Thursday, November 16, 2006

So you wonder what its like in the Maricopa County Jail?

Sometimes its interesting just to hit the "next" button to see what random blog comes up to view. I did that today. And I found a blog written by a British citizen that is/was confined to the prison in Maricopa Co., Arizona.

You might remember Maricopa Co. and its hardline, old west sheriff, Joe Arpaio, "America's toughest sheriff." The sheriff likes to cut back on amenities at his jail and make prison as bad as it can be on its residents. He admitted as such; hell, he campaigned on it.

On the inmate's blog, I saw a link to an article that appeared in 2004 in The Guardian. The article contained portions of the inmate's diary account of his stay at the Maricopa Co. jail.

Here's an except:

April Fool's day

My cellmate Mark is stuck at the "unable-to-eat-the-jail-food" stage. Approximately three months ago, Mark suffered his first ever arrest, and he has shed 30lbs while in the hoosegow [jail]. His main source of sustenance is the inmate canteen order form, from which he mostly orders Cheez-its, chips (assorted), Granola bars and mixed nuts. Slimmed-down-Mark no longer resembles his booking photo, because he barely touches the jail offerings.

Prison inmates who get transferred to the jail joke about how luxurious prison food is vis-a-vis jail meals. (Jail is where unsentenced prisoners are housed and prison is where you go when you are sentenced.) In jail, chow is served twice each day. Breakfast arrives at 8.30am and consists of six slices of stale white bread (the probability of colourful mould growing on a slice is 33%), raw breakfast meat (the probability of it being bologna is 50%, green bologna is 25%), grapefruits or oranges collected during neighbourhood refuse clean-up campaigns (the probability of them being rotten is 50%), one packet of stale and bright orange-coloured, bordering on luminous, cheese crackers, and a beverage, which is a half-pint of fat-free milk.

The evening's below-lukewarm culinary delights consist of unsalted boiled potatoes (the probability of receiving a mound of potato peel encrusted with dirt is 25%; of human hair being discovered in the spuds is 25%), mystery meat slop (the probability of a dead rat in the stew is minimal, though I did see a rat's head served in 2002), a vegetable (the probability of leathery eggplant is 25%), a small, undressed salad, more stale bread and a cup of brightly coloured juice, which, if spilled, makes a permanent stain on the table. As I am a yoga-practising vegetarian, I receive peanut butter and veggie burgers as substitutes for the meat.

Now I know that he's an inmate. And I know he's not the most objective person to tell this story. But considering that Sheriff Arpaio has admitted to giving near rotten fruits and veggies to his inmates, I find the inmate's stories to be credible. And it's an example of some much needed prison reform.

This is the United States of America. How we treat our inmates and our prisoners of war does matter. Criminals must be punished. But they deserve all basic necessities including a clean, temperate place to stay and food that is reasonably fresh and nutritious.

Prisoners also deserve to be kept safe in prison, at least as safe as possible. And they should be entitled to social services such as medical, counseling and other rehabilitation techniques. Especially for those that will one day re-enter society.

4 comments:

Rocky Hunter said...

I don't disagree with you, but I have to wonder why a prisoner is given access to a blogging application. Food, water, shelter - I'm on board with that. But internet access? I have to question if this is the best use of taxpayer funds.

Button Gwinnett said...

I wondered about that too as I'm pretty sure that inmates aren't allowed to have internet access. But I either read on his blog or in Guardian article that he writes his notes on paper and someone else takes care of the blog for him.

BTW, I once received an email from "Richy Ramirez" and the sender's address was San Quentin, CA. I checked and that is where the infamous Nightstalker Richard Ramirez is housed. But surely, ole "Richy" isn't hanging out sending emails. It was sort of creepy though!

Vanessa said...

Hate to burst you bubble but Richy Ramirez is NOT the Nightstalker. There are two Richard Ramirez on death row in San Quentin

Button Gwinnett said...

Ah, I see. Thanks for clearing that up. Mystery solved.