TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

March 31, 2014

Our prisons — to bury or revive?

CORBIN — By John Burkhart

People, who have seriously violated society lose their right to live in it. A government has the obligation to protect its citizens from such criminals. Imprisonment is the usual format used for many generations.

Once “put away” by legal due process, criminals are no longer a part of a free society. If there is one thing a free citizenry will not tolerate is convicted criminals in their midst. Even those who have served their time (“ex-cons”) usually find a lifetime of rejection and condemnation.

The U.S. has the embarrassing distinction of being the No. 1 incarcerator in the world, with more than 2 million Americans in prison. This population living behind bars is invisible to the rest of society. They are truly out of sight and out of mind. If there is one thing that is of little or no concern for Americans it is our prisons and the daily experience of those held therein. The inmates getting their just desserts prevails in our minds.

This lack of interest breeds indifference and usually total ignorance of prison life. Having talked with, counseled, befriended and even employed ex-cons, their memories of prison life and experiences shared with me explain how nearly 50 percent repeat their crimes and time. Most identify no serious rehabilitating experience during or after incarceration. Permanently scarred as a social reject, they are stamped as incorrigible law-breakers and not to be trusted. Typically, the released ex-con experiences a life-sentence from society, forever being condemned. A popular pragmatic prison policy is the use of military confinement (a 5 foot by 10 foot tomb-like, concrete, gray-box designed for the most hardened and dangerous criminals) as a protective cell for inmates whom the prison population might deem worthy of receiving their personally imposed corporal pain or even death.

A recently released 12-year survivor of the “gray-box”, Brian Nelson, a man who committed murder at age 17, described his experience as not punishment but torture, being denied companionship and human dignity. In our State and our federal prisons there are 80,000 prisoners held in gray boxes; most of whom loose the will to live as well as the ability or interest to eat and sleep. Nelson attributes his survival to prayer and Bible reading.

Although our society has an intense and adamant stand for doling out punitive measures for all convicted criminals, and although our prisons are over-crowded causing prison guards and wardens to be overwrought, where is our faith in godly compassion, mercy, forgiveness and rehabilitation? Where is hope? Where is love?

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering.” [Hebrews 13:3]

The Rev. John Burkhart  Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of  psychology

jandmburkhart@yahoo.com blog at inspirationsandideas

 

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • LIKE IT OR NOT: MLB's All Star effort was a bust

    With the 85th edition of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in the books, I have to say I feel like the whole thing was a complete bust.

    July 18, 2014

  • THE WAY IT IS: Some local teams can make a run

    Well folks, our Little League All-Star action is beginning to wind down, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see two of the Tri-County’s resp

    July 17, 2014

  • LIKE IT OR NOT: It's been a very busy summer

    While a lot of people would expect the local sports scene to slow down in the Tri-County in the summer time, that’s not usually the case for us here at the Times-Tribune.

    July 16, 2014

  • John Ross.jpg May we all cherish those few WWII vets who still live

    I watch this old BBC program pretty often called “Are You Being Served?” It’s mostly out of syndication — what shows remain can be seen most often through PBS.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0502 Bobbie Poynter So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu

    I never have been very good at saying goodbye — family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community — for years you’ve had my back and in turn, I believe I’ve had yours.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie Ellis.jpg ‘Uh hummm!’ It’s been an interesting week

    One column can’t cover everything from a busy week of political events, but here are some quick takeaways from last week.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brad Hall.jpg Let’s multiply our numbers like fleas do

    Last Saturday, my wife, Carmen, and I spent the day at the Kings Island theme park near Cincinnati, Ohio.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Burkhart.jpg Not an earthly trace

    Just married (1897) and in his late 20’s, my grandfather was determined to make a living on a hillside farm covered in wilderness; much as his father had done before him in 1846  when he arrived from Germany.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brad Hall.jpg Col. Mustard with the candlestick in Heaven

    One of my favorite movies is the murder mystery comedy “Clue,” which is based on the popular board game of the same name.

    June 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Burkhart.jpg Now or Never

    A story is told of an old widower who decided it was time to find a new wife. He chose to look for this new bride through the obituaries column; identifying new widows.

    June 30, 2014 1 Photo

Front page
Featured Ads
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide