Friday, October 12, 2012

Unjust Justice

I am biting back tears of frustration. My heart-rate has sped up. I'm flailing my arms in impotent rage.

A woman gave birth in her jail cell. Doesn't sound so bad? How about this. She screamed in agony for nine hours with a breech birth that should have been a C-Section while guards moved her to seclusion so they wouldn't need to listen, and a nurse told her she had indigestion. She wasn't examined, her dilation wasn't observed, no doctor was called, and she was left to suffer. Her son's feet were coming out of her before anyone decided to call an ambulance. The only reason we are even hearing about it is that the woman in question happens to have a mother who still gives a sh*t, which many prisoners would not have, and the Elizabeth Fry Society stepped in to help with a complaint.

I've given birth, twice, in "ideal" conditions. My births were "easy." And I remember the overwhelmingness of the pain, the desperation I felt near the end. What this woman suffered is torture, no better than waterboarding or attaching electrodes to testicles - worse, actually, since they put her life and an innocent life at significant risk in addition to inflicting unnecessary pain and hardship on an already difficult medical issue. The people responsible were not only irresponsible, but deliberately, willfully neglectful. One might even say cruel, pending investigation.

The problem is prison. It dehumanizes caretakers and victims (aka prisoners) alike. We need a comprehensive mental health system to support those who cannot, for whatever reasons, live within the laws of civil society. Prisons don't work. They don't correct, rehabilitate or support. They make people LESS likely to become law-abiding citizens, and they destroy the humanity of people who work as guards, nurses and other roles within them. They create dependent, resentful humans out of people who were already struggling to participate in society. And they create conditions under which abuse is not only possible, but highly likely.

This is one example. Just one of thousands. People are not treated as people. We allow this, every day, and support it through our tax dollars. Stephen Harper is entrenching us even further into this world of incarceration that does not support the goals of rehabilitation. It makes me crazy, mad enough to spit, until I collapse into resignation that HUMANS SUCK and this species will never rise above its nastiest nature. Because most people won't care at all.

And the government response? An investigation, yes, but the statement I heard on CBC was basically, "we're sorry, of course, but these things happen." They don't just happen. They are the result of an entire system of injustice at the tail end of our "justice" system, one that makes nurses deaf to cries, makes guards insensitive to human needs, and reduces humans to mere vessels into which punishment can be poured.

It makes me sick.