Yesterday I asked my buddy Sean Nader if he would rather be in general population in a maximum security prison for five years (at this point he stopped me and said something to the effect of “I really doubt that whatever the other choice is could be worse than that”) or, would you rather have both the intellect and the maladies of Stephen Hawking?
After about a minute of silence, Sean came back with “I’d rather be in the prison” and I gotta say, I agree with him entirely. Yes, prison would be terrible. There’s all sorts of crazy shit that sounds like it goes on in there. Motherfuckers are getting stabbed and beat up and tattooing each other’s faces and making people suck their dicks and all sorts of crazy shit. I bet the food’s no good and I furthermore bet that the part that’s worse than any of that is that there’s no one there that gives a shit about you and when you have a bad day (uh…someone puts your face into a shit filled toilet and fucks you up the ass, for example) there’s no one you can call and talk to, or slide into bed next to (well, I guess you might have someone to slide into bed next to, but that’s gotta be a major part of the bad day in most cases, right?) that will help you sort of recover and just be sympathetic and nice to you. It’s gotta be cold. And I sincerely bet that’s the worst part. The lack of compassion and sympathy and general humanity.
I mean, I’ve never been to prison and it’s one of those places I hope I never go. I imagine that the cinderblock walls and the general ugly-on-purpose aesthetic is even more soul crushing than the lack of women and the fact that you’ve gotta wipe your ass right there in front of someone, but who knows? I could be wrong. I’ve known people who have ended up in prison and come out and been okay. There are lots of people who have gotten out of prison and come out and been hugely successful, like Dog the Bounty Hunter for example. I mean, I don’t know much about the ass kicking or prison raping pecking order in jail, but I’ve gotta imagine the leathery football with the bouffant and feather earrings is up there on the list of ‘people to stab when they walk into the blindspot over behind the pillar on the way to the soda machine,’ don’tcha think? One would think. Shit sounds like kind of a bummer, but the Dog? He turned out just fine (extreme racism notwithstanding). I guess that’s kind of the exception to the rule though. Usually you probably get out with a new questionable tattoo, a nice new stab wound or two and a general hatred for a world you’re no longer allowed to be a real part of. Sheeesh.
And to top it off, I just read a disturbing report that says that the vast majority of the sexual abuse that happens in jails is perpetrated by the guards. That’s genuinely terrifying. Everyone I’ve ever met who’s ever been in jail or prison says the same thing, namely: that the guards are worse than even the shittiest prisoners, and hey, if they’re doing most of the raping, it doesn’t take me too much of a leap of imagination to see why they say that. I can’t even imagine the kind of psychological torture that you’ve gotta endure on a day in, day out basis in order to wind up the kind of person that wants to work as a correctional officer. I mean, I can fathom what leads someone to kill an enemy or steal some shit. I can understand the motivation behind misguided notions of using violence to spread ideology and I even kind of understand (brace yourselves) why someone would take or sell drugs, but man…no way can I wrap my head around the idea of being a free person and deciding that I was gonna go work in a prison and spend my days dehumanizing people for a living before I came home to my regular life every evening. I mean, what the fuck do you have to be about for that to seem like something you’d be interested in doing? I know people who go into volunteer programs where they do literacy workshops at jails, and even under the umbrella of being a goodwill ambassador, none of them have ever mentioned LIKING being in there. To go in there as the enemy and wage war on prisoners every day seems like something that only the most very deranged folks on the planet would ever do. People who were beaten by their parents, bad at everything they ever tried, made fun of for virtually every aspect of their personality and cowardly to boot seem to be the only people who’d fit the unique profile it would take to be a prison officer.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong, right? I hope so, because the whole thing is such an enormous mass of sadness that it’s threatening to derail what seems like a pretty nice day. I, a person who’s not in prison, will take my kids to the park, walk my dogs, pick out a nice place to eat lunch, perhaps with friends, and probably take a nap at some point after we eat. I’ll also go to the gym and get in a fight in the shower, but that part sounds like prison, so forget that.
Nope. Being in prison sounds like a bad time.
But you know what would be worse? Being in a prison in your own body. Sitting there, unable to move or do anything, but being perfectly alert and a brilliant mind to boot. You are smart enough that you’re a step away from mathematically disproving the existence of god (I am aware that you cannot prove that something doesn’t exist, so back off) and thereby the afterlife but you can’t do a goddamn thing while you’re here. You can’t chew. You can’t whack off. You can’t hug anyone. You can just exclusively sit there and piss your pants and atrophy while life goes on around you and you can bear witness to beauty, freedom, a naked chick here and there, a party full of people but you can NEVER participate. You’re in a prison that you’ll never get out of. That would be worse. Endlessly worse.
I wonder, if you asked Hawking if he would take the opportunity to get the full function of his body back if the stipulation was that he must exist in the general population of say, Leavenworth penitentiary for the first five years of his newfound mobility, what do you think he’d say? Well, probably not ‘say’ but what do you think his series of breaths into that tube would end up signifying? I mean, that kind of answers it, eh? He’d pick the prison. We all would. But he’s never gonna get to make that choice, and that’s a pretty rough reality to deal with. No escape but death. And to top it off, cursed with a mind that can probably imagine death and run wild with all the horrifying unknowns that are part and parcel with contemplating mortality. Fuuuuuuuuck that. I’m going to move my arms and shit for a while, then I’m going to walk outside in a mixed gender environment. I recommend you all do the same.
Um, any readers out there former or current inmates (or correctional officers for that matter)? I’d be real curious to hear about your experiences. Just throwing that out there. Kay. Later y’all.