Virginia Prisons Accountability Committee: September 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

On The March 30th 2017 Tour of Red Onion State Prison [ROSP] By Interfaith Action for Human Rights [IAHR]

On Thursday, March 30th, 2017; a coterie of self-styled advocates for prison reform in Virginia including members of the group, Interfaith Action for Human Rights [IAHR] toured Virginia's Red Onion State Prison [ROSP].

The group walked past cells in c-building ROSP's primary solitary confinement building. Cells which held and hold prisoners who are denied outside exercise, showers and sometimes meals. They walked past cells improperly and inadequately holding mental health prisoners. [it is noteworthy that since 2014, 3 prisoners in solitary confinement in ROSP's C-Building have committed suicide], They walked past the cells holding prisoners, some of whom have been in Solitary Confinement over 20 years and the walk through, tour for them was a festive affair. Their voices rang giddy with the excitement of being inside the ROSP environment. As one asked their tour guide [a member of ROSP's investigative or intelligence department] could they go out into the outside exercise cages! Then a prisoner's voice yelling through a cell door, in C-Buildings 3/pod called to account the spectacle that prisoners are not animal exhibits or displays in a zoo.

IAHR in its subsequent newsletter/email titled "Report on visit to Red Onion State Prison" gave itself the proverbial congratulatory pat on the back.

What IAHR and its ilk ignore is: 1. Prison officials work for citizens of society which also includes prisoners. 2. Advocates for prison reform shouldn't be motivated by friendship with prisoners or prison officials. What I mean by prison reform shouldn't be motivated by amicability with either prisoners or prison officials is this: Prison reform is necessary because prison and imprisonment stand at the accountability apogee of society, playing a crucial and pivotal role to the social contract and compact. Because when society practice of imprisonment is done in an idealistic and reactionary manner, society as a whole suffers and pays the price. Because prisoners, once released from the imprisonment, who have been brutalized and dehumanized while in prison will now interact with an unsuspecting society in alienating and destructive ways and daily news accounts bear this out. to which prison officials are quick to shift the narrative and blame prisoners and the released prisoner for whatever stupid mayhem the released prisoner brings society. But the reality is prison officials are squarely and primarily to blame because of the idealistic conditions and sadistic treatment they subjected that imprisoned human to. Conditions which if the prisoner before the imprisonment was deviant, prison officials and their prison experimentation have now catalyzed and enabled the maturation of the deviancy. So society's interest in prison reform is primarily all about society's self-interest because to put it simply, accountability irrespective of the subjective is the objective of the social-contract and compact.

But as it related to IAHR and their March 30, 2017, ROSP tour, IAHR is oblivious to all that I have said. If Government is, to quote Abraham Lincoln, "of, by and for the people", prison officials are functionaries of government and are not exempt from the"..... by and for the people" nature of government and the only dilemma [which IAHR in its "Report on visit to Red Onion" describes itself as facing] was when it was confronted with the inadequacy and immaturity of its understanding and perspective of what is the prison official in a modern American prison. Which was starkly exposed by IAHR's behavior, its interaction with ROSP officials prior to and during the March 30, 2017, tour within the fraudulent context that it is about prison officials and the gentility of their sensibilities.

IAHR doesn't see the prison officials as a functionary of government which then means it doesn't understand that the only interactive operative prison officials have with society is that of accountability, specifically treatment of the imprisoned and how it readies and prepares them for release in a practical manner and not self-serving sloganeering for budgetary opportunities.

Instead, IAHR's behavior on March 30th, 2017, revealed it has a fantasy, an idea, a supposition that prison officials are to be reasoned with, cajoled or implored. Which then upends the only relevant fact: Which as I've stated, prison officials are functionaries of government and are bound by law, procedures, and policies to which they must and can only be held accountable.

Had IAHR interacted with ROSP officials within accountability imperative and context it wouldn't have accepted Virginia Department of Corrections and ROSP's  pre-condition for the tour, that it shouldn't talk to prisoners, whom it claims its advocacy is for?  Maybe prison officials wouldn't have permitted the tour. But then IAHR could have challenged such a decision and the obvious lack of accountability by 1. Legal action to obtain access to ROSP and 2. Politicizing the issue of access to ROSP and if it took a ballot initiative to specify public access to prisons which are governmental function funded by tax payers, so be it.

Instead on March 30th, 2017, IAHR and advocates for prison reform walked right past cells holding prisoners at Red Onion State whose conditions and experiences are the self-claimed basis and motive-force for the advocacy. Once again IAHR and prison reform advocates toured Solitary Confinement building at ROSP, walking right past cells that held and hold prisoners who experience daily violations of the United States, Virginia Law, and Prison procedures and policies. But because of a pre-condition that only mocked and undercut the very reason for prison reform advocacy, IAHR rendered itself impotent.

By William Thorpe

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