New York State Prisons Have Entered A World Of Corporate Control Beyond Contempt

Traditionally, packages for people in prison were tailored to the specific needs and tastes of the particular inmate. Books were high on the list for many as reading provides something to do for people with a lot of time on their hands as well as being a vehicle for the imagination to soar beyond the confining walls of a prison. Some books have been credited with changing prisoners lives – and preparing them for successful reentry into life after prison. If there has been only one good thing about incarceration for some people it has been that they were introduced to reading as a discipline which opened their minds to possibilities they previously never knew existed.

Well, it looks as if that is going to change in New York this year. Apparently, the State of New York has decided to test a new policy which will prevent the friends and families of prison inmates from sending packages of items requested by incarcerated loved ones. Now, people are being forced to order from a limited amount of acceptable items that will be offered by state-approved vendors. Not only will this be a “legal” form of censorship in effectively banning specific books in prisons, even fresh fruits and vegetables and particular clothing appear to be on the list of items which will be banned.

This is despicable.

The New York State Corrections Department instituted this insidiously degrading policy as a pilot program in three prisons this month. According to The New York Times, they insist “it will help officers crack down on recent increases in package-room contraband.”

And plans are to increase implementation of the plan throughout the state system later in the year. It’s sad that few people will even read an article about this tragedy – never mind take action to prevent it. Prisoners in this country might as well be invisible. Usually, the only time corporate media decides to talk about prisoners it is either celebrities who blew “the good life” or dangerous inmates convicted of sensationally violent crimes. Either way, the intent is to make sure there is no sympathy from the general population.

Everyone, including prisoners, deserves clean water, nutritious food and health care. The privatization of prisons has created a situation in which civil servants are less likely to be in a position to protect the civil rights of prisoners, allowing them to be treated as human beings. Violence and cruelty have always been an integral part of the prison experience. This can only get worse when profits are all that matter.

And, with expenses being the only concern of a business enterprise, we’re seeing prisons getting away with detestable practices such as providing disgustingly dirty water that is causing illnesses, providing cheap food lacking nutrition and holding back necessary medications in prison populations around the country.

Obviously, one motive for this is to keep a tight grip on the minds and hearts of people who are already prevented from enjoying many “normal” things in life most of us take for granted.

But, another reason for this reprehensible policy is to allow for the enrichment of heartless business executives who have no qualms about profiting on the misery of fellow citizens. A few corporations will rake in obscene amounts of money procuring a pathetic array of items meant to make difficult lives more difficult – from the price-gouging of frozen “foods” and snacks filled with empty calories which dull bodies to reading material designed to dull minds.

A coalition of organizations has rallied to defend New York State prisoners by denouncing the policy change. The Legal Aid Society, PEN America and the National Supermarket Association have requested state officials to reconsider. New York State Representative Joseph Crowley, as well, has petitioned to at least have the book restriction reconsidered.

This is vile behavior from people who, almost without exception, were given circumstances which made life somewhat easier to deal with than many of the people they are punishing with this policy change. This is shameful and should not be excused with the apathetic “oh, well that’s just the way it is” or worse, the attitude of “well, they probably deserve it, they’re in prison, right?”

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you can never imprison my mind.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Is this new policy (particularly the book ban) by New York State an evil response to this beautifully inspirational message?

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/nyregion/new-york-prisons-packages-books.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-4&action=click&contentCollection=N.Y.%20%2F%20Region&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

18 comments on “New York State Prisons Have Entered A World Of Corporate Control Beyond Contempt

  1. Apparently, anything goes, when it comes to making money. But here’s the thing: when profits are based on the exploitation of people (especially powerless people), those earnings are not derived by merit. (Please, people, don’t be so in awe of rich people.) This is not OK. The prison system deserves another DE-merit for this financially self-serving scheme of legalized robbery and abuse.

  2. Our capacity for cruelty to those already down is deplorable.

  3. This is another example of how the practice of corporatism destroys society from within. I watched a documentary recently on cultural polarization/social division where Bill Clinton was interviewed. He was asked a question on rising populist angst with respect to globalization. Clinton seemed visibly angered by the question, and he asserted that “free trade” policies are being incorrectly perceived as a “zero-sum” game. His assertion intended to refute the popular notion that giveaways to, and the empowerment of, transnational corporations would not be done at the expense of the general population. Yeah, right. Go back to Arkansas, Bill!

  4. These are crucial issues to raise, especially when the initiative is in the “pilot project” stage. There’s still an opportunity to change the paradigm. There are other choices we could/should be pursuing, even if we’re only motivated by wise investments. Of course, no institutions really want to be successful at the cost of their survival. Prisons need a steady supply of “criminals” to survive. Recidivism is more profitable for prisons than successful reintegration. Yet there are examples that offer hope.

    One of the students I was working with in the past did her internship in a state medium security women’s prison. Her on-site supervisor was one of the most amazing social workers I have ever met. She created all types of programs to address issues. She secured grants for educational opportunities (GED, technical job skills), treatment programs for victims of abuse and assault, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and a special unit where mothers could spend extended time with their children, learning how to parent and keeping family bonds intact. It made me wonder why we, as a society, made women wait until prison for issues to be addressed. So much pain (and expense) could have been prevented if we provided the same type of help for people in the community. But luckily for the women in this prison, they did finally have access to the types of support that was not available earlier.

    I am grateful for the important work you do raising awareness!

  5. It’s sickening and very sad. Isn’t it?

  6. Though I’ve seen and heard it virtually my entire life, it stills amazes me when I hear corporate parasites brazenly tried to explain away despicable behavior that dehumanizes us all as we’re part of it in some way whether we like to admit it or not. Why we continue to allow people without compassion or empathy into our government at ANY position – never mind in positions of supreme power is beyond reasonable explanation. Ironically, these predatory types are who should be in prison instead of (often) ordinary people who found themselves in desperate situations due to poverty inflicted by a violent system.

  7. Thank you.

    Some issues are virtually invisible so need more work to garner attention. This is one. Prisoners face horrible conditions every day, conditions that no one should have to deal with.

    “It made me wonder why we, as a society, made women wait until prison for issues to be addressed.”

    This is the key to understanding this type of shameful behavior on the part of people in positions of power. In one word: Capitalism. It’s all about the money. Yeah, it sounds like a cliche, a handy excuse we pull out when we want to address an issue, but that’s what it’s about. We’ve built modern society around a heartless economic system that has no room for compassion or understanding. There can be no justice without compassion and understanding. In a system in which everything is for sale, integrity and truth are sold on the open market. Obviously, this negates them. We treat instead of cure. This is associated with the allopathic path of medicine we’ve chosen, but pertains to mental health and all types of rehabilitation.

    Recidivism increases profits so it becomes desired. Just as treating illness brings in profits for the pharmaceautical firms that run our sickness care system so we make sure we don’t cure. It’s literally insane to devise a system like this yet…

    Obviously, we have a lot of work to do. We need to bring more attention to people like the social worker you mentioned. We need to inspire people to want to help those in need instead of helping those who have more than they need.

  8. Thank you for sharing this. It never ceases to amaze me how people in positions of power can abuse the most vulnerable in society while simultaneously creating the illusion of legitimacy for their own misdeeds. This is despicable indeed and another indication of how unforgivably corrupt our society has allowed itself to become.

  9. I couldn’t have said it better myself. The corruption appears at every level of society. The predators who profit from this are obviously corrupt, but we must examine the behavior of a population that will allow this to happen and continue to act as if everything is as it should be. We need to figure out how to reach people deep inside their hearts, get them to throw off their apathy and reconnect.

    Thanks for doing your part.

  10. Excellent comments by contributors. You sum up well the malady of our economic system when you say: “We’ve built modern society around a heartless economic system that has no room for compassion or understanding. There can be no justice without compassion and understanding. In a system in which everything is for sale, integrity and truth are sold on the open market.”

  11. Why is it that we have wise people reading and writing blog posts, but not in positions of power in this country? Somebody needs to step up and take the power away from the greedy, aggressive parasites who are running the show…

  12. Well said, Mark. Awareness is an important and essential step forward towards change.

  13. People are stepping up. It’s just not publicized by mainstream media.

  14. Yes, Rosaliene, you’re right. I ignored my own advice and was being impatient. 🙂

    People are stepping up, but it’s only a trickle. We need to figure out how to turn that trickle into a steady stream, then watch a wave of conscious legislation transform the country into a compassionate democracy where justice reigns. But it won’t be easy.

  15. Is it new? I had a friend who was in Attica around 10-15 yrs ago who needed a new pair of boots. I had to order them from a special prison catalog company that handled the shipping as well. Struck me as probably corrupt at the time!

  16. I believe that in the past only limited items were controlled that way. Now, New York is putting a restriction on all items and with that comes censorship (a crime against truth) and the ability for people who profit on the incarceration of fellow citizens to exert another type of control over diet and behavior (a deceptive form of torture).

    Thanks for the comment and continue the conversation. People need to hear these ugly truths. We can never give up.


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