Most prisoners housed in solitary confinement for extensive periods of time, at some point, will see in the mirror an almost unrecognizable Dr. Frankenstein like creation. Their own disfigured features are the result of the institution’s mode of dismembering faculties and a person’s natural resistance to being tortured.
Some choose suicide rather than be a co-conspirator in their own dehumanization. The most atrocious part is not necessarily when we experience our intellect losing the battle with our instincts to preserve whatever fragile fragments of sanity we have miraculously salvaged. Nor is it the pressure of our desire to make sense out of no sense crushing our conscience. No, the most atrocious part may be the toxic chemical combustion of our hyper sensationalized reactionary parts, most of which are undetectable to the untrained eye until there is a violent explosion of highly flammable feelings. Including one feeling in particular I have discovered in which the source of the pressure, the desire to escape the inescapable fate that is my institutionalization, has evolved just as much as my necessity to breathe oxygen, drink water, or eat food.
It is a God like force we know as self preservation. We each have immaterial faculties like our will, our reason, our emotions, and any inmate who is genuinely interested in rehabilitation cannot put his or her human nature up for ransom, even under the illusion that it is payment for a debt to society. Not when this debt requires one’s agencies of independence to be traded for a politically induced state of permanent dependency.
Let me be clear, as I want to leave absolutely no room for any misinterpretation or doubt about what I mean by the title, ‘Let Us Break Men In Our Image.’ The Tennessee Department of Corrections, while acting under the official capacity of state law, demands at gunpoint that every aspect of my functioning be in full compliance with my own dehumanization. The ultimate goal is to incapacitate my rights, incapacitate my mind, incapacitate my heart, and incapacitate my soul, until I have no power, until I have no will, until I have no reason, until I have no conscience, nor feelings, nor individuality. Until I have no potential to survive the challenges of the day to day struggle to adjust and fit in outside these prison walls, nor even so much as love myself enough to care.
By the time some inmates are unleashed on society, after having long endured the post traumatic stress disorder like effects of extensive psychological warfare, it’s too late. It’s too late when it takes the form of an impulsive, irrational, unprovoked criminal act because we’ve been left with nothing of our humanity but our instincts.
The majority of the institutionalized will end up back in state or federal custody, and in actuality, many will have never left. The institution was designed, by its nature, to metamorphosis into a living and breathing replica of its own likeness. You can call the system Torture and Dehumanization of Prisoners by State and Federal Design, or tough on crime, or you can even call it criminal justice.
As for me, I’ll just call what is left of the so called ‘department of corrections’ what it is. I’ll just call it, this broken thing, that keeps reproducing these broken things…
The author, James Smith, has served nearly twenty years and will be eligible for parole in 2056.
James Smith #323820
P.O. Box 2000
Wartburg, TN 37887