12/02/2012

Redemptive Solitude - A Question of Justice

Drawing by Spoon
The question of justice and equal treatment for the poor, prisoners and people of color in America is absurd, and all the pundits, lawyers, judges, activists and legal folks know that. Historically, it is a question of power and a question of games.
What is most disturbing to me, is how hard it is for the public in America to see how prison is inherently retributive, evil, unforgiving and a deterrent. When prisons need to be more than just an ugly place. If the public used their senses, empirical and empathic, they would know how important some kind of positive flow is.
If individual members of the public spent a few hours, a night or a day in a cell, perhaps in solitary confinement they would realize how deep the wounds are and go. The public would then see no need to heap punishment upon punishment on people already dispirited and beaten down by their actions and losses in life. Being deprived of family contact, indeed human contact is like being denied sunshine for a life time. The concentration of all this negative energy into one place without any positive outlets for prisoners can be stifling, particularly to the human spirit. It is like a saucer of water in a boiling Mojave desert. God gave Satan a second chance even in hell.
The early Quakers had a proper idea about justice and solitude as a place of redemption. The Quakers in 1826 originally thought when they created the first penitentiary that aloneness with a bible and a tiny sun roof was enough to reform folks.
The solitude could have been productive and redemptive had it been an all inclusive healing form of solitude. Yes, spiritually, meditatively based. They had a proper intent, but the wrong format. The Quakers did not know how prison life was, how it can be a continually expanding pit. They did not know how lifeless solitary confinement can be when orchestrated by politics, government and a justice system that creates a nasty form of isolation. Solitude made out of punishment and inhumanity can never be productive.
No beings, human or not, should be kept in cages without any interaction with other human beings or nature. Such alienation can only lead to
dysfunction, mental and spiritual health problems. Just like the overcrowding of institutions are equally horrible and inhumane.
Respected solitude can be just and enlightening and not much different than monks or nuns, shamans or other folks seeking healing and communion with spirit and self. It can be a means of growth and forgiveness of souls suffering through the solitude.
But, isolation based on revenge, money, punishment and retribution cannot heal people. The solitude must be a blessed space of aloneness, and allow people to meet with people, spirits to meet with spirits, and hearts to meet with hearts. If you take away all that makes one human, how do you expect them to be human, and balance their one foot in darkness and one foot in light.
If the goal of penitentiaries are to redeem, heal and self rehabilitate, the solitude, treatment and justice must be an all inclusive meditative space of realness. The animal inside all humans suffer horribly without human contact and respected space with visits, exercise, meditation, arts, books, education, family, friends and nature to heal and bring about justice in America's prison system of politics and injustice. Justice must be a living and breathing healing entity, like Mother Earth.

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