Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Have a "Lockdown" Holiday?? No, thanks.

I just saw a TV commercial letting me know that there will be a "Lockdown" marathon all day long on Thanksgiving.... what? I can't think of anything that would be worse on Thanksgiving than watching hard-core criminals in jail for hours on end.

I honestly don't get these jail reality shows. Other reality shows, I don't like, I don't watch, but I get  how people could get fascinated with them. Curiosity, fascination with human nature, etc. But.. prison? How can anyone be fascinated with prison? Do they know anyone who has actually gone to jail or prison? Have they been inside a prison, talked with inmates, taken part in a program that serves women in jail? I have. It's boring, unpleasant, and subhuman. Yes, the people in jail and prison are still human beings, but they are there because they have done seriously wrong things, hurt other people, or because they themselves are seriously mentally ill or struggling with addiction. In other words, they are bad people, or they are hurting people.... All of these things are sad, not cool. They are tedious, ugly, painful, cruel, and nasty... not sexy and exciting. I guess it makes me angry. I really do feel as if these shows glorify the whole prison/jail thing, almost making it seem glamorous and thrilling in a sick way.

At the very least, they acquaint people, and that includes young people,  with the interior of a prison. They create a sense of familiarty which always diminishes fear. I know that when I was a kid, just the word "jail" or "prison" was horrifying. Now, I wonder whether it would deter a young person at all?

There are major problems with the whole system of incarceration in this country. It's racially skewed, it houses way too many people who ought to be in treatment for addiction, and it is an industry in itself. Others have written with much more credibility than I on these matters.

But I have experience and I know what I know. This week, I sat and talked with a young man who is serving time in jail for a DUI. His crime is his addiction. He's getting no help for that.. instead, he is housed in a locked unit with some of the most violent men in the jail. Maybe there is a way in which these shows could expose the unfair, absurd, and dehumanizing way we try to solve crime... but I doubt it.

Oh, Happy Thanksgiving! Here's a prayer:

Spirit of Justice and Peace, let us remember with hope and empathy every soul who is imprisoned this holiday season. Especially we send prayers for healing to those who are young and whose addictions have sent them into jail. May they find the guidance and the courage they need to recover and avoid criminal behavior. May they feel the love of their families and friends. Let our citizens and our lawmakers awaken to the vast injustice we call our "justice" system. And let us keep in our hearts every person who is imprisoned behind walls of their own making, made from fear, judgment, separation, envy, and self-loathing. May all beings be free.