St. Clair Prison: America’s Hell on Earth
In a recent article published by the New York Times, the grotesque and inhuman treatment of prisoners in an Alabama prison was exposed to the public. The St. Clair Correctional Facility is hell on earth for inmates serving time there. The prison is said to have experienced “a total breakdown of the necessary structures that are required to operate a prison safety”. The prison is currently operating at 172% of capacity, a surprising drop from recent years, but is experiencing a lack of leadership as correctional officers are in short supply. However, even if a steady supply of officers was available, the rampant violence found within the facility would still be present. According to an article published by Vice correctional officers regularly participate in the contraband trade occurring amongst prisoners, and often order violence attacks against prisoners who do not comply with their rules; no one is safe and no higher order is in place to offer safety to the most vulnerable prisoners.
While reading both of these articles I was absolutely sickened by the way these inmates were being treated. Regardless of the crimes they committed their humanity is still present and should be of some significance; the St. Clair Correctional facility has cut them off from society and allowed them to be treated like lifeless zombies, rather than human beings. Perhaps the most shocking fact of the institution is the way inmates are lacking basic health care while in the prison. The health care that is provided to inmates is virtually nonexistent. Alabama spends the least on inmates than nearly all other states. As a result inmates face life threatening circumstances. For instance, suicidal prisoners are offered no treatment in the facility. The New York Times article even stated that the correctional staff at the St. Clair prison had been known to give suicidal prisoners razor blades and often placed certain ones under DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders without their consent. These instances show how little lives are valued behind the walls of the facility.
To continue, the facility also perpetuates racism. The cell blocks that house black inmates are without books, newspapers, televisions, and various other forms of entertainment. The majority of beatings and rapes occur in these blocks, likely due to the lack of inclusion, programs, and various amenities. Meanwhile, the cell blocks that house white inmates are more likely to have these conveniences. Also, another issue is a lack of cultural understanding between the correctional officers and the inmates. The inmates are primarily from bigger cities with more diversity in Alabama, while the officers are from rural areas that lack diversity. For example, Birmingham has a black population of 73% from the total population, but Springville, where many of the officers are from, is 93% white. This ties back to a reading we’ve covered in class, which suggested that officers should serve the community they live in if better communal ties want to be created.
Overall, I’d like to hear what everyone thinks about the treatment of inmates and the neglect they face. Often, we neglect to remember that these inmates are people and deserve institutions that seek to rehabilitate them. In order to improve conditions of prisons like St. Clair, it is essential that we approach prison reform with the idea that humanity should be preserved.
Robertson, Campbell. “An Alabama Prison’s Unrelenting Descent Into Violence.” The New York Times. March 28, 2017. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/us/alabama-prison-violence.html?_r=1.
“This Small Prison in Rural Alabama Is One of the Most Violent Places in America.” Vice. June 23, 2014. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/the-horrific-state-of-alabamas-prisons.