I was listening to NPR the other day and they were talking about Pellican Bay, one of the toughest prisons in the country. Inmates there can literally go weeks without seeing another living person. One person interviewed said that he had not seen a woman in fourteen years. One in ten inmates will end up in the psychiatric shoe of the building.

Pellican Bay is reserved for the worst offenders. It does not, however, delineate based on what offense landed them in prison. Rather it is there for the most uncontrollable cases inside prison, meaning that you could get caught selling pot, run in with some bad folks in jail, and end up in relatively permanent isolation.

I understand why these prisons exist and the function they serve. There are a lot of folks that you have to separate from everyone else. And unlike regular prison, it’s nigh impossible to land there by the mistake of a false conviction. It costs the state $50,000 per year to house them there, it’s not a decision they are likely to make easily.

What bothers me most about the set-up is that, because it is not related to whatever crime landed the inmates in prison to begin with, it is not reserved for those with life sentences and the people that end up in these prisons in many cases will rejoin with society. People who spent five years without even irregular human contact will be joining those on the outside whenever their time is up. One of the people they interviewed was due to be released in a couple of years.

I’m not sure I can think of a better way to train a sociopath. I mean, I guess theoretically it would serve as a deterrant because they wouldn’t go back (assuming that marbles weren’t lost in the process), but even with that logic they can commit crimes and not go back to Pellican Bay. All they would have to do is behave wherever they originally land, which after having served in Pellican Bay, is bound to be a cakewalk.


Category: Courthouse

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