To start off, a couple of booksThe Real Cost of Prison Project Comics that have been thoroughly researched dealing with the War on Drugs, the cost of Prison Towns and how prison affects women and children.
Lets take a short look at how disabled prisoners are treated in prison in a couple of developed countries:
The story of disablement and the prison industrial complex must begin with a trail of telling numbers: a disproportionate number of persons incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails are disabled. Though Census Bureau data suggest that disabled persons represent roughly one-fifth of the total population, prevalence of disability among prisoners is startlingly higher, for reasons we will examine later. While no reliable cross- disability demographics have been compiled nationwide, numerous studies now enable us to make educated estimates regarding the incidence of various disability categories among incarcerated persons. Hearing loss, for example, is estimated to occur in 30 percent of the prison population, while estimates of the prevalence of mental retardation among prisoners range from 3 to 9.5 percent.
Rates of learning disability are spectacularly high among prisoners; in studies conducted among incarcerated juveniles, learning disabilities have been estimated to occur in up to 55 percent of youth nationwide; in one single-state study, 70 percent of youth qualified for special education. As for mental disabilities, in California anywhere from one-sixth to one-fourth of prisoners are believed to have diagnosable “serious mental disorders.” Most stunning of all is a four-state study which examined juveniles imprisoned for capital offenses; virtually 100 percent of those studied were multiply disabled (neurological impairment, psychiatric illness, cognitive deficits), having suffered serious central nervous system injuries resulting from extreme physical and sexual abuse since early childhood.1
Why are so many prisoners in the United States disabled?MORE
Editor’s Note: The deaf face a nightmare when they fall into the criminal justice system, writes investigative journalist James Ridgeway. The following is a special report written for The Crime Report, a publication of the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College for Criminal Justice, City University of New York. It originally appeared in Ridgeway’s blog.
In the 1970s, an antiwar demonstrator found himself at New York City’s Rikers Island jail facility for a couple of months on a disorderly conduct charge. The demonstrator, who happened to be a friend of mine, met a handful of young men from the Bronx in his unit who were deaf.
They were having trouble communicating with anyone but themselves. My friend knew a little sign language and, after a few conversations, discovered they were illiterate. With the idea of helping them improve their communication skills, he asked prison authorities for permission to order books on sign language from the publisher. The wardens refused, saying that they did not want anyone in that prison using a “language” they could not understand. (and the understanding of the deaf prisoners, of course, is completely unimportant, yes/yes?!)
Things may have changed a little for the better since then. But not by much.MORE
ENGLAND:7 March 2007 –
Lost, bullied and trapped: report on people with a learning disability in prison
New research by the Prison Reform Trust released today shows that people with a learning disability in prison are not being identified. They are also bullied, cut out of rehabilitation courses and prison staff are not given the training or resources to deal with them.
The report, based on an unprecedented survey of professionals within prisons in England and Wales, shows that some prisoners with a learning disability do not even know why they are in prison. The report also estimates that 16,000 – 24,000 prisoners in England and Wales, 20-30% of the population, have a learning disability or difficulty that interferes with their ability to cope. MORE
A quick look at how Women and Children are treated in the USA and the Phillipines.
The USA :In Labor and In Chains
We also have video from RH Reality Check showing the surreal story of Shawanna Nelson, who was forced into shackles when she went into labor while serving a jail sentence on a nonviolent offense. Nelson and her attorney recount her story, which ended with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that her shackling was unconstitutional–and that she can sue the guards who shackled her.
Witness – Hard Time: Philippines jail children – Part 1
Children locked up in adult jails in the Philippines dream of the day theyre released. But, for many, things are scarcely better on the outside. A heart-rending story told in a child prisoners own words.
Witness – Hard Time: Philippines jail children – Part 2
And there is a special hell reserved for Transgender inmates:
Cruel and Unusual
After arrest, no matter the crime, countless transgender women are incarcerated in men’s prisons across the United States. These transwomen are denied medical and psychological care as well as the hormone therapy that keeps their system regulated. While painfully struggling against sudden chemical deficiency, these women are often victims of heinous crimes committed by the general prison population and prison staff including assault, rape, and murder. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL is an often unsettling documentary that candidly presents the challenges and inhumane treatment faced by these women.
Prison is supposed to be a punishment and a deterrent to crime. But they don’t actually stop crime, as these videos and articles attest:
The USA: Witness – Omar – Trailer
One man’s story reveals the social and psychological barriers that so many low-income African-American men face in the context of prison and release .
MONTEVIDEO, Oct 15 (IPS) – Fabián Rodríguez has two years to go on a long sentence for robbery. After spending time in three overcrowded maximum security prisons in Uruguay, he finally landed in a rehabilitation centre where work and respect are central pillars. Now he runs a bakery which supplies 200 inmates as well as the guards.
The National Rehabilitation Centre (CNR), which operates in an old psychiatric hospital, is a model prison practically without bars that has an extremely low recidivism rate among its former inmates.
Rodríguez spent time in the prison named Libertad – which paradoxically means “Freedom” – located 50 km from Montevideo, where the 1973-1985 military dictatorship kept hundreds of political prisoners. He was also held in the Santiago Vázquez Penitentiary Complex, the country’s largest prison, and in La Tablada, both of which are located on the outskirts of the Uruguayan capital.
The poor conditions in Uruguay’s prisons have come under scrutiny from international human rights organisations.
In La Tablada, nevertheless, Rodríguez was able to learn professional baking skills – “by watching and earning my stripes” – and he later formed part of a group of prisoners who founded a baking cooperative, the Cooperativa Panificadora de Apoyo Social.
It was then, he told IPS, that he applied for a transfer.
After he made it to the CNR, he and his fellow inmates established a new branch of the La Tablada cooperative, which opened in late July. But they hope to eventually have their own independent cooperative.MORE
And of course, prison can help to break you further.
No Escape: Prison Rape (A Documentary)
This is a short documentary I came across while researching a school project. It was made in 2001 and it tells the story of 17 year old Rodney Hullin, who committed suicide in a Texas prison after being physically and sexually assaulted several times. I hope it opens the eyes of many to the problems of abuse and violence in america’s prisons today. It is not a very good quality video, but it will do.
I do not own this film. It was produced by Gabriel Films with funding from the Human Rights Watch. It has been shown to lobby efforts in preventing prison rape, as well as to train incoming police and prison officers.