Okay, the following is a draft of a satirical piece I wrote for a magazine at Baldwin-Wallace College that addresses prisons in the United States. If you happen to read, give me your thoughts on it, pass it along, or whatever makes you happy.
“Nobody Does Prisons Like U.S.”
by Jordan Kit
America is known for being exceptional in a variety of important cultural areas such as litter, debt, and banking crises, but America is truly amazing at prisons. Think about it, really! Few democratic nations do prisons as well as we do. In fact, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the whole world. We make up about four percent of the world’s population and account for about twenty-five percent of the worlds incarcerated people.
It may be surprising that authoritarian countries like China, Iran, and North Korea aren’t even competitive in the incarceration of their people. We’ve gotten so good, that we even show off by putting our prisoners in other countries. Guantanamo Bay was one of our favorite places to show-boat by sending our most nefarious baddies. In the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, we had our military personnel assume control of operations. Our fine servicemen got right down to business by disrobing, humiliating, and even torturing the inmates to prove that the Iraqi prisons enjoyed a much too leisurely environment, and that things would be much different.
Our prisons aren’t all doom and gloom though. In fact, a prison sentence is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to students facing crippling loan-debt and a poor job outlook after graduation. Many prisons offer health care, dental, and education to residents. Some prisons even make first class accommodations, attracting such star power as Martha Stewart, T.I., and Lil’ Wayne. With social security and other social welfare programs failing, prisons are proving a valuable asset to the needy. Why work two jobs when you can do something fun, get arrested for it, and get three square meals and a roof over your head on a daily basis?
Prisons also serve as a valuable social asset in society. For those that desire that “I’m part of a team!” feeling, prison gangs are right up your alley. The high rate of incarceration among released prisoners is often attributed to the influence of gangs. These gangs help develop young, bright-eyed men into hardened criminals and rapists by teaching them valuable life skills such as drugs, non-consensual sex, and how to stab things with everyday household objects. These skills will prove invaluable in the professional world. Gangs also help us straight-edged folk that haven’t been caught yet. Much like fraternities on a college campus, the gangs help to group the least functional people together so you know whom to avoid.
Our prison culture also helps people know what is and is not acceptable. You can get locked up if you drink in the wrong places, smoke the wrong things, or generally have too much fun. If you’re going to steal, your best bet is to steal a lot of money from really nice people or from a nice cause like infrastructure or education. Besides, that actually isn’t even considered crime, instead we call it “politics.” The general rule of thumb is that if you are enjoying yourself, you’re probably on the verge of being locked up for something.
In conclusion, I would just like to point out that as the paragon of moral and ethical behavior, we have a responsibility to show the world how to run things. The backwards folk of the second and third world need to catch up and start locking away more of their citizens. The best way to become as developed as us is to simply recreated our excellent institutions. Gone are the days of cooperation and personal values, they need to get with the times. There’s no better indicator of the true quality of life in a state than how they address crime.
I want to tell the world how so many junk-headed youth are failed saints and struggling seekers. Who will tell the story of the people who slide through the cracks? I saw a boy cry as he read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He said he finally understood. But he was just a boy—just a boy when a week later he was nearly thumped free of his mortal coil for a shortchanged deal. Awakening coming to him six days later, after a coma he wasn’t supposed to survive, after a coma even some of his closest family and friends hoped he wouldn’t. His heart opened unto the world, confronted with the prospect of a second chance and a fresh start. He had a vision on a backpacking trip up in the Rockies, and sent me two furiously long letters detailing the precise character of life as he had known it and as was revealed to him. He started a new life, with a girl, and when he couldn’t save her, he fell from grace. I remember the drive across four states to bring him home, brooding all across Pennsylvania through the worst of the worry. Pale as a winter’s first snow, wrapped in blankets, shivering. He was weak and I offered to carry him to the car, and with the serenity of the Buddha himself, he refused. He groaned, cried, and clattered his teeth the whole ride, and when we stopped to sleep somewhere outside of Altoona, he had me make a promise to him. I set him to bed in the back seat and I went for a cigarette. I didn’t smoke, but I thought if I didn’t focus my energies into something simple, I’d start weeping for the kid. The smoke was distinct and each exhale hung like a ghost against the dark blue of the coming night. When he was awake, he piteously said “sorry, sorry” at every chance. He made it through the worst, but he was just a shade of himself. As he lay there in his sickbed, staring at the ceiling on those long afternoons, I would read For Whom the Bell Tolls to him. I never knew if he heard me, but I had to do it, if but for my own sanity those twisted times. I talked to his mother once out of the many calls I made, and she asked me to explain that she never wanted to hear from him again. I didn’t word it quite like that when I finally felt he was lucid enough to understand. He came out of that funk and we went our separate ways as people always do. Almost two years later, he dropped a curious postcard to me from California, and it read: “No man is an island, entire of itself.” Nothing more, nothing less. That someone should face familial abandonment, loneliness, death, and that their last request be that their only friend read to them, that is the saint I found in Jean LaRoux. The search for ecstatic understanding, that humility that quickly replaced the temerity of the rest of his existence. It was the way Jean seemed to inflict his entire being on the world in search of it, whatever it may be, that made me believe in people again.
Contemplative glances out a bus window pithy thoughts arising in the early morning dims heading westward always a kind of American birthright that boils the blood into a frenetic shuffle seaward and as the carriage stalls out I don’t wait for the shuttle, just keep walking with nothing behind nothing really ahead thinking I’d end it all if I weren’t so damn curious about it all
The space between your dreams and nightmares The line between the place you left and where you’re headed The shot that forces your hand and wipes your memory The last straw that fills her suitcase and buys her ticket home The distance on a map that erodes what once was The negative space between you and me
Things are going to get better but they’ll never be quite right. Though we grew up knowing the right answer to “what do you want this year?” is to end world hunger, we never will.
Bullying will always haunt the people who need it least who don’t need much but don’t need that.
But things are going to get better because there are still stewards of the world cause, not the LGBT/poverty/race cause but the world cause.
There are still people who know there is more that brings us together than pulls us apart, that in acts of compassion you never give more than you get back and that getting back isn’t even what it’s about.
The people who will dare to hold us together are not extraordinary, they just understand
Suddenly the burdens of my life sank away into the ether like the weights lashed to my ankles dragging me down to the dark depths only to slip loose and send me soaring to the surface to feel that first breath above water that first kiss of sunlight.
It was a closing of the eyes an exhale an inhale and an understanding.
“But I thought…” began so many broken old hearts discarded in gutters by way of bus stops glee gone with the flick of a wrist emotionless skeletons clattering against one another tangled at the hips howling for for a spark of warmth like capturing a photograph subject distilled into a past tense as the future ceases to be
In my dreams the distance isn’t so terribly far we get coffee in the mornings make nice little breakfasts and dance in the kitchen read on the sofa in the afternoons go for long walks and talk till our minds are laid bare enjoy music more deeply together than ever could apart split a bottle of wine and watch the sun set slowly fall tangled into bed together and only reluctantly drift off into sleep
because in my dreams, life is finally so sweet, that I don’t want to miss a second of the real thing, of you.
Your voice on the telephone drunk after midnight just thinkin’ of you remembering happier times arguing over the details invitations thinking of letters I never sent how’ve you been? you never know hope you find what you’re looking for I’ll alway feel that way, too