In one more example of Orwellian vocabulary, we read at Reason.com about protective custody. That’s the term prison officials use for solitary confinement of juveniles:
We all have pictures of torture in our heads: the naked prisoner hanging by his thumbs from chains on a stoney dungeon wall, the rack, thumb screws, waterboarding, beatings with a rubber hose to the soles of the feet. These methods all require an active torturer, but they don’t draw blood, they don’t cause death, and they don’t leave marks – no visible sign of suffering at all. I suppose that helps the torturer live with himself, since other people can’t see what he has done. When police beat a prisoner on the face, everyone can see the bruises.
Solitary confinement is even better for the torturer, since it is passive. You don’t have to do anything except lead a prisoner to a cell, lock him up, and walk away. You never have to see the prisoner again. In fact, you can order the lock-up without ever seeing the prisoner at all. The psychological pain of someone in solitary may be different in kind, but it is just as intense and debilitating. Ask anyone who has suffered through depression – and that’s most of us – how painful it is.
I don’t even want to watch the film below. I can’t stand to watch cruelty. I’m glad the film exists, though:
So what do we do when this kind of thing happens, all over the place? Write your congressman? You bet: that will get the situation changed right away. Send a copy to your local juvenile court while you’re at it.
By using a phrase like protective custody, of course, prison officials give away by dishonesty and obfuscation what they’re up to. You can’t let Piggy be killed by the other inmates. He’s a danger to himself. He’s unpredictable and he might hurt someone else. You can think up a lot of reasons for what you’re doing, to make yourself feel justified. Everyone knows it’s punishment, not protective custody, but no one cares to call it by its true name.
We don’t spank or beat children anymore. Corporal punishment of any sort by parents, if severe enough and the state gets wind of it, can mean the state takes your children into protective custody. Protective custody, as practiced in too many juvenile detention facilities, is far worse then corporal punishment.
Let’s leave it at that. If you want to write someone, write to Amnesty International. We used to look abroad, and see mistreatment of prisoners everywhere. Now we look here at home, and we see terrible punishments administered to children right under our eyes. When Jerry Sandusky raped children in the shower room at Penn State, no one wanted to acknowledge what he was doing. He just kept on doing it, for years. It may seem harder to stop prison officials from torturing young people, because they have the full weight of the state behind them. Nevertheless, don’t let them continue what they’re doing.