Two contrasting articles on prisons. One from ‘The New Yorker’ and the other one from ‘The Guardian’.
Six million people are under correctional supervision in the U.S.—more than were in Stalin’s gulags.
A prison is a trap for catching time. Good reporting appears often about the inner life of the American prison, but the catch is that American prison life is mostly undramatic—the reported stories fail to grab us, because, for the most part, nothing happens. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades. It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates. The inmates on death row in Texas are called men in “timeless time,” because they alone aren’t serving time: they aren’t waiting out five years or a decade or a lifetime. The basic reality of American prisons is not that of the lock and key but that of the lock and clock. Read more…
Edwina Grosvenor: the lady who can’t leave jail
Born into almost unimaginable wealth and privilege, Lady Edwina Grosvenor is not someone you might expect to bump into on a prison landing. But over the past 12 years, the second daughter of Britain’s richest landowner (the Duke of Westminster, 7th on Britain’s Rich List with a fortune of around £7.3bn) has been quietly establishing a role for herself as a discreet but potent champion of prison reform. Her work, which began when she spent part of her gap year working in Kathmandu Central prison in Nepal when she was 18, has taken her into more than 50 prisons in the UK and abroad. Aged 22, she commissioned research into the multiple needs of ex-offenders. Since then she has sat in on prisoner adjudications, been involved in restorative justice sessions and spent a year as a support worker in the notorious Styal women’s prison in Cheshire. As impressive as her prison-related activities are however, the big question for me is: why? Read more…
You see man throughout the world imprisoned
Let us for a moment, imaginatively at least, look over the world from a point of view which will reveal the inner workings and the outer workings of man, his creations and his battles; and if you can do that imaginatively for a moment, what do you see spread before you? You see man imprisoned by innumerable walls, walls of religion, of social, political and national limitations, walls created by his own ambitions, aspirations, fears, hopes, security, prejudices, hate and love. Within these barriers and prisons he is held, limited by the coloured maps of national boundaries, racial antagonisms, class struggles and cultural group distinctions. You see man throughout the world imprisoned, enclosed by the limitations, the walls of his own creation. Through these walls and through these enclosures he is trying to express what he feels and what he thinks, and within these he functions with joy and with sorrow. So you see man throughout the world as a prisoner, imprisoned within the walls of his own creation, within the walls of his own making; and through these enclosures, through these walls of environment, through the limitation of his ideas, ambitions and aspirations – through these he is trying to function, sometimes successfully, and sometimes with hideous struggle. And the man who succeeds in making himself comfortable in the prison we call successful, whereas the man who succumbs in the prison we call a failure. But both success and failure are within the walls of the prison. J. Krishnamurti Ojai 7th Public Talk 24th June, 1934. Source