Virginia Prisons Accountability Committee: August 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Accountability, Prison Reform Advocacy and the 13th Amendment

The focus on the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution as an educational tactical tool by prison reform advocacy is idealistic.

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." 
13th Amendment circa 1865

Focus on the above 13th Amendment places prison advocacy on the defensive and at a disadvantage. Because for example, let's take the state of Virginia. Virginia does not have specific laws of what it's imprisonment practices are. Despite the existence of Virginia Code Title 53.1 which deals with: Prisons and other methods of correction, it has consciously and purposefully omitted specificity of its prison related law.

What Va. Code 53.1 does is, it sets up parameters. So for example, Va Code 53.1-32 "treatment and control of prisoners; recreation; religious service speaks to employment, training, and education of prisoners and Va. Code 53.1-32-1 references payment or wages but in a pedestrian manner. Meaning Va Code 53.1-32.1 do not embrace the 13th amendment, nor does Virginia Legislative Action specify wages       what it does codify at Va. Code 53.1-32.1 "Classification system; program assignment; mandatory participation" @ F, is..."inmates employed pursuant to Article 2 (53.1-31 et seq.) of chapter 2 of this title shall not be deemed employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia or its agencies and shall be ineligible for benefits under chapter 29 (sec. 2.2-2900 et seq) of title 2.2, Chapter 6 (sec. 60.2-600 et seq) of title 60.2, chapter 5 (sec.65.2-500 et seq) of title 65.2 or any other provisions of  the code pertaining to the rights of state employees. "[unquote] 

What is significant and noteworthy is the degree of specificity to which Virginia keeps at arm's length any hint of prisoners being employees of the state, despite the fact in all other regards Virginia prisoners are subjects of the state. On the question of wages, Virginia leaves its response to the undemocratic and non-legislative speculations of the State Board of Corrections and the Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections.

The point I'm making and the motive-logic behind "vapac" [Virginia Prisons Accountability Committee] is people, the citizenry needs to know and understand that what goes on in Virginia prisons or any prison system for that matter [because the lack of specificity in-laws governing the prison condition isn't limited to Virginia] are consequences of ideas, prison officials [who are no more qualified than any drunken bum under a bridge] have about how to treat a prisoner.

So, for example, the idea and practice of Virginia prisoners confined in Solitary [segregation] only permitted 2 phone calls a month are simply that "ideas," the Virginia Legislature neither debated it as law nor it passed it. Virginia prisons officials enacted it because Va. code 53.1-10 "powers and duties of Director" permits the Director of the Virginia Dept. of Corrections statutorial authority to "speculate" on what his administration and governance will be. So regardless and irrespective of how the 2 phone call a month idea was concluded and decided on, the fact remains: That it is simply that someone's idea.

On the question of ideas, let's take for example the idea why drivers and passengers should wear seatbelts in cars. It's an idea based on scientific and measurable fact. Meaning science-physics instructs that if one is in a vehicle unrestrained by a seatbelt and there is a crash, you will keep moving forward till you smash into the dashboard or windshield, incurring injuries beyond the initial crash. So the requirement seat belts are worn in vehicles is based on science and not idealistic-speculation.

So on what science is the practice of 2 phone calls a month for Virginia prisoners confined in Solitary [segregation] based on? Despite whatever logic prison officials dredge up, what is ignored as prison officials experiment on prisoners, is the prisoner, not proxy for exercising and playing out fantasies by the state as it develops the social-contract. Virginia prison officials bandy about a term "evidence based program" to cloak their speculative treatment of prisoners as science based. But none of it is. Which is why the Virginia Legislature, left the notion of what is the imprisonment condition up to prison officials with a wink and nod, understanding that the social-contract mandates of the state can be one-dimensionally and superficially pursued by the surrogacy of un-elected prison officials.

What prison advocacy the reform movement has to orient from is the position: If people are imprisoned as a result of the social contract and if prison is a function of government and if government is "off, by and for people," then the people have every right to question determine whether treatments being done to prisoners in their name are valid and not the sadistic ideas of less enlightened minds for the sake of mere gratuitous cruelty. Because in all other aspects and facets of society and its consciousness, the trend and imperative are towards enlightenment. But, only when it concerns prisons and the treatment of prisoners do we encounter a speculative, idealistic hodgepodge. So what happens is: The one facet of society that requires society's full throttled enlightenment, it its treatment of its members who violate and run afoul of its laws      is where we find society retreating from enlightenment and behaving and displaying the exact impulses that resulted its citizens to do that which landed them in prison [regardlessof reason] In conclusion. Yes as we do the work of demanding accountability of social-contrast, as we focus on the antagonisms of the 13th Amendment and its endorsement of the par none ahumanistic relation, slavery. Nonetheless, as a tactical response to the struggle of holding the imprisonment practice and it's prison official subjective, accountable, it's merely an intellectual speculative exercise.

Constitutions, laws, procedures, policies, and practices do not precede the human condition. Instead the human condition defines constitutions and laws, naturally, the dominant narrative will frame their utility    and redefining the narrative, not constitutions or laws but the socio-narrative is the work of prison reform advocacy, because once there is a cleansing of the narrative of its status quo impulses that have nothing to do with the practice of justice, then our political action will be practical and up to the task.

By William Thorpe held in Solitary Confinement at Virginia's Red Onion State Prison

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Prisoners Wife By Asha Bandele: A Review

The book is supposedly A Love Story. But I don't know what to make of it---It's too full of recriminations, regrets, resentments, and condescension to be a result of love, as love is understood by the human condition.

The setting for this "Love" is Prison, not any prison for that matter but the insidious and
Machiavellian enterprise of an American prison, The Department of Corrections of The State of New York. The story is a reflection of the tumultuous state of American cultural expression and it's subjective, American Hearts and Minds, because if the cultural and emotional expression of the human is simply a sum of character, then love as the ultimate value of emotion and its medium culture will reflect the state and nature of its subjective. Emotion in the most sublime of conditions and environment is still a strange and mysterious beast, add the ingredient of the most alienative and perverted environmental condition known to humanity, prison and what will you have? What you should have is the sum value of human character, that baptism by fire through adversity, that qualitative redemption from the disjointedness of chaotic quantity but Ms. Bandele fails to even have an inkling of the maxim "I'm Solitude made Man" ---- Solitude which in this context is anguish, that accomplice of love, love which she claims.

The author's emotional consciousness is either objectively malnourished or her alienation from the objectivity of her femininity is so complete that she is confused, She mistakes the adventurous inclination of her Eros with that most consuming of emotions, "Love". Whether or not she wants to face up to and has the presence of mind to acknowledge it, she simply had a stimulating adventure with a prisoner, a test in that most simplistic and primitive of human urges, self-gratification in its motive of one-upmanship. As she tongue in cheek, succinctly puts it "I wanted to be important to someone again" [ pp.27]

For starters, Rashid her beloved, lover and subsequent husband is too one-dimensional and acquiescent, an emasculated corollary of collateral damage from the war between the sexes submitting disgracefully to his wife Asha's each and every undisciplined desire an infantile idealism for whatever it is and was, that was between them to be of that higher human emotion, Love, The only excusable rationalization for his behavior is the stimulus of the relationship in-it self and its satisfying impact on his "...Scorched-Earth" [pp.165] psyche was enough to overlook the dominance of his wife and that spells eunuchism.

Asha, on the other hand, would have us, readers believe that her most yearned for desire and sought for reality is to have her imprisoned mate free and with her, yet when she is impregnated, granted the germinating testimonial seed of their love, she has no problem aborting the fetus.

What is striking and revealing is at every turn of the way, their way and obstacles crop up, which in the general sense, with its solution or how they contend with it would enable their humaneness to define and give credibility to the love they purportedly share both fail its qualification pathetically. Rashid the prisoner and husband for being effeminate and obeisant to his wife's each and every indulgence and Asha the wife for misplacing her need for self-affirmation and its redemptive catharsis with love.

The author presents an unstated and treacherous premise that the pursuit of emotional, mental and physical communion between the imprisoned human and a free one is utterly unrealistic, futile and its fidelity is unattainable--- this premise itself raises the question of what role if any those higher sentient and sapient potentials of humanness plays in the condition of love, not as we misconstrue it to be but as we aspire it to be. If as we are wont to say that love has many facets and conditions then Rashid and Asha's rank at that, no greater than the sum of their undeveloped psyches. What then is Ms. Bandele telling us, "that the spirit is willing but the body is weak"? Or the whole relationship was nothing more than an academic project that is now bearing fruit with her writing a book about it.

To make a long story short "The Prisoners Wife" is a story of relationship between male and female and their dishonesty and inability in coBming to terms with the fact that they lacked the manhood and womanhood to develop, nurture and sustain love in that most stifling of environments------Prison.

I close with Asha Bandele invoked Assata Shakur's
"...If I know anything at all
it's that a wall is just a wall
and nothing more at all.

It can be brought down."
And for 219 pages made a mockery of it with erecting that most noxious of walls       

By William Thorpe, I am detained in Solitary Confinement at Virginias Red Onion State Prison