Wednesday, November 02, 2022


I’m against the Death Penalty. It’s too easy a solution. I understand, to a degree, the anger, the frustration Florida families have that the Parkland killer will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. The parents want retribution for the deaths of their children. I understand. So would I.

But I’ve worked in prisons. They are not pleasant places to spend time. Even modern prisons are collection places for people with evil in their souls. One associates prison modernization with reform. But however progressive prison administration may be, prisoners are denied far more than they receive through the persistence of life. The list of missing advantages is lengthy and adds to a sense of aggressive loss. Latent aggression pervades prison atmosphere. Prisons are dangerous places.

I approach a narrow passageway between cell blocks. Two inmates stand in our way. My escort cautions in a near whisper not to look either man in the eyes and not to hesitate. We walk up to the inmates; invade their space and they slowly yield so we can pass. I hear murmurs behind us. There is a growing sense of suppressed violence. A man I taught confided that even at night he was never able to relax fully into restful sleep.

Reading materials, for those who wanted it, was carefully vetted. Novels involving murders or prison breaks were censored or not allowed. Permanent incarceration in prison for life is not a vacation, not an easier sentence than the death penalty. I waited one day in a small room for my teaching companion. She’d forgotten the rule and had to remove her underwired bra before going inside. The guard looked at our assignment and handed me a soiled Sam Browne belt with a large red button on the belt that rested under my left elbow.

“Press the button and guards will show up in fifteen seconds,” he said.

“What If it take longer?” I asked.

“You won’t care, anymore,” he said.

Life in prison without parole is not a humane alternative to death. Death is a kind of permanent black peace.

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