I’ve mentioned previously that our own son was incarcerated. A number of years ago we returned home from visiting him in prison. Our trip was always one of silence. When we arrived home, we were going through the motions of busyness. No talking, just busyness and each of us lost in our own sorrow and disappointment. I was sitting on the patio finishing up grooming our dogs. I had been observing a hummingbird at the feeder. All of a sudden the little guy made a huge right turn and entered the open patio door!
The chase was on! We blocked off all the open door ways, turned off any lights that were on, pulled the curtains closed so only the patio opening would be illuminated. It didn’t work. The poor little hummer frantically flew between our kitchen and living area. He kept bumping into the ceiling. It was so heartbreaking to watch this little bird. After 20-minutes or so of this frantic dance between him and us, the little guy landed on the ceiling fan. My husband gently picked him up and took him outside where he proceeded to the branch of our eucalyptus tree, chest heaving and trying to recover. He finally flew to the feeder, drank for a bit and headed off.
In review of this incident, the similarity struck me about the hummingbird and someone imprisoned: for all of its short life the hummingbird had the freedom of the sky, but while inside my house, the poor creature kept bumping into the ceiling. The ceiling was a foreign concept to him. Likewise, for those who are incarcerated, a secure perimeter is a foreign concept to them. For their time of imprisonment, for the duration of their sentence, they must become acclimated to this new and strange environment. Where they once had the freedom of the open skies, they now have restrictions, rules and regulations.
May they never get used to the environment of prison in the sense that they are so comfortable they find it difficult to return to society. May they use their time constructively and prepare for the time when they will be released back into society.
I think of those persons who work with the inmate population: the corrections officers, counselors, administrators, teachers, librarians, chaplains and the volunteers. May they be safe and ever vigilant. May they be persons of integrity and not abuse their positions of authority.
Just this past week in our state of Arizona, the Associate Press reported a third disturbance within four days broke out in a private prison in Kingman.
Units with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office were helping the Department of Corrections with the unrest at Arizona State Prison-Kingman, officials said. The law enforcement officers are providing security around the perimeter of the prison.
Inmates in the Hualapai dormitory were “again refusing to comply with directives this afternoon,” said Andrew Wilder, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.
By Saturday evening, however, “all inmates were complying with directives,” Wilder said. He said he did not have information on whether any inmates were injured.
Saturday’s disturbance was not a riot, said Wilder, who added that the cause of the disturbance remains under investigation.
Corrections officials on Saturday evening were screening the inmates and checking the facility to make sure order was restored, he said.
On Friday, about 700 inmates at the prison were moved to new locations after disturbances on consecutive days left their housing units uninhabitable.
Nine corrections officers suffered minor injuries in the incidents at the prison, which has had a long history of problems. No inmate injuries were reported.
The first disturbance occurred Wednesday at a minimum-security unit, followed by what he described as an unrelated riot Thursday night at a medium-security unit that took several hours to quell, Wilder said.
Saturday’s incident “was clearly a significant disturbance, but it was not on a scale with what occurred (at the prison) Thursday evening to Friday morning,” Wilder said.
In 2010, three inmates escaped from the prison after a woman in a getaway car threw cutting tools over the fence and they broke out. The inmates went on a violent crime spree that included the murders of an Oklahoma couple during a camping trip in New Mexico. They were killed, and their bodies were found burned in their trailer. The inmates were caught, tried and received new prison sentences.
The Management and Training Corp. continued to operate the prison despite scathing criticism of its lax security during the escape.
An inmate at the prison — and the minimum-security unit where the disturbance happened this week — was sexually assaulted and beaten at the facility in January and died at a hospital three days later, according to a legal claim filed by his family. The legal action says emergency responders weren’t notified for nearly two hours.
The inmate, Neil Early, was serving a five-year sentence for theft and possession of drug paraphernalia after becoming addicted to heroin and stealing video games.
Arizona houses thousands of inmates in private prisons, and the industry has come under fire for its large donations to Republican politicians.
As I have previously stated, I do not believe that for profit prisons are the answer to prison overcrowding. I believe we must actively seek for reductions of prison sentencing for non-violent offenders. I follow a private prison watch group that is sponsored by a religious organization. Through them I learned that the illustrious Senator John McCain has benefitted to the tune of over $30,000 from the private prison corporations. He has also been serving this state for 32 years. “We, the People” need to see that our representatives and senators have term limits and do not become career politicians. We need to ensure they do, in fact, represent us and not their own causes that profit them.
I am now stepping down from my soapbox.