what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin

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The Heroin Problem

Recently I found out an acquaintance died from a heroin overdose. I had not seen this person in about a year, yet have clear memories of him that now seem sad in hindsight in the way that death overcasts a person’s memory. According to the New York Times, “heroin related deaths quadrupled between 2002 and 2013” and is becoming a scourge in many American neighborhoods. Heroin dealers are shrewd for money and power. Heroin users are looking for a fantastical escape that is bigger than themselves. It is a clear problem for which we are not finding a solution.

The documentary “Black Tar Heroin” is a comprehensive examination into the daily lives of heroin users. The documentary aired on HBO in 2000 and captured the attention of the public due to its honest portrayal of the struggles of heroin addicts.

One of the subjects in the film, Tracy, now writes a fantastic blog about her heroin days in hindsight now that she has been clean for many years. In the documentary, the audience meets her in the midst of heroin’s claim over her life. She notes that “it looks like I’ve gotten dropped in a dumpster” due to the physical toll shooting up in her legs took, and generally seems very out of touch with reality. After getting out of jail and doing a shot of heroin, she notes the disappointment of the hit and that the anticipation was the driving force to get her to shoot up. She is depressed and lost, a person with promise who turned to the most powerful substance to numb her pain. Her boyfriend in the film, Ben, also does crack cocaine which is a source of argument for the couple. When couples use drugs together, things get very distorted because of the enabling nature of the relationship and lack of genuine affection because all energy is reserved for the procurement and administration of the drug. Tracy says “recently all I’ve been thinking about what I’m gonna do when I quit heroin…and it seems like getting there is easy all I have to do is kick…even if I wasn’t doing heroin I don’t know what the fuck I want to do with my life I would’ve just done it”. She vacillates between wanting to not use and accepting her use. Junkies use many excuses to justify their bad behavior and often act as victims of their circumstances whether it is true or not. Fast forward several years and Tracy was able to kick her habit with dedication, support, and sheer will. However as her blog notes, the experiences of using heroin and the atmosphere that heroin use creates is not something a person can simply escape from, it stays with you and creeps up in the night.

For another subject, Jessica, the documentary remains a testament to her demise due to the streets, heroin, and a prostitution lifestyle. Jessica turns to prostituting in order to pay for her habit which is a very common decision for many female addicts. On her refrigerator a poem about the heroin lifestyle is scrawled, “Dead End Street Kid-bloody needles/full of junk/never bathing/smell like skunk/strict-9 acid/fuckin’ bunk/drink 40s/goddamn punk”. She says that in prostitution “you get through with them you try to clean up yourself in the car…and you stand back on the street and it feels like you’re a tissue being wiped”. She acquires AIDS and doesn’t stop prostituting, being so jaded that she no longer cares about putting other people in danger. It is clear in the film that she is dying, the last scene with her in it is very dark and disturbing. With her head shaved looking androgynous, she states that shes tired of “the sex trade business, I’m about to the point of just robbing people but I can’t do that because I’d go to jail because some stupid person would have to try to take a swing at me and I’d have to cut them up into little pieces”. She knows she lives a risky life, with the possibility of being raped and/or robbed a daily threat. “At the rate I’m going in a year I’ll be dead”, she says to the camera, with full knowledge of where the consequences of her actions are going.

wages of sin

This photo “for the wages of sin is death” is shown at the beginning of the film. However, heroin use in and of itself should not be considered a “sin”. Drug abuse is a recognized disorder on the DSM-V and addiction is a medical condition that must be treated carefully. Drug addicts may do bad things due to the nature of addiction (ie. stealing money from family to buy drugs), but saying that they are sinful is reducing their problem to something too basic. Due to the likelihood of any person becoming addicted, this disorder could theoretically happen to anyone. That is why it is so important to understand how addiction works and why it is so important to destigmatize drug addiction, something that could possibly cause more people to receive help for their addictions because of the reduction of the shame factor. Shame factors are enablers of negative behavior because it makes the person feel so negatively about themselves that they become unable to seek proper and adequate treatment.

The film ends with Tracy dumping her used needles into a bin at the needle exchange, a very important health care service that addicts need in order to be safe and protected from diseases. This is a strategy of the “harm reduction” school of thought, which states that since people are going to engage in potentially risky behavior, there should be services that provide ways for drug users to stay as safe as possible. Harm reduction does not label people because of their medical condition of addiction but rather seeks to recognize that the humanity these people have includes the right to be as safe as possible in their decisions, and if there is a way to facilitate that safety, it should be done. This strategy is more honest than the school of thought that prohibition of narcotics is the superior way to eliminate drug use.

In our society, it should be clear that prohibition is not working. It is a propaganda ploy to create power structures that are unbeatable. It creates black market jobs that are filled by dangerous people and causes people who are addicted to hide away from the public creating acute medical crises across the country. There will never be a “solution” for heroin use, that is heroin use will never completely go away. However, recognition of what the disease of addiction actually is could improve the conditions that come with heroin use.

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“Lost Angeles: Skid Row Is My Home” Documentary

Homelessness is a societal problem with many different implications for the homeless persons. To a degree in the United States, homelessness is now becoming illegal as is helping the homeless. For certain, a society can be judged how it treats its homeless, and in the United States, the legal establishment has not been kind to the homeless.

The documentary “Lost Angeles: Skid Row Is My Home” focuses on several homeless persons who live in Skid Row in Los Angeles. Skid Row is a fifty block conglomerate of primarily single adult housing units and is a low economic area with arguably the nation’s largest homeless population. It was established by a court case, Jones v. City of Los Angeles after it was found unconstitutional under the eight amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment that police could not destroy homeless camps in Skid Row because of the city’s housing shortage and thus the actions of the homeless could not be criminalized. Skid Row is a place of institutional proportions because it is also home to a large number of mentally ill persons. When the mental asylums were closed in the 1980’s by President Reagan, the policy toward the mentally ill became one of pharmaceuticals and little else support. The reason why so many people are homeless also have mentally health issues is because of the lack of community support, and in Los Angeles, many of them end up at Skid Row. Similarly, the Cook County Jail, LA’s jail, is also the largest mental health facility in the United States. The prevalence of jail and homelessness for the mentally ill makes logical sense since many cannot create the stability in order to lead productively healthy lives. Skid Row is an institution in and of itself for the mentally ill.

One of the characters the audience meets is Lee Anne, an eccentric old cat lady who cares for the cats and birds on Skid Row. She has a full shopping cart and a fiance who follows her around, a fellow by the name of K.K. Both share a mutually beneficially relationship by taking care and looking out for one another. K.K. remarks that to a degree, they have both chosen to be on the street. For him, he wanted to be “wild” and engaged in the drug lifestyle. For Lee Anne, she prefers to live outside despite having an apartment, K.K. reveals. Lee Anne has a mental illness where she collects trash, however, she seems to be one of the souls of Skid Row who is genuinely trying  to make it a better, more improved place to live by taking care of the animals. We meet Emanuel Compito, a man who voluntarily literally cleans up the streets of Skid Row with a broom and occasionally takes time to wash the streets with buckets of water. When the city continued to refuse to clean the streets, Compito took it upon himself to improve conditions for himself and his fellow Skid Rowers.

There is a great tension within the city of Los Angeles between the business owners, government leaders, and the advocates of  the homeless. People who are homeless exist because we live in a capitalistic society where peoples’ value and worth is measured  in financial terms. In capitalist societies, there are more people than jobs to create demand for jobs at the same time there is more available housing than there is people in the housing. Homelessness, theoretically, does not need to be a problem, it is the system it exists within that creates the problem. William J. Bratton was brought in to assist the city with “cleaning up” Skid Row. Bratton infamously helped “clean-up” New York City in the 1990’s. Bratton is a proponent of the “broken-windows” theory of policing that dictates that small quality of life policing is more conducive in the fight against crime and the chaos crime can bring. This means stopping people for simple violations and essentially taking a zero tolerance policy on law breaking. It means that the police become a large, unstoppable force with which there is no reckoning, and it wrecks devastation on the citizens it is enforced against. There is a disturbing scene when the police harass Lee Anne; she puts the contents of her cart and the belongings of other homeless folk in the street because the police informed her that they would be cleaning the street that day. In a chaotic exclamation of calamity, Lee Anne tries to salvage the belongings while managing to keep track of everything. She later finds out that she was being harassed by the police, that there was no street cleaning scheduled for that day and that because of the debacle some homeless people lost all their sleeping blankets. It is a scene that crystallizes the struggle of the homeless plight.

Bratton enforced quality of life arrests because it disproportionately puts pressure on the homeless person to live their lives in a way that does not favor their current lifestyle, the policy is intended to force these people out of homelessness as if many of them weren’t trying to begin with. For example, people violating the ordinance stating that no one can sleep on a city side walk can be fined up to $1,000, a sum of money a homeless person surely does not have.

Legally, the battle in the courts over homelessness is an issue of conduct versus status. That is, a homeless person may be protected under the law like in the Jones case against cruel and unusual punishment if they were left with no other alternative for their conduct and thus their status as a homeless person allows them more protection. However, the conduct of a homeless person for example lying on the street could be construed as illegal because of city ordinances or other public safety rules, therefore allowing the conduct to be criminalized. It is a chicken versus egg issue, one whose coin can be flipped depending on the judge or set of judges at trial. It is one in a barrage of examples of how the lives of the homeless are often left up to chance.

The film ends to remind us that:

skid row

From beginning to end “Lost Angeles: Skid Row Is My Home” is a documentary that showcases the brilliance and resiliency of the human race. However, it reminds us that the comfort of our homes is one of our own making, that any one of us really can become homeless. We meet Danny Harris, a man at the beginning of the film, who won a silver medal in the Olympics for sprinting and became homeless on Skid Row. Life is filled with an endless amount of land-mines that must be navigated in order to continue. “Lost Angeles: Skid Row is My Home” is a documentary guaranteed to make one think of what makes life worth living and what the essence of humanity is.

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Rethinking “Serial”

I love documentaries and true crime. “Serial” was a compelling podcast because it was based on a real life tragedy with elements of deception, love, sex, betrayal, and at the height of its success was dramatically relayed to 2.2 million people. On this blog I originally and uncritically went along with Sarah Koenig’s conclusion that it was reasonable to believe that Adnan was innocent and had been a victim to a great barrage of deception on the famed story changer Jay’s part. It was a stylized story, a sexy story as storytelling goes because of how well Koenig got the story to flow. It was compelling, surprising, and disturbing at the same time. As was reflected with this combination, people love stories that are woven tales of the complex intricacies of real life. With Adnan, Koenig found a relatively likable character who was charismatic and intelligent. However, after a few months of listening to “Serial” sporadically after listening to it relatively non-stop for days on end over the course of a few weeks during the winter, my perspective on Adnan’s innocence to one of guilt and how the techniques Koenig employed effected the overall point of view of Adnan’s innocence.

By far, women are more likely to know their violent attacker rather than experiencing violence from a stranger. While in my other blog post I flirted with the plausible idea that there could have been a serial killer who was targeting Asian women, it is statistically more likely that Hae knew her attacker and that he was or had been an intimate partner. That is why Adnan and Don were initially suspects. While listening to the podcast after the shiny sensationalism faded away, I noticed that Koenig uses this to stir the audience against the police and to create sympathy for how Adnan must have felt to be falsely accused by these two police who did nothing but just look at him. She finds other people to corroborate this perspective, notably a lawyer named Dierdre Enright who runs an innocence project at the University of Virginia School of Law. While Diedre Enright makes some legitimately construcitvely critical statements about the investigation into Adnan’s guilt, notably Jay’s inconsistencies and the lack of hardcore physical evidence, there are still things Koenig does to gloss over some of  the aspects of the case that look badly for Adnan.

However, while Adnan is talking, there are points where it feels like he is too slick to not be lying. When Koenig confesses to having feelings that she and Adnan are friends, he balks and exclaims that she barely knows him. Koenig doesn’t understand, saying that she has talked to him for probably more hours than she has other people she most certainly considers friends. This always struck me because of how poorly Koenig demonstrates she doesn’t understand Adnan’s life. For Adnan, he never escapes the people he lives with, he is constantly around other people as the result of being stuck in prison. He knows who his friends are and are not in prison. Koenig also notes that he does not tell her about any violence in the prison, probably more likely because it is not his business to spread the instances of violence rather than the idea that there aren’t any instances, which is what Koenig infers. There is some naivete to Koenig, she appeals to the white liberal idea that people who say that they were framed were indeed framed, and that the reality that is presented is the truth. Perhaps its how she manipulates the media she uses to tell a tale that ends up being sympathetic to Adnan that makes me take this perspective about her, but she seems too eager to believe Adnan that nothing other than the conclusion of “Serial” where she states she believes in his innocence is possible.

There is also what could be infinitely referred to as “The Jay Problem” and that is figuring how the ever elusive and slick Jay with his differing accounts of what happened on the day in question. Why does he do things like change the name of a mall they allegedly went to, is he correcting himself or making it up? Koenig presents Jay as a villain in the podcast, she casts him in with the prosecution and police that went after the presumptuously innocent Adnan. The point that just because a story changes doesn’t mean the truth isn’t revealed is thrown out in the “Serial” podcast. There is a curious question as to why Jay would frame Adnan. In my previous post, I posited that it may have something to do with drugs, that perhaps there was a deal Jay and Adnan were making and Hae saw, and was killed, and that somehow the convoluted stories that Jay came up with were a way of protecting the drug source. For all I know, my theory is as likely as the one I am positing now, which is that it is fairly likely that Adnan killed Hae and Jay is just getting the story wrong for reasons of being nervous, or stoned, or mixing up his days and times and the simple process of being human getting in the way of having the story go smoothly. Jay did admit to participating in the disturbing act of witnessing the burial of the murdered body of a friend. However, maybe that is why he came clean in the end and using a patchwork of the stories he told to be the truth of the day in question, ended up revealing what happened to Hae.

The courts are taking another look at this case soon. Hopefully something constructive will be revealed.

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Light Summer Reading: The Politics of Heroin

I read often and read a variety of fiction and non-fiction, it is one of my passions. Thick, juicy books are a particular favorite because of the offering that this book can take a person for a wild ride for awhile. These books also offer the feeling of a monumental achievement when they’re finally finished, and a sadness occupies the reader knowing that their book is over, the story is now known, the journey is through. This summer’s thick book selection is Alfred W. McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, a thoroughly juicy book that documents the global heroin trade from the 1920s to the early 2000s. McCoy was a graduate student who compiled first hand accounts of the international heroin trade from military officers, government officials, drug dealers, drug traffickers, and other academics. It is a comprehensive and detailed work, something to be admired considering the depth and scope of the work on a particularly dangerous trade. McCoy admittedly started out somewhat naive and had to learn rapidly how to navigate the underground world of the heroin business while gathering accurate information from people who had great reason to keep their secrets private. What McCoy found was that the CIA was not only complicit, but took leadership in the opium and heroin industry on an international scale. From page xvi of the preface, McCoy writes:

By now I was certain the the CIA’s Air America was transporting opium for its Hmong hill tribe allies. I knew too that somebody in the CIA station had good reason to stop my research. After all, if it were just a matter of a few soldiers smuggling tribal opium on a few flights, why the ambush? Why the death threats? Clearly, I had to look beyond the villages to explore involvement in the upper echelons of the Lao military. One source, an American police adviser, hinted that the chief-of-staff of the Royal Lao army, General Ouane Rattikone, owned the laboratory that was producing the “Double U-O Globe” heroin brand then flooding U.S. Army camps in South Vietnam. But I needed confirmation. And it could only come from one source, General Ouane himself. 

As a result of his investigation into the CIA’s role within the global heroin trade, McCoy was harassed and the publication of his book was nearly censored by the American government:

Claiming that my book was a threat to national security, the CIA official had asked Harper & Row to suppress it. To his credit, Mr. Canfield had refused. but he had agreed to allow the agency to review the manuscript prior to publication

Defeated in the public arena, the CIA turned to covert means, tugging at every thread in the threadbare life of a graduate student. Over the coming months, CIA agents in Laos intimidated my sourced. HEW investigated my graduate school fellowship. The FBI tapped my phone. The IRS audited my poverty-level income. during these difficult days, New York Congressman Ogden Reid, a ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, telephoned to say that he was sending his investigators to Laos to look into the opium situation. (xxi)

Most of the reason of CIA involvement with the international heroin trade has to do with pandering to rebels within politically volatile situations where the CIA needs to make positive relations with rebels in order to achieve American interests. For instance, in order to defeat the political reach of communism in Europe, the CIA teamed with Corsican crime syndicates who were sophisticated international heroin smugglers:

The CIA, through its contacts with the Socialist party, had sent agents and a psychological warfare team to Marseille, where they dealt directly with Corsican syndicate leaders through the Guerini brothers. The CIA’s operatives supplied arms and money to Corsican gangs for assaults on Communist picket lines and harassment of important union officials. During the month-long strike the CIA’s gangsters and the purged CRS police units murdered a number of striking workers and mauled the picket lines. (60)

The Guerinis gained enough power and status from their role in smashing the 1947 strike to emerge as the new leaders of the Corsican underworld. While the CIA was instrumental in restoring the Corsican underworld’s political influence, it was not until the 1950 dock strike that the Guerinis gained enough power to take control of the Marseille waterfront. This combination of political influence and control of the docks created the ideal environment for the growth of Marseille’s heroin laboratories-fortuitously at the same time that Mafia boss Lucky Luciano was seeking an alternative supply of heroin. (61)

The book goes on to document American involvement in the Vietnamese, Afghani, Central American, and Colombian drug trade. This clearly stands in stark contrast to American domestic and foreign policy that endorses the total and complete prohibition of narcotic substances. In order to protect capitalist interests of the first world, the CIA supported a trade that was illegal by American law. With this the theme of the book, the Kantian view of the law is extremely applicable when investigating American complicity within the international heroin trade. It is extremely disturbing that the government can operate as a completely hypocritical about as something as serious as opium and heroin. While endorsing a backwards policy of prohibition, something that serves neither the addict nor the public, the CIA has furthered a dangerous substance that needs proper regulation and restrictions in order to have a more honest view of how to police drugs in order to have an effectively functional relationship to something as dysfunctional as addiction.

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Bitch Better Have My Marijuana Money

Currently obsessed with Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”, the title of this article comes from the title of the song based on a tragic life event of epic financial proportions, “Bitch Better Have My Money” stems from Riri’s real life dealings with a shady financial dealer. The video is insane and looks like it cost a pretty penny to have made:

Like a lot of people in the world, I worry about money for a number of personal reasons. Like a lot of millennials, when I’m relaxing at home in my bed letting my mind wander, sometimes it stumbles on the “oh my fucking god I’m going to get old” moments. These can be happy imaginings, like how beautiful and sweet my grandchildren will be someday, or terrifying and distressing like what the hell is going to happen when social security collapses? How am I going to live when I am old and decrepit? Why am I not doing something to make money that I love doing? Then, I read about something how Colorado made fifty three million dollars in legal marijuana as of February 2015.

New York also likes to pretend it has legal weed. It does not, it has non-smokable marijuana derived products that require a license to legally obtain. That is in no way shape or form marijuana reform progress nor is it something that should be considered legal weed. This is a legitimate problem, this is not an problem of immature people or people who refuse responsibility or quality of life. Obtaining marijuana is a normal problem for many millions of American adults. As Colorado demonstrates, huge cash flows are being diverted to black market economies which could be used more positively and in ways that directly benefit society.

I included the Rihanna video because the aesthetic is so pleasingly angry that an issue could be made over having to living your life with integrity and dignity. This person, this financial person, screwed her over despite that she contends she “calls the shots”. In our lives, whether or not we feel we do, we call the shots. It is my decision to spend my time and money on an illegal substance and quite possibly could suffer legal consequences because of the use of that prohibited substance. It is parallel to Kantian notions that law is essentially arbitrary and is not inherently moral because of it’s simple nature as law; law is law, it is not morality. It is not immoral to smoke marijuana, and due to such, to a degree, it is not necessarily immoral that I spend some of my money within the black market economy which does not officially benefit society due to the lack of a tax system. This is something that reasonable and responsible people should seek to quell the discrepancy of such a normalized part of life for so many millions of American marijuana users.

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The Piper Problem on “Orange is the New Black”

I just finished the third season of Netflix’s successful series “Orange is the New Black” and to my delight, Lynchfield Federal Penitentiary is just as fucked up a place as season two left it.

NETFLIX Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) works the Ôpanty millÕ in Orange Is the New Black.

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) works the Ôpanty millÕ in Orange Is the New Black.

“Orange is the New Black” is successful and compelling because it is told from a white, middle class, educated woman’s perspective. Due to her background, the show’s founder Piper Kerman was able to communicate the some of the horrors of America’s prison system to people who would not normally have first or second hand knowledge. This social phenomenon is the same as when Hannibal Burress pointed out a well kept but open Hollywood secret that Bill Cosby is a rapist; people of the same class or group of people are more likely to be listened to when they have more privilege than the group of people who are typically victims within a social phenomenon. In the case of prison, lower income and less well educated persons as well as people of color are statistically more likely to have more of either a first or second hand experience with the American prison system. Kerman spoke for the unspoken, which obviously has its flaws because the perspective is one of solipsism. Though in OINTB’S case, there is at least something to suggest that there is a certain level of self consciousness in it’s own middle classed white lady solipsism. However, this makes Piper’s character even less likable than some of the characters in HBO’s “Oz”. As commented rather rashly, some people even would want the character dead.

Piper is white, educated, without ethics, crafty, and aware of the loopholes of both the corporate world and the prison world. She is also somewhat fearless due to her privilege and lack of morals and ethics. She lacks a moral code because she sees no problem in lying in order to gain a more favorable position. She lacks a clear ethical code because of how often she contradicts herself due to her lack of a moral compass, she could not articulate clearly why she committed one deed but not another other than a mean’s to an ends. In the third season, the disgusting nature of private prisons makes its way to Lynchfield. This brings many problems, from incompetent staff, to overcrowding, gruel that no one really deserves to eat, and what is modern corporate slave labor. By contracting out labor for pennies (or one whole dollar, essentially worth pennies in this economy) corporate prisons join with corporations that produce goods in an immoral system that exploits prisoners and keeps the oppressive prison industrial complex so intricate that arguably without it, the cost of goods would soar exponentially high. Of course, this is not solely due to the cost of labor being so outrageous. This is mostly due to outrageous CEO salaries and corporate subsidies provided for by congressional favors. In other words, because of people who think like Piper, the world is truly a shitty place.

In America, it is constitutionally ethical that the minimum number of persons stay in prison for an appropriate sentence based on the harm done to society by his or her actions. It is not ethical to contract out this state mandated responsibility because of the constitutional protections Americans are entitled to receive. Prisoners should use the time they are sentenced to reflect of the negative nature of their lives and what happened to get them involved in the correction system. They should be offered programs and services to rehabilitate them to optimize their purpose in society. Prisoners should not be further degraded by staff or expected to receive an undue amount of physical punishment, and certainly prisoners should not be exploited.

The way that the corporate prison system in OINTB and the mindset of Piper are both of an exploitative orientation toward prisoners. For the corporate fucks, overcrowding bunks and dormitories, giving substandard food, and making a maximum profit margin on human suffering was an appropriate way to organize their time and effort when given the task of caring for American prisoners. For Piper, a whole prison full of underprivileged, under educated, and economically disadvantaged women was a playpen for making money from sexually inclined weirdos. Scheming, she used the panty sewing business the prison industrial complex bestowed upon the Lynchfield women and the natural secretions of the human body to pay pennies on the dollar for the panty wearing lady prisoners and earn herself a pretty profit just like the corporate fucks she was being imprisoned by.

Overall, season three was entertaining and well written, but Piper’s character has truly taken a turn for the worst. It is unclear how season four will karmically bestow retribution on Piper, something she is too dim witted to realize.

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Corporate American Prison Culture

I know a lot about prison culture. This is from academic study, intellectual thought of that study, and personally knowing people who have been to prison. I also know a person who was for a short time a prison guard. Some of the most intelligent people I know have not achieved graduation from high school and instead spent their time focusing on immediate survival because the most dire of circumstances were occurring in their lives. They are beautiful human beings who have been forced through a series of situations, both beyond their control and within the scope of their control should they have made wiser choices at the time, to embrace the view of the world that we contain both the capability for doing bad deeds for reasonable reasons, such as feeding one’s own child and providing for their family in ways that they would not be able to achieve by the legally presented choices that are available to them. For some this had to do with race, but always it had to do with economic status. The intersecionality of race, socioeconomic status, and gender made each person’s experience unique in regards to how they interacted within what could be called, “the underworld”.

My time in the underworld was extremely colorful. I met some of the most influential people in my life, individuals who contributed greatly to my formation. All of these individuals committed illegal acts. Many of these individual’s familes knew that they committed crimes in order to make a living and accepted the money in order to live. I take a Kantian view of the law: the law is not inherently moral or ethical just because it is the law. Some of these individuals were my lovers, others were just my friends.

Currently, after devouring “The Jinx”, I tuned into “Oz” on Hbo.go (thank the Buddha for whoever came up with the idea of putting all of HBO’s programming online).  Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Harper’s and to my delight, Harper’s Index (an assortment of statistics that reveals a theme about domestic public policy or economic’s or sociological facts) focused it’s first on the American prison system, an institution I personally devote a lot of time to studying both academically and recreationally. Through my journey of “Oz”, I have found myself profoundly questioning the corporate American prison system. While reading Harper’s statistics, I found myself morally obligated to share my feelings and opinions publicly. For example,

  • Minimum number of times in 2014 that Rikers Island correction officers broke the bones of an inmate: 98
  • Days of solitary confinement a South Carolina prisoner was assigned in 2012 for threatening a prison employee: 41
  • Years of solitary confinement he was assigned in 2013 for posting on Facebook: 37

Read those last two statistics again. From this specific example, we can see that this inmate was being made an example of in the second statistic. In the first, we see what is viewed as a routine occurrence within prison due to the culture of violence. What can be derived from these statistics? That prisoner’s having access to the first amendment beyond the scope of the walls of the prison is more dangerous than a threat of violence to one of the prison’s employee’s.

This should be disturbing to any American who supports the first amendment because the discrepancy is between days and years. What is so horrible that a prisoner could tell us beyond inane ramblings of an inmate.

This this or this.

I am unsure what America is attempting to accomplish with the endorsement of a demeaning and violent prison culture given we are the number one nation for locking people in cages. I do believe that we need prisons, yet morally I feel obligated that a society should ensure the minimum number of human beings are confined by chains. Serious crimes that are directly related to harming other human beings are crimes that should be applicable for confinement away from society for a period of time, and these crimes are both directly violent and non-violent yet harmful. I do not believe that there should be a tremendous amount of comfort in prison, there should be bare conditions however they should be humane. If not for the prisoners, I am concerned about the mental health of prison employees working in such dire conditions.

The more disturbing phenomenon in the combination of corporate and prison culture in America is obviously the private prison system. Like Blackwater and other mercenary armies, private prisons are the antithesis to a democratic society due to the lack of government oversight and the inherently disturbing nature of making money off of the suffering of other human beings. In fact, this could be psychologically compared to antisocial personality disorder, known in laymen’s terms as psychopathy. American corporatism at it’s most depraved has already been compared to having antisocial personality disorder, especially given the Supreme Court decision that endorses the legal principle that corporations are persons.

If corporations are persons, and there are private prisons that are owned by corporations, then that means some of these prisons function as dysfunctionally as the violent offenders they house. This is clearly an ethical and moral threat to democratic ideals.