I was looking over some jail letters I wrote years ago. My mother, an aunt and a family friend saved all the letters I wrote during my confinements. It’s interesting to read my observations and perspectives. I saw much more than bars when I was behind them. I learned lessons that the same time in school may never have yielded. I wrote the word “parity” and its definition on January 16, 2002. “A state of being equal and a theory in physics that any substance and its mirror image counterpart have the same physical properties.” I would like to argue against this theory as any mirror I stand in front of has less hair and more weight than I know I posses but I see its truth. A rock in front of a mirror is nothing more or less than itself. It has cracks and has no reason to deny them. It will not lose stature as a rock if it reflects flaws.
I am not always pleased with my receding hairline but it is mine. I can still smile with it, I can carry a conversation; it really doesn’t take away from who or what I am. When I can recognize myself as I am; full of warts but fine thanks just the same I can be who I am. It is more reflection and less deception when I can see myself as light and dark. When we see our true substance and the mirror image as the same it in fact creates “parity” itself. “The state of being equal.” If I see myself as I truly am there is no maneuvering into being better or worse than others. We are all the same.
There is little need to be anything in solitary confinement; the Hole. Whatever you are is all you live with. There is no need to say or do anything to alter your position as there is no one to posture for. I often crawled about my small space scratching notes on my papers and upon the walls and floor. My life had more importance than any time I was a free man. There was nothing to fear in nothingness. What would fester in your mind if it had nothing to occupy it? What if there was no phone, computer or company? Who and what do you connect with when you are the one and only for days, weeks or was it months? When it was just me most of my thoughts had spiritual significance. Realigious experiences and perspectives are often a symptom of mental illness. Maybe some are but wouldn’t that make God crazy?
When I was in primary school, part of my path was lined with huge old Horse Chestnut trees. Even before they fell to the ground I would stop and see if any nuts were ripe enough to knock down. It mattered not whether I was on my way to school or returning home; I would spend timeless minutes stomping on the prickly fruit, doing my best to expose the smooth, shiny nut within.
In some ways I am still the little boy. Through lessons learned I often watch trees and keep an eye for their fruit. Today it is often a discarded piece of wood for my lathe from something fallen. I don’t fill my pockets with chestnuts but I do carry three or four marbles. I see a similar currency now as I did then. My marbles and chestnuts are worthless but they have purchased hours of amusement for generations.
With my brothers and friends we devised or inherited a game. We would dig a hole in the center of the nut and knot a string through. They became war clubs and we would surrender each to the blows of another. The chestnut that didn’t crack was the victor. Sometimes it was the one laid on the ground and other times it was the one swung downwards. Resilience is a funny thing.
When I see chestnuts as an adult I am still drawn to pull the shiny nut from the prickly shell. Like the Crackerjacks I ate those days; the prize is on the inside.
If the law is unable to look at the larger systemic problems of itself; we as citizens must. If politicians choose to look in other directions we need to send them in other directions. As citizens we seem to have ignored this aspect of society. We are drawn to the calamities that make headlines but it is difficult to see the entire system that surrounds these and many other crimes.
Part of my journey with justice was clearly retributive. If ever I had given cause for punitive measures it was provided without smile. I don’t care about your view of an eye for an eye but no matter your view shouldn’t it accomplish something? It can only be in the public interest to create a fair and rehabilitative system of justice. Retributive justice has been around long enough to demonstrate its efficacy and efficiency. Is it either?
The main premise of retributive justice is that punishment deters the individual from re-offending and others from offending to begin with. If such a fallacy had a shred of merit we would by now have little crime and recidivism would be an anomaly. Wouldn’t even the past five decades suffice for deterrence to have put crime on the verge of extinction? Most in the correctional system would have eliminated themselves from crime for fear of more of the same. Those who have witnessed this retribution for 50 years would have provided little fuel for this population to remain the same. We pat ourselves on the back for being tough on crime while ignoring the fact that such measures should have made themselves redundant.
I saw the bowels of the justice system and until I entered the Forensic system I saw little good coming out. I saw the broken walking in and the broken walking out. If the justice system was a mechanic you would find a new one rather than give it money to expand. Rehabilitative Justice seems logical to me, unlike our present mechanic its purpose is to restore to good condition through therapy and education. I can hear whispers that criminals are not deserving of therapy let alone education. I can see your logic but as a society why would we bounce around the same people when we can take hold of them and change them? It costs $ 113,974 a year to incarcerate a prisoner in Canada. Training and education would be a five thousand dollar gamble but I think it could be more efficient than mindless degradation and denigration.
I believe that anyone who needs therapy should receive it. Mental health is a medical condition which should be approached as we would a broken bone. I knew one inmate who was made to eat his meals from a dog dish by his father. As a society his offence removes him from anything progressive and in essence we treat him as his father did. When he is released we expect him to interact with the world in an appropriate fashion.
Perhaps it’s not about sense but rather “cents”. If you want an idea of whom retributive justice and its outcomes serve, check out the average income of a lawyer, a judge, a police officer, a parole officer or a correctional officer. Someone profits from feeding, clothing and housing these populations as well. Crime in fact does pay.