Holy Land this week. I decided not to take my computer, or even my
cell phone, and be totally incommunicado. Kind of like the old days.
How did they ever survive back in those old pre-cell phone days
without talking to anyone–except for those within speaking range–for
days and days, or weeks even–when today some people can’t go 10
minutes without texting someone what they’re up to? And how does
anyone survive without a computer? Well, I thought I’d give it a try.
So this is the very last thing I’m doing before heading out for my trip.
Recently, I wrote about the despicable conditions under which many
prisoners lived. And I know it was not easily received by some,
especially those who might have been a victim of someone who is
currently serving time, or who is suffering because of someone they
know who was a victim. But what I wrote about–and what is the real
state of affairs in many prisons today–is not about what anyone DID,
or what anyone deserves, according to those who sit in judgment; it’s
about how the so-called “good” guys (the victims, the victim’s friends
and/or families, the authorities, those who have anything at all to do
with the “bad” guys) turn into a certain kind of “bad guy” themselves
by virtue of thinking that they are so much better than the
perpetrator and make it a point to heap upon the prisoner (and often,
all prisoners in general, depending on their position and ability) the
additional “punishment” of acts of inhumanity from the smallest to the
most outrageous forms of deliberate cruelty.
I’ll just briefly touch on the deeds for which some people go to
prison. Some of those deeds are deliberate, planned out, and beyond
anyone’s comprehension as to how one human being could treat another,
and thank goodness the judge and/or jury found it to be so and placed
the perpetrator where he belongs, away from a society that no longer
has to live in fear of that individual. End of story. For the outside
world. But not so for the prisoner.
Fast forward a few years or so. Prison really can give one time to
think. To reflect. To realize what one has done. To come to grips with
the fact that nothing in the world can undo the misery that one has
perpetrated on another. Some prisoners really do become different
people when they have those inward thoughts.
The person who committed that crime no longer exists. But the
punishment must continue on. And this new person must now bear all the
torture heaped upon his body and soul that his old self might have
deserved, but that old self doesn’t “live there” anymore.
Again, that is not the whole point. Most people will never know what
goes on in prisons, and quite frankly, they would not want to know.
How do I know? Besides having visited several prisons over the years,
and having had direct communication with people there on many levels,
I have also made it a point to learn things about the general way
prisons are run. And I am never out of touch with some prisoners, to
whom I’ve written for many years. But again, it is not even about
that, per se.
It is about the “good” guys who somehow turn into some kind of
monsters toward their fellow human beings, no matter on what level,
and take delight in both withholding the necessities of life and
inflicting their own kind of cruelty on those in their charge. It is
about those who are in a position to stop it, yet they don’t. It is
about those who think nothing of doubling up on any punishment in some
kind of self-righteous vengefulness as if it doesn’t matter — because,
after all, they are the “good” guys.
Not that anything justifies that good-guy-turned-bad-guy attitude, but
no one seems to take into consideration the changed man, or the
innocent man, or the confused and scared and sick or dying man. (And
of course, everything I’ve said applies to women as well.)
Well, I’ve got to run–I really am just about on the verge of catching
my flight. There will be more on this subject in some future column.
Right now I want to turn off human ugliness, of all kinds, on all
levels, and let some beauty and good thoughts flood my being.
I am off on my special assignment.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. Email Maramis at