While this kind of crass statement truly irritates those of us who advocate for prison reform, I cannot even imagine what kind of emotion this elicits from those who work tirelessly caring for the elderly. This kind of ideology and focus died in the early 2000's and it should be left there. However, from time to time, we need to remind, re-educate and re-post the truth so that the reality of the prison conditions in America are as readily available as these misconceptions.
First of all remember that as a people we CHOOSE to remove people who have broken the law from our communities. That also means that we take them from their families, neighborhoods and support systems. Yes, in many cases that is a good thing. Many of those in conflict with the law do not come from functional environments...but some do. That also means that we remove them from having ANY potential interaction with a positive role model in a positive environment because let's face it, prison is for law breakers. We also forget that even though we have chosen to punish them by holding them in prison for extended periods of time, they will come out one day. Then what? Was the purpose of prison only to punish or were we believing that there would be some reform in there somewhere? Doesn't happen.
Which is the next false idea we will address. In American prisons we do not have education systems, we do not have drug treatment programs, mental health programs or job skills training. We spend $37 billion dollars a year in this nation on prisons and we do nothing to reform offenders. So there are no computers (for the majority of prisons), very limited libraries, (the books available are usually romantic paperbacks, mysteries or dramas) and they do not watch TV all day unless they somehow come up with over 200.00 for a 15 inch TV. You must also buy your own radio, small fan (think hot summers), stamps, envelopes and paper. In spite of these odds I have known inmates who taught themselves English, spent as much time as they could get in the small law libraries and learned to write their own appeals. I have known inmates who had the privilege of receiving outside funds for correspondence college courses and received an associates degree.
But let's get back to granny. So how do you think she would like to be held in an 8x10 room, with a room mate, with no window and certainly not one that opens? What about the toilet/sink that is prominently positioned on one end of the room with no screen or door, even a passing guard can look in, would granny be okay with that? How about having to shuffle from her room and down the hall to the gang showers? How about the lock downs that happen 4 times per day where every inmate must be counted? How about the physical searches that take place whenever you leave your cell and go to any other location in the prison? How about the strip searches? How about the inspections where they come in and toss granny's room and take the extra ketchup packs or apples she has stashed? How about the fact that granny can have visitors on specified days but she will be over 100 plus miles from her home town. Then lets talk about the handcuffs, leg shackles, razor wire and all the rules, which if violated, get her a stint in solitary.
When granny get's sick she can see the facility nurse and if it is more serious than that, they can consult with a doctor via the web and if she needs treatment she better be able to last for a few hours while they get her treatment. I have known of 1000's of inmates who's repeated cries of pain went unheeded and they died in their cells. I know of 1000's who have conditions that are the result of poor nutrition or malnutrition and still others who have developed vision problems inherent to inmates because their eyes become used to seeing only short distances. So granny's old age would probably end very quickly.
There is also the mental health issues and trauma associated with confinement. Recent documented case study has now become a "labeled' disorder for conditions found in inmates who have been subjected to long term incarceration, solitary confinement or institutional abuse. Inmates are subjected to dehumanizing circumstances, violent outbreaks, rape and oppression. The same environmental stimuli associated with POW's and in war. This disorder is called Post Incarceration Syndrome.
Yes it is true, these people have come in conflict with the law. They are sent to prison to pay a penance for their crimes, learn their lesson and come out as stronger and more productive members of our communities. This is what we believe. We also believe that they enjoy the same kinds of comforts that we do in our homes. It is hard for us to imagine that we send them to a place that actually worsens their plight and ability to be productive citizens. Granny would not survive and if granny lived in this kind of institution we would shut it down.
What is the answer? Many western nations already know and have already implemented the changes. Short prison sentences that are in facilities designed and staffed to deliver quick and intense rehabilitation for successful re-entry with a focus on family, relationships and community life. It works, it doesn't cost nearly as much money, there is a much lower recidivism rate, communities heal and families grow stronger. With the money and time we have left we could actually take care of granny and the poor, our kids and maybe even education. Can everyone be rehabilitated? No but in spite of the more lenient sentencing of his day, Charles Manson is still in prison.