Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 6, 2008

Dear Sis~
Well, they got old Roy. You may recall that Roy is the elderly, sickly guy next door to me, suffering from diabetes, seizures and bad kidneys, half-dead and with a few teeth. Closing in on 70, Roy is as quiet as a church mouse and just as threatening. The other day, the "piss squad" threw down on him, appearing at his cell door and demanding a urine sample. Roy tried and tried, almost coming to tears at his inability to pee on demand, but, in the end, he was simply unable to urinate in the allotted one (1) hour and the guard informed Roy he would be receiving a disciplinary report (DR) for "refusing to provide a urine sample" (this is the standard charge, even if you are not outright "refusing" to urinate). Roy, in a quivering voice, explained that he suffers from prostate and kidney problems and that he is, in fact, on daily medication (hytrin, I believe it's called) which is designed to help him urinate. All that fell on deaf ears and 24 hours later, he got his DR. He's now waiting to go to DR (Kangaroo) court. The charge carries 60 days in disciplinary confinement (no canteen, no visits, restricted diet, no books, magazines or any recreation). I've helped him prepare a defense by getting the medical department to confirm that he's on the medication, but I don't think it will help. The DR court here (as in most prisons) is notoriously biased and unfair; they just rubber stamp the DR. Perhaps, with the medical documentation, Roy may be able to prevail on the DR appeal to Tallahassee. What a colossal waste of time, money and energy this is, to persecute this old man, throw him in the hole, simply because his feeble bladder was unable to produce urine on command. This whole random drug testing in prison is a colossal waste of money (noteworthy in the middle of an economic crisis, where school budgets and health care budgets are being slashed). The DOC conducts random urine tests on everyone, about 10,000 per month (against about 90,000 prisoners). At about $40 or $50 per test, you can do the math. All that just to determine that "some prisoners smoke reefer." Hell, I could tell them that for free! Think of all the college scholarships that could be awarded for that much money, or all the needy kids who could get medical insurance, or all the school teachers that could be hired. This is typical of America, aka Prison Nation, where citizens gladly spend more on jails and prisons than on education...
Speaking of drug policy, I just finished an excellent book, one which should be mandatory reading in all law schools and all college-level criminal justice courses: Smoke and Mirrors (The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure), by Dan Baum. It didn't tell me a lot that I didn't already know (although it provided great detail and insight) but for the average citizen, it should be eye-opening. It's a tour de force education on the real powers and motives behind our nation's foolishly shortsighted (not to mention racist and cruel) "War on Drugs", perpetuated by law enforcement prosecutors, right-wing politicians with their own power-hungry agendas, the media, and the huge prison-industrial complex which demands a constant flow of convicted felons to fill its ever-growing empire of prisons. It's a depressing read, too, as you realize how many of our citizens (not to mention our constitutional rights) have been destroyed fighting this self-inflicted "war", and how we have essentially criminalized poverty in America...
Alright, Sis, I'm getting off my soap box. Keep your chin up and your heart light.
Love & Peace, Bill