I Sentence You

Mike Steindel (CLaw7MAn@webtv.net)
Tue, 18 May 1999 16:08:54 -0700 (PDT)

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This was posted on the www.november.org Website by a Drug War prisoner.
It could just as easily say I sentence you to be Homeless and never
trusted or believed. All in all the article is about others being
content to pass judgement upon me for mistakes they percieve I made and
rather than offer a hand up they prefer to keep me down... anyway the
article speaks for itself and doesn't really need my explanation, I was
just exposing my feelings a little... mike

"I Sentence
You . . ." 
By Jeff Goodman, former Prisoner of the Drug War 

When I was sent to prison, the judge mentioned only the length of my
sentence. Had he included the entire scope of my punishment, he may have
said it differently: 

"Mr. Goodman, I sentence you to take responsibility for every social
ill- past, present and future. Each time America runs out of foreign
enemies, it apparently turns on itself to find more. By way of media,
politics and indifference, people who break the law, good law or bad,
become those enemies and are then responsible for every social malady. 

Whether this is logical, you are the culprit. "You are sentenced to live
in a maladaptive, alien environment that defies description. You'll be
stripped of your work skills, your self-worth and your humanity while at
the same time face the daily threat of assault, rape, false accusations
and unjustified punishment. You will live like this for seven years. If
you manage to reenter society as a productive person, some will say
prison was just what you needed. If not, others will say, 'I told you

"Because of counterproductive prison policies, you are sentenced to live
in a world of cruelty and indifference that engenders the very behavior
it purports to alleviate. If you share this with those outside of the
prison system, you will be called a liar; most won't believe that
millions are spent on the proliferation of facilities that perpetuate
harm, not repair it. 

"You are sentenced to consume $150,000 in taxpayer dollars for your
prison stay. While lawmakers cite the ever-growing cost of incarceration
as a public necessity, you will learn that 10% of that amount goes
towards your daily needs, while the other 90% pays for a bloated prison
bureaucracy immune from any cost-benefit analysis. 

These tax dollars will be siphoned from school programs, child care and
job training, all of which do make our communities healthy and safe and
save millions in the process. Despite the media frenzy that portrays
society as seething with crime, you'll learn that relatively few
prisoners represent a danger to our communities; we're mad at most
felons, not scared of them. So you'll wonder why the majority of
prisoners aren't on home arrest, a logical move that would save millions
of dollars and obviate the need for more prisons. 

"Practical education programs, universally proven to drastically reduce
recidivism, will be almost nonexistent. In fact, you will be disciplined
for possessing more than 10 books. Therefore, you will live in an
environment where recidivism it tacitly encouraged, a fact not lost on
those who want to run prisons for profit. 

"It is true that there are some counseling programs in prison and some
people will benefit from them. 

Yet, if you attempt to describe the futility of a therapeutic
environment placed within an atmosphere replete with dehumanizing
policies, you will be told that your intentions are distorted and
without merit. 

"You are sentenced to bear the wrath of a misinformed society. While
you're experiencing everything I just said, you will be told how easy
you have it. The media will find your Christmas meal more newsworthy
than the damage caused by lawmakers who jostle for the next 'get tough'
policy at the expense of society's well-being. Your privilege to have
this once-a-year meal will be presented as so outrageous, a debate will
ensue over which 'luxury' to take away next. 

Politicians will focus on violent sociopaths and pronounce their
horrific crimes as a yardstick to measure the innate danger and
incorrigibility of all law-breakers, including you. 

"Finally, as perhaps the most perverse component of your sentence, I
hereby prohibit society from ever listening to you. 
Your comments on crime and punishment will be ignored. You, as well as
others, will see the big picture, but few will care about the politics
of crime and its role in our growing prison population. You will know
that most prisoners are guilty of breaking the law, but only a few need
to be separated from society. 

You will know that it is the reporting and sensationalism of crime that
has skyrocketed, not crime itself. 

Unfortunately, though you will one day return to society with firsthand
knowledge of our prison system, few will care; most see only the door
leading into prison, not the one leading out. 

"Therefore, if your opinion ever gets printed in a newspaper, you will
not only be perceived as just another lawbreaker unable to accept the
consequences of his actions, but of being manipulative as well. Society
will know this to be so because you once broke the law. 

"You are hereby sentenced to be a 
messenger whose message will be forever perceived as tainted,
self-serving and disingenuous, regardless of its veracity and accuracy. 

"No one will believe you. 
"You have been sentenced to be a criminal." 

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