Discussion in 'Debate and Discussion' started by Jason McCullough, Jan 25, 2013.
....why in the living hell can prisons force feed you?
Because they have statistically significant number of prisoners with mental health and behavioral issues, for which refusing to eat is just one of a myriad number of ways for them to act out? Let's not even get into the more sane, rational people who recognize it as a way to reject the authority that's stripped all their dignity away.
But the point is, we as a society accept that, as a general rule, prison isn't a place where you should be going to die. You serve your time, they keep you alive, and the force-feeding is an unfortunate byproduct of that. The alternative is stuff like indian or turkish prisons, where the prisoner is only as valuable as what they can be soaked for.
Since when does "they're mentally ill" automatically justify force-feeding? In practical terms, it doesn't matter; they don't appear to have classified him as such
I think I missed the legal background around this, much less the automatic tradeoff between "we will not let you kill yourself" and "third world hellhole."
I should have been clearer; I meant my comment to be more general and not about this specific case. And mentally ill does not justify abuse, but just as you sometimes need to restrain someone, sometimes they need to be fed. It's an extreme, the alternative to which is alternately horrible. For instance,
I'm sympathetic to the guy. It's clear he wants to commit suicide, and this is best path to that goal. But we do really want to offer assisted suicide in jails? Can you imagine how that would come out?
Not that it makes me comfortable with the force-feeding, but this guy apparently has vastly more control over his life than almost anyone else currently incarcerated. Also if you poke around the website about him it looks like he's kind of an MRA hero, so there's that.
Anyway, as ugly as this is I don't think just letting him starve to death is too good either. Honestly it sounds like he should have been moved to a mental institution years ago.[/quote]
Framing it as him "trying to stay in prison" because he refuses to sign the sex offender registry is more than a little bit disingenuous.
Those are the article's words, not mine.
I know, I'm just bitching about the article.
Your prison system is fucked and some of your prisons are the closest we'll get to third world hellholes in a western world country, however I don't think giving prisoners - guilty or not - the choice to kill themselves is any solution.
Why not? I have very few qualms about it outside of jail though, so I'm not exactly a mainstream opinion here.
I have very few qualms about assisted suicide outside of jails. Inside, however, I think it's a terrible idea.
If we had some sort of gloriously perfect prison system in which people were rehabilitated, their rights preserved, and they were gently guided towards becoming better human beings atoning for past deeds, while their captors treated them with dignity and respect, then, sure, assisted suicide in prisons. But so long as we're locking people in hellish conditions where it's treated as waaaaaacky popular comedy that the inmates will be repeatedly brutalized by each other, and that guards will help make sure this happens if they don't like someone, I think that offering "Also, we can help you die at any time!" is a horrible plan. The hideous abuses of the system are high enough already without adding death to the approved potential outcomes.
Forcing people to endure it seems like a rather backwards way of going about keeping it from getting worse.
Well, let's also keep in mind there's a non-trivial amount of people with mental illness, like I said. There's also tremendously elevated levels of depression and anxiety inherent in the environment, as well little-to-no social support. Finally, there's a huge number of people in there on inflated drug sentences.
It definitely should be improved, that's for certain, but allowing one to check out permanently is not a solution. It also just hit me that there would be a huge (and rightly so) uproar from the black community, way over-represented in prison, about the government plot to exterminate young black males.
No, no. I'm not saying that people who legitimately want to die should be forced to keep enduring the prison life. That's another argument, but it's not the one I meant.
What I'm saying is that I do not trust the American prison system to correctly and justly administer an assisted suicide option. In fact, I fully believe that they'd rapidly start trying to kill "problem" prisoners, or just ones that someone in charge didn't like, as quickly as possible, under the pretense of such a thing, whether by faking the request/agreement for the suicide, or by actively trying to torment those people enough that they would "choose" to commit suicide.
Insisting they keep people alive isn't because I think people don't have a right to determine when they die. It's because I don't trust those bastards in charge to actually put any effort into keeping prisoners not deemed Profitable or Friendly to them alive if they are given any opportunity to do otherwise "legally".
It is indeed hard to allow someone to kill themselves in prison without opening the door for a whole mess of "he killed himself, yup" incidents. Instead we go the opposite route, where if someone manages to kill themselves in prison there's an investigation into how exactly that managed to happen without anyone noticing.
That said, the force feeding isn't just something prisons can do. They sued to be allowed to do it in this case for fear of him dying without it. The whole thing is fucked up, but it's also the only way to deal with a hunger strike without simply going "well, okay, you're a free man I guess", because the public just loves when you say "welp, have fun starving to death while we watch!" instead.
I do agree that force feeding is horrible. Unfortunately, it seems like the US prisons are currently in a state such that just about anything they do has horrible consequences, because doing anything good with them is unlikely to be 1) politically viable enough for someone in the government to make them do it, or 2) profitable enough to the corporations that run them to make them start doing it.
And now I am depressed just thinking about it. I guess it is a benefit of privilege that I usually don't have to think about this shit.
I'm missing the part where the State of Connecticut doesn't let him out since his sentence is over.
Or could not result in that? I'm not sure how the law works there, maybe it's an automatic parole violation with no discretion on the part of the criminal justice system.
So what do you do when you see a prisoner trying to kill himself? Say they see him create a noose from a sheet and put it around his neck and he's choking to death? Or if you find him bleeding from the wrists? Where's the line where you allow someone to kill themselves while under your control (and while you are accountable for them?)
This one is kind of weird, in terms of him being able to leave earlier? Doing a small amount of research, I'm dubious of whether he is actually guilty. When you go back to 2005 and read about the case, he passed a lie detector test, the wife filed as they disputed child custody, she didn't go to the hospital after she claimed he raped her because she said it wasn't a priority, and it was purely a he said-she said case. And when you look at charges that occur during child custody cases, it's pretty clear that things like this happen pretty commonly. One example I know of first hand, a friend of my parents was accused by his wife of child abuse when they started a child custody fight after a divorce. She never accused him before the child custody fight, the kids themselves didn't testify for some reason, seemed like no evidence at all other than her accusations, but he was put in jail (not prison) and was told to either plead to some level of guilt or sit in jail for a long time waiting for a trial and the crap shoot of being sent to prison labeled a child abuser.
I can see that, but that's not the story we're discussing. There's a difference between actively helping someone kill themselves and suing for the right to force feed him.
Sometimes a slippery slope really is a slippery slope - this is one of those times.
It's really not that hard to understand.
They can't just use their discretion to decide who gets to kill themselves and who doesn't, and we don't trust them to administer a set of rules where suicide is sometimes ok - so we err on the side of not letting prisoners off themselves.
But the rules have to be blanket rules, not a case by case basis. Having it sometimes be okay for a prisoner to commit suicide walks into a mess of issues with accountability and questionable situations. And if you've come to the conclusion that suicide is not permissible, then force feeding or freeing the prisoner are your only options. And one of those has shittier consequences than the other.
Is suing for the right to force feed with no attached diagnosis of mental illness a "blanket rule"? That's the part that bothers me; if they really thought he was mentally ill and got a designation, sure.
Because they're not force feeding due to mental illness. They're finding any way to prevent his death. The part you seem confused on is why they're going to any lengths to prevent death, and that's what we're trying to explain:
Allowing death in edge cases (dude just really wants to die) opens the door to corpses showing up in prisons and the administrators saying "he was suicidal, so we totally let him!" on a frequent basis. Instead we default to "death in prison: BAD", and any corpses lead to immediate investigations into what the fuck happened in order to keep our prisons honest.
We don't allow suicide not because we're against the idea of prisoners killing themselves, we're against the idea of prisoners being executed with an easy evidence dodge. That means this dude doesn't get what he wants even if everyone agrees there's no harm in it. He's an edge case.
Yeah, if you know he is trying to kill himself and he is in your total control and you are totally accountable for him, I don't think you are in a pick and choose situation re: who you allow to kill themselves.
Can you guys provide actual citations that your theory is why prison systems operate this way? It's mentioned exactly twice in the court decision along with a zillion other rationales, and they describe it as "state's interest in preserving his life", nothing so precious as preventing prisons from killing inmates. They also come to a different conclusion than 1993 California case.
In short, I'm not buying it. Look at their summary:
The prison therapist diagnosing him as having a narcissist disorder for wanting to starve himself to death, because, you know, he has kids to support! is comedy gold, by the way.
Also in the background here: the state's long history of force-feeding political prisoners on hunger strikes for explicitly PR-related reasons.
I'd never try to rationalize it beyond the simple fact that the prisoner is under the care and responsibility of the prison system, and thus they have to take steps to prevent the prisoner from killing himself, be it via hanging, cutting his wrists, or starving himself to death.
Sadly, the justice system appears to strongly disagree with your theory.
Well even if you don't like the slippery slope of 'Ooops, guess we got another suicide' there is also a 'stick' or fairness theory on why we should keep prisoners alive rather than letting them commit suicide. By which I mean that imprisonment is the punishment decided for them by the state and justice apparatus and they don't get to opt out of that punishment in any way that they prefer. The loss of control over their lives is precisely the punishment that prison is supposed to be delivering and what could be a more ultimate loss of control than losing the option to take your own life? There are people that argue that death via the death penalty or suicide is an 'easy way out' for some prisoners who don't want to face up to their responsibilities or their crimes in life. There are lots of problems with prisons but I don't think keeping people alive is one of them.
In short, the sentence reads 10 years in prison not ten years or a choice of deaths.
Well there are nested issues here. There is why the prison/particular legal authority is acting the way they are in this particular case which, as is usually the way with public bureaucracies is about acting in a risk averse way to be in compliance with the laws and guidelines as they believe them to be. Then there is the broader question about why the laws, systems and guidelines are setup the way that they are so that in most western countries we try (often unsuccessfully) to stop prisoners from killing themselves as a matter of course. I suspect that actually has very little to do with significant obvious public outcrys at the death of prisoners, because really you never want to underestimate the bloodthirsty-ness of the average person towards people they regard as wrong'uns. What it more likely has to do with, like a lot of the good parts of the criminal justice system, is a combination of:
Years of institutional wisdom built up in the world-wide criminal justice system. In this case as to the perverse situations that result when you turn prisons into suicide free for alls.
Careful campaigning by prison reformers (see: Elizabeth Fry & Prime Minister Robert Peel for some examples) in years long past that highlighted some particularly emotive cases to the right sorts of people who were willing to listen (often in defiance of popular opinion).
It helps to read the opinion and not out of context quotes. The court found that the state had presented evidence that supported four different state interests: "(1) preserving the defendant’s life; (2) preventing the defendant’s suicide; (3) protecting the defendant’s children as innocent third parties; and (4) maintaining safety, security and order within the prison system." It is implied that the first two interests are based on the state's responsibility for the prisoners in its care.
Also, the fact that the court never mentions the risk that prisons could intentionally or negligently permit prisoners to die if prison suicide was permissible does not mean that it doesn't or wouldn't or couldn't happen. It means it's not the sort of thing we talk about in polite conversation, particularly judicial opinions. It's not likely that the State of Connecticut argued "don't let this guy starve himself because if you do, we're going to start killing off prisoners." It's not Arizona.
I'll ignore your characterization for the sake of the peace.
No one ever said prisons can do whatever they like to prisoners. They can't line them all up daily and beat them just to let them know who's boss, for example. On the other hand, there has to be some degree of order, as well as ensuring that the inmates are kept safe and healthy, since they are, in fact, in the prison's care. I'd like to know how one is supposed to run a prison system while maintaining full autonomy for the inmates.
Not whatever we like but serving time in prison is contingent on the prisoner being alive so, while we shouldn't allow prisoners to be abused or denied other fundamental human rights while in prison, if freedom of action/movement is the right we are going to deny people for a set duration as (at least partly) a punishment then it is incumbent on us to keep the people so punished alive to be able to deny them that right.
I don't have time to dig into it fully, but I think ultimately prisons/jails have to provide for the Health/Safety/Welfare of inmates by law. The forced feeding stuff is just the logical extension of that. Curiously, in looking at Washington State Dept of Corrections policy info, they do have policies on force feeding inmates - the one exception is that if an inmate is terminally ill.
It does mean, however, that the court isn't using it as a legal evaluation. Which means the state is probably not evaluating it.
If what you guys were talking about was the legal constraints being used we'd have a fairer and better prison system, but we're not. Using the controlling set of rules their objections - "it might make trouble" are ridiculous IMHO. What next, forbidding prisoners from letter-writing if it results in bad PR?
1) Is reasonable.
2) There are no legal grounds for the state to be involved in #2, IMHO, and their reasons for why their is tenous as hell. They have not declared him mentally ill.
3) Is a goddamn joke - oh, we'll put him in fucking prison without concern for his children, but as soon as he does something we don't like it's suddenly very important.
4) Is completely outlandish.
Dude, suicide isn't legal. It's still an implicit common-law crime, and assisted suicide is still illegal.
How do you penalize someone for suicide? Attempted suicide? I've always wondered that and it's easier to ask internet people than to search for answers on my own.
Can they arrest you to stop you if you're in the process of committing suicide on the street?
Not for attempting suicide per se. Police will usually step in, however, because they can arrest you if they deem you to be endangering others or creating a disturbance. In addition, at least in some states, you would be subject to involuntary commitment to a mental institution, and as Aaron pointed out, assisted suicide is illegal most places.
Bottom line -- we generally don't stand by and let people kill themselves if we have the power to stop it.
You win on that one! *shakes fist*
You must have seen the million or so scenes in films and tv shows where the police try to talk down a jumper.
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