in that it raises some genuine ethical concerns regarding the abuses of state power. Namely, how can an institution like the MA-DOC justify its use of extra-judicial tortures, like social isolation and solitary confinement, as being in alignment with its mandate of rehabilitation? As far as the courts are concerned, public safety is satisfied during the criminal sentencing phase in which a person’s period of social marooning is specified. Being sent to an artificial environment is itself considered to be the punishment. Everything that the MA-DOC decides to apply after the fact is the equivalent of kicking someone while they are already down. Mualimm-ak articulates this well, stating: Everyone knows that prison is supposed to take away your freedom. But solitary doesn’t just confine your body; it kills your soul. Yet neither a judge nor a jury of my 38 Cochran, Joshua C. Breaches in the Wall: Imprisonment, Social Support, and Recidivism. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 2014. (PP.205). Print. 39 Grassian, Stuart. Going Crazy in Solitary. THE WEEK. March 28, 2014. (PP.41). Print. 4° MA-DOC. Strategic Plan 2010-2015. Print. peers handed down this sentence to me. Each of the tormented 23 hours per day that I spend in a bathroom-sized room, without any contact with the outside world, was determined by prison staff“. The public requires justice, but the state demands the blood of social death. Collateral Consequences The MA-DOC’s use of extra-judicial assassination tactics against those within its care may be condoned by an apathetic public, but the sad reality is that these practices punish innocent bystanders as well. In the correctional war on crime the friends and families of the incarcerated become collateral consequences, thereby adding to the relational carnage which prison isolation creates. For every single social death that takes place within prisons, a ripple-effect occurs and multiplies the number of casualties beyond the walls exponentially. Braman avers, “Perhaps the most significant consequence of stigma among families of prisoners, then, is the distortion, diminution, and even severance of these social ties” "2. Lindquist adds how “...increasing proportions of jail and prison inmates translates into more spouses or children left behind on the outside, a population for whom the effects of incarceration are unknown” 4’. Surely, advocates of the current correctional system in Massachusetts will point out that prisons were not designed to be comfortable or accommodating atmospheres, and they would be right. People who have committed a crime must pay their debt to society, as this is what balances the scales of justice in America. Just how much human interest must be attached to this debt though? Must entire social networks be sacrificed to appease the insatiable appetites of correctional island gods? 41 Mualimm—ak, Five Oman. (48). 42 Braman, Donald. (131). 43 Lindquist, Christine H. (433). According to Braman’s vision, “...the difficult task that lies ahead is bringing offenders further into the social fold of family and community rather than removing them even further from it” 44. Restoring social bridges is the only way to reverse the Island Effect and its devastating consequences, because the human costs of continued isolation are too apocalyptic to consider. Conclusion The systematic social attrition occurring in modern correctional structures is appalling. In fact, state-sanctioned social cleansing policies which utilize; physical, emotional, psychological, and internalized forms of punitive isolation to eradicate the identities of those within its care are barbaric. By Grassian’s accounting; In 2005, there were an estimated 81,600 prisoners in solitary in the U.S. That’s 3.6 ‘percent of the 2.2 million presently incarcerated...Prison authorities in every state are running a massive uncontrolled experiment on them. And every day, the products of these trials trickle out on to the streets, with their prospects of rehabilitation professionally, socially, and physiologically diminished“. Prisons have become human petri dishes, and the continued social decimation of prisoners and their corresponding support systems amounts to relational genocide. Prison walls do much more than simply serve as ocean-like barriers which enforce the social marooning of those inside of them, as they also provide the public with plausible deniability regarding the social holocaust simultaneously being carried out in the name of their safety. Atrocity is often fueled by secrecy, which may explain why prison walls are not constructed with transparent materials and why tourism is discouraged. Foucault illumines that “The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad... ”“, so the fact that no one is watching the watchers grants them the license to kill at will. 44 Braman, Donald. (135). 45 Grasslan, Stuart. (40). 46 Foucault, Michel. (201-202). Therefore, the ontological culling of the “criminal” class proceeds, unchecked, via the isolation and social starvation of community castaways. If “correction” is accomplished through the existential evisceration and extinction of individual identities and social networks, then the Massachusetts DOC is an exemplary institution.

Author: Throop, Daniel S.

Author Location: Massachusetts

Date: November 5, 2019

Genre: Essay

Extent: 21 pages

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