The recent news in the L.A. Times is that inmates at California's maximum security prison Pelican Bay are on a hunger strike because of inhuman conditions there (locked in their cells for all but one and one half hour a day) and requests for something so basic as one phone call not a day but a month. What is even more amazing is that inmates in at least one third of California's overcrowded non rehabilating prisons failing in almost every sense of the word in terms of recidivism save one creating huge salaries and pensions for the correction officers and huge contributions to Democratic campaigns, to the major detriment in this budget challenged austerity to our schools. After reading most of the comments which seemed pleased the inmates might starve themselves to death and thereby save the state money, I wrote this
A bleeding heart liberal the Alaskanpoet is not
But to jail a man in isolation until he rots?
Isolated from all human contact seems somewhat inhumane
How long does it take to wither away most of one's brain?
Pelican Bay inmates may be a threat to themselves and to the guards
But only an hour a day to walk in the prison yard?
The news of a hunger strike should cause us to pause
Is it the gasping of last resort, the grasping of straws
Or like the seed of a flower crawling upward through the concrete
A sign that a human spirit even in the most evil felon is hard to defeat?
We cannot treat humans as animals good only to cage
And expect that some of our own humanity is not erased from the page
If they are serious at Pelican Bay and with resolve
Our disgust of mollycoddling should soon dissolve
Like the English Lion in Northern Ireland brought to bay
Not by bombs but by death by hunger strike by Bobby Sands and nine other jailed members of the I.R.A.
This is not about in prison the lack of ice cream or strawberry cake
No a much larger piece of our own humanity is at stake.
Prison even Pelican Bay should be less of punishment and more a symbol to deter
And since no felon ever expects to be caught, some rehab efforts to habits cure
Unless each inmate will never again see the light of day outside a prison cell
He will be released with revenge and new skills learned for future more violent crimes to excel
Michael P. Ridley aka The Alaskanpoet (c)July 5, 2011