Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sequestration and solitary confinement

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: This is the big documentary film festival weekend in Columbia, the True/False festival and the thermometer is stubbornly staying at 32 degrees so that when I put my Ford 150 in gear all that happens is the wheels spin. Yesterday, the temperature rose a little so I rode with Marshall to town and I got to see the grandkids, in from sunny California for the festival. James and I built a hospital ship out of leggos, his cousin’s leggos as he reminded me frequently. So we were very careful not to lose any. We got the ship built and rescued three sick Leggo people—one with malaria, one with what James called “infinity diarrhea” and one with hypertension. Since we were out of people, having only three, we had to build a robot doctor. Fortunately, we had barrels of medicines on the ship and cured the malaria quickly. The diarrhea case was a little more tricky, since the medication made him cough. Not a good outcome for someone with diarrhea. We were lucky, though, and found the right pills to get it under control. The Leggo guy with hypertension was also in handcuffs. Did you know they make handcuffs for leggo characters? Do you find that outrageous? Since I’ve spent much of the snowstorm in my cozy bedroom working on an essay about women in the prison system, to accompany the memoir of a prison superintendent, I find it insane that our society will buy for plastic handcuffs for child play. Should we next begin telling them to build isolation cells from Leggos for plastic dolls in solitary confinement? It ain’t normal, folks. Solitary confinement, which visiting experts found in a Missouri reform school, was deemed inhumane in the 1920s and had a resurgence in the 1930s. Again, the experts discouraged it but even enlightened superintendents and wardens have used it all along, even though there are barrels of medicine available that supposedly control people. With this year’s budget “sequestration,” which sounds sort of like putting money in solitary confinement, we’re going to hear a lot about isolation, confinement, shackles on our most cantankerous folks. With no money for education, medications or any kind of reward system for good behavior, it will not be surprising if officials are driven to medieval systems of treatment. Budget cuts for federal employees? Let’s start with Congress and the President. Judges, too. One of my dairy friends, living on credit cards, figured out that if milk prices had risen like government salaries, milk would cost $25 a gallon.

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