Many people try to make the case with me that prison conditions in one state are far worse than those in another state. I don't buy it. Just as the old statement, WAR IS HELL, always holds true, so does this one: PRISONS ARE HELL.
I am always touched when decent, law abiding citizens who know nothing about the inside of a prison are suddenly faced with the reality of these hellish conditions when a loved one is imprisoned.
They think they are telling me something new when they relate these true stories:
-My son is trying to do something wrong so he can get a ticket. That's the only way he can get a different cell.
-He can no longer tolerate being in the same cell with a 300 lb. skinhead who spends the entire day yelling obscenities and racial slurs.
-He is diabetic and should not be in a top bunk because of the danger of falling, but his cellmate couldn't care less.
-Every time he snores the guy below him reaches up and punches his mattress as hard as he can. He's getting only a couple hours of sleep a night.
-His mind is completely idle. He has nothing to do: no classes, no job, no library visits.
-He believes he has a shoulder problem. He can raise his arm only halfway. He asked for an X-Ray. The prison doctor laughed at him, said it was probably stress, and told him to get back to his cell.
The parents ask good questions: Shouldn't even prisoners who are guilty be treated humanely? Can't we do something to help? If we write to or call the warden will it do any good? Aren't there medical rights for inmates?
These parents and this naive young man are merely getting a heavy-duty dose of reality. That's the way it is in prisons. All of them. And no matter how hard you try, you're not going to make much difference. That doesn't mean that one shouldn't try. We heartily applaud all prisoner rights groups and their efforts. Keep the pressure on. But don't expect miracles.
Prisons are hell.