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The Madera Tribune

Prison system should stand its ground

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webmaster | 08/05/13

You can use the tyranny of words to make just about anything sound worse than it is. For example, you can make a political position seem awful. The Democrats, for example, did this when they described some Republican policies in the 2012 elections as a “war against women,” when some of those espousing the GOP policies were women themselves. 

The Republicans, for some reason, never had the good sense to point this out. But, there you go. The Democrats were conducting a war against good sense, and the Republicans didn’t have the good sense to fight back.

Now, we have a new example: The California prison hunger strike. That protest, which is against so-called solitary confinement, gets smaller every day. The strikers are saying that being in solitary is torture, and that because torture is illegal, so is solitary confinement.

Oh, please. As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders points out, those in solitary aren’t exactly purse snatchers. They’re convicted murders, rapists, child molesters, and are there either to keep them from killing other prisoners or to keep other prisoners from killing them.

Saunders did a little research into what solitary is all about. She paid a visit to the Pelican Bay single-housing unit, and she points out it isn’t torture at all, even though it isn’t exactly the Marriott.

“I wouldn’t want to spend an hour alone in one of those 8-by-10-foot cells,” she writes in Sunday’s Insight section of the Chronicle. “But I’d hate to spend my time in any prison. That’s the idea, isn’t it?”

She goes on to say that a corrections department spokeswoman told her what conditions are like in single-unit housing. “Inmates have cable TVs, access to books and limited time in the law library. They can talk to, if not see, other inmates in their eight-cell pods,” the spokeswoman said. Some inmates aren’t even in their cells alone. They have cell mates. Maybe having a cell mate could be considered torture, depending on who it is. But that’s another story — about non-solitary confinement.

Maybe the strike will have a benefit. Maybe word will leak out about how uncomfortable prison can be, and that might be a deterrent to someone considering crime as a career.

In any case, the prison system should hang in there and let the strikers — about 499 remained as of Thursday, down from the initial 12,421 in the beginning — lose all the weight they want to.


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