Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Torture Never Stops

Some of the more strident comments in this post are a good example of people not thinking through the practical and operational ramifications of a situation. I agree with the catharsis of the writer, in mocking poor Bernie Madoff's plight. You know, fuck Madoff. Although there doesn't seem to be any harm in giving the poor old bastard some books or something. Confinement is sufficient in this case; the torture of sheer boredom is unnecessarily punitive.

The thing about Madoff's conditions being "torture" should be considered in context. The problem is that the sentencing phase is still a couple of months off, and they need to house him somewhere in the meantime, before he ultimately gets routed to Club Fed to spend the remainder of his life. Metro jail facilities are essentially full-on penitentaries in their own right, with the conditions and crowding that you might otherwise assume exist in San Quentin or Angola.

So the options are either gen-pop, where Madoff would be turned out or killed probably within hours, or protective custody, which has its own set of inviolable protocols, which are in place as much for the guards' safety as anything. Not that Madoff is going to throw his feces or shank a guard with a sharpened toothbrush, and they are no doubt going easier on him than they do on a gangbanger or terrorist.

However, if these conditions are "torture" for Madoff, then they're torture for everyone in that PC block. And if that's the case, then you're talking about releasing them into gen-pop, where they may present a very real danger to guards and other prisoners. A friend of mine from high school has worked at Pelican Bay for over a decade, and there are things that go on that the public does not hear about. Guards literally have to take extraordinary measures to protect their families, since even supermax facilities are not 100% foolproof in preventing gang members from getting info and marching orders to their associates on the outside. I don't think people are considering those ramifications when it comes to discussing how we warehouse and treat prisoners.

I would say it's torture across the board, where non-violent drug offenders are housed with truly vicious people and routinely victimized by them; where low-level drug mules take mandatory-minimum double-decade hits so some grandstanding prosecutor can show that he's Doing Something, while the gang boss roams free; where guards use gang families as enforcers within the prison, turning the place essentially into a gladiator school; where people treated like animals (and indeed, many of them are, but treating them as such only reinforces their behavior) eventually have to be released back into the real world, utterly unequipped for the adjustment and with a much worse attitude.

Perhaps the biggest injustice here is actually that Madoff is probably going to be one of the very few -- perhaps the only -- person of any consequence to receive any punishment for his deeds; in fact, many of his colleagues and partners-in-crime have been rewarded out of our pockets for doing essentially the same things Madoff did. If what AIG and Merrill Lynch and the rest of these animals did wasn't a Ponzi scheme, or at least a blatant scam, I don't what is. These people really should be subject to forfeiture of ill-gained assets, removed from society for an extended period of time and kept under close supervision, until a court of law has determined that their sociopathic behavior has been curtailed to the best of the system's ability.

After all, if a society is to remain civilized, it should operate under the premise that most people can be rehabilitated to some extent, and I do believe that, as with your garden-variety loser holding up a liquor store (who, unlike your finance predator, can actually be negotiated with), the depraved indifference shown by what passes for the American financial industry can and must be rehabilitated. Sadly, despite the incessant claims of "change", Obama and his little sidekick Timmy are determined to reinstate the sociopaths with a fresh supply of Monopoly money, and a different set of loopholes to circumvent. Someone should remind Obama and Geithner that this is all a game to these guys, because no one has told them that it isn't.

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