Dollars and Sense, Part II ~Anthel Brown | MSP

Through the decades since I have been in the Montana Prison System, it has encouraged alternatives to its conflicts. But today, Montana’s system has declared that a stay in prison should replicate a tour through the circles of hell. Current prison management is supposed to be part of the war on crime. But in truth, it is not a war on crime – it is a war on prisoners. a fundamental principal of American Judicial practice is that people are sent to prison as punishment, not for revenge. However, the purity of this idea no longer exists within the Montana system today. The prisoners most vulnerable to the secondary punishments of confinement are long-term, or lifers.

When society talks about how severely they should punish their prisoners, society should always distinguish between long-term and short-term punishment. some of society may detest the people in prison. Nonetheless, when these prisoners are old and ill, when they have served 20, 30, or more years, and can be hardly identified as the same individual who committed their crime, when the prison term is that persons life and the prisoner struggles to absorb that life with meaning, punishing takes on a different meaning.

A lot of citizens talk about sending people to prison and letting them rot, locking them up and throw away the key. Although, this has negative consequences, as well. All one has to do to see these negative consequences, is to look into the eyes of those who suffer this type of treatment.

How much and what quality of poor or brutal treatment would be considered acceptable in Montana’s prisons? Since the perception that prisoners are not punished enough has been projected so effectively by people who have, for the most part, never been in prison, then leaving the running of their prison system to those who work their own morbid and vengeful ideas of punishment into the program of rehabilitation, this becomes a serious question.

Should our prisons be places with no rules and no reasonable expectations of reform, or places of mystery and chaos, so that good behavior brings no hope of future decent treatment? Should society blink at administrative punishment based on false accusations? Should wives, mothers, and daughters of prisoners have to hand over their used tampons for inspection when they come to visit their loved ones.

Under todays Montana regime, medical and dental services have been cut back, as well as optical care for prisoners. Psychological services are very questionable. Vocational and educational programs have been dramatically curtailed. Volunteers, severely restricted, are in many cases just giving up. Staff who are considered too “nice” to the prisoners are fired. Visits have become a harrowing experience. Property prisoners purchased at the canteen, and through retailers is being seized. In every realm of prison life things have been taken away.

There is a high cost for all of this type of treatment. A prison ran this way is a prison that produces deformed and wounded minded people who “will” be released back into society. The current practice of punishment in Montana is also an extra burden placed on taxpayers, due to all the wasteful costs, and leaving Montana’s prison factories full of vengeful and rage-full minded prisoners. These inevitable products of their work, are more repeat offenders, with the predictable return to prison where once again citizens of Montana will be paying the rent. And who continues to get rich off of these unproductive practices? Now there is one to think about!

Prisoners who prison officials can not, or do not want to deal with are just transfered to another facility. In Montana prison managers lack expertize, education and training. They operate with a deficit of good sense and an abysmal absence of fair play.

This is an equivalent of a breakdown within the management of the system. Locking down a prisoner and constantly moving the scandal around the system, is the administrations way of throwing up its hands and saying there is nothing that can be done with these prisoners. That is and inadequate response.

Montana has a growing prison population by design. What is society going to do when this design fails?

The citizens of Montana had soon better wake up and realize just how badly their prison system is being operated by people whose only concern is, how much more of your tax dollars, they can stuff into their pockets. And how many more of their inept family and friends they can put to work within Montana’s prison system on your dime. Remember, dollars or sense.

~ Anthel Brown

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