Factory Prisons and the Creation of a Sociopath Society
- by karlsie
- Posted on 27 April, 2012
By: Karla Fetrow
Prelude to Criminal Justice
It’s a crime to be an Alaskan. It’s an even greater crime to be an Alaskan with outspoken political views; or maybe not. Maybe it’s just a crime to be an ordinary Alaskan, living by Alaskan life styles that aren’t particularly ordinary by urbanized or mainstream standards. There was, after all the case of the sixty-one year old fisherman who was mauled and manhandled last year by federal agents for fishing in waters he had come to regard as ye old fishing hole habitat, as he had returned to the same location year after year without divine or human intervention. It didn’t take an act of Congress, but it did take an act by the Senate to release him, when our history making Senator, Lisa Murkowski, who regained her seat on a no-party, write in ticket, intervened.
Maybe that’s the rub. The federals have been having a field day intervening with Alaskan lives, ever since they whisked away several of our legislators on charges of accepting bribes from unscrupulous oil lobbyists. Perhaps our legislators were rather unscrupulous as well. After all, it’s not very conscientious to base your policy making on gifts, yet if that was the primary concern of federal motivation, wouldn’t the entire government structure of corporate special interests have been torn down? While shame and blame, finger-pointing, whispers and innuendos shocked the world of Alaskan politics, investigations into corruption barely made a ripple in the Continental United States, firmly in bed with their own gift bearing lobbyists. It seems, more than anything, a case of special prosecution.
These were the muses running through my head when I was picked up at my work place, in full view of a number of regular, store attending customers, my boss and fellow employees, on charges that were as yet unclear to me. The charges, I was finally told, were fourth degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. This did not enlighten me greatly. I had not staggered around in public in an alcoholic stupor, basked in a poisonous conglomeration of chemicals constituting bathtub meth-amphetamines, , hyped myself on cocaine or heroin, or even indulged in pharmaceutical drugs. In fact, I don’t find any of the above mentioned indulgences very pleasurable. What I do enjoy is marijuana, which I began smoking at the age of twenty when I discovered its affects had the tendency to stimulate my mind, allowing free flowing thought when I write. Like so many people who gravitate toward the arts, it became my tool, my instant inspiration for creativity. Cheat mode or not, it was my single drug indulgence, if you don’t count the more subtle influences of caffeine, sugar, chocolate and tobacco.
Throughout my years, I felt I had conducted myself quite well, if not always within the boundaries of the politically correct. At sixty-one, I had virtually no police record, had worked voluntarily for a number of community services, including environmental protection programs, advocacy against domestic violence, minority rights activism, and had opened my door to a number of homeless victims even though my own home, by any sense of the word, was poverty level. Within this poverty, alleviated only by owning the land I sit on through inheritance, I had single handedly raised two children who grew up to become law abiding citizens, had an excellent job record, and was respected and cared for by my community. I had accumulated no debts, and never borrowed money I couldn’t pay back. I was just a little surprised to learn my conduct had received a disapproval rating.
The surprise did not end there. The police officers, who had been hitherto quite courteous, allowing me liberal use of the phones to announce to all who might possibly afford it, that my bail had been set at five thousand dollars, cash or credit, became increasingly irritable to discover I knew nobody who could cough up that much ransom on such short notice. They gave me a breathalyzer test, which they declared was point zero nine; a physically impossible feat since I very rarely drink at all and during my work hours is not one of those rareties, but seeing as how their hospitable nature had dwindled, I shrugged it off. When I balked at receiving a DNA testing however, my glasses, which I need to see much of anything at all, were ripped from my head, and I was thrown in a solitary holding cell. It was then that I came to the conclusion that my sudden unpopularity had to do with my outspoken political activism. Sitting on the concrete floor, with still no clue as to why the federal magic godfather had gone poof and converted me to a felon, I took notice that the large, round drainage seal made an excellent drum. I tapped it. The sound made a wonderful echo that bounced throughout the cell, and, I suspected, beyond. With the palms of my hands, I began tapping out a beat that nearly shook the walls with its compounded resonance, and began chanting alternatively, “the government is a sociopath”, and “we are the ninety-nine percent”. After about two hours of this, the weary officials in charge of keeping lawless disorder told me if I would just be quiet awhile, they would begin processing me.
I had no real desire for processing, but since it was apparent this was going to happen at some date, I quieted down, waiting to see what would happen next. What happened next was a very unpleasant strip search that required you to expose every inch of your body, from lifting your boobs and belly flap, to spreading your butt cheeks. I learned over the next few weeks that this was customary practice, even when transferring prisoners from one jail cell to the next. How a person is supposed to acquire illegal contraband in the transit from a holding cell to a correctional institute, but logic and reason are not among the strong points of law enforcement. Embarrassment and humiliation, however, is.
Having complied with the obligations of baring my advanced middle aged body and transferring from street clothes to felon yellow, I was then given a seat where a psychiatrist proceeded to ask a few preliminary questions. “Are you married?” No. “Do you have children?” Yes. “Are you depressed?” Of course I’m depressed, I answered, eager to ask him how he would feel if he had been abruptly removed from his place of work and shuttled to a jail cell without explanation, but I didn’t get a chance. It was the wrong answer. I was immediately wrestled from my chair by two International Wrestling Championship policemen, and thrown back in my holding cell. Another long wait while they stewed over the information that of course I had just become severely depressed. Apparently, I was supposed to accept my condition as cheerfully as if I had been invited along on a picnic.
After another long interval, when it became obvious I was not going to apologize for my depression, they finally released me from my solitary confinement and placed me in a cell with three other girls. We were each given a mat and a blanket, and squeezed together on the small floor space to sleep. In the morning, we were each given an apple, a peanut butter sandwich and informed we would be appearing in court.
True to their word, about an hour after our generous meal, we were all handcuffed together and taken into a small room, where our rights were read to us from a television screen. More accurately, I assume our rights were read to us. I am severely hearing impaired and depend largely on reading lips to know what’s being said. Without my glasses, reading lips wasn’t very possible. After this brief formality, we were ushered into a court room, where each person was given five minutes of attention after our overnight detention. The various charges for the various culprits went by my head in a monotonous blur, something like the “blah, blah” spoken by adults in a Peanuts cartoon. When it came to my turn, I had to be nudged before I understood my name had been called. The judge said something. I answered, “With all due respect, your honor, I can’t hear you. Neither can I see you because my glasses were taken away.”
After indicating I should be equipped with ear phones, the judge told me, “I’m sorry to hear that,” although he did not order my glasses returned. He then went on to tell me I had been charged with five counts of miscellaneous misconduct of a controlled substance.
“Understand,” he added cautiously. “At this time, these are just allegations. Is there anything you’d like to say on your behalf?”
“I’d like my glasses returned,” I answered. “I’d like a bail reduction hearing. I want a copy of the police report, and I want an attorney.”
Agreeing an attorney would be assigned to me, he ordered me to remain in custody and return to court the following day. I was then returned to another holding cell with the three other girls, all in felon yellow, and given another peanut butter sandwich and an apple. By now, I had gotten used to waiting, so was a little surprised when within an hour or so, we were all filed out, handcuffed together once more and placed in a police van. More surprising, our escorts were remarkably polite. They gently helped me up into the van and informed me I was going to the Highland Correctional Facility. I didn’t know it at the time, but Highland is the Hilton of Alaskan jails.
I wasn’t sure just what to make of our genteel company. Cops are supposed to be brutal, right? And the ones in Anchorage had certainly exceeded all expectations. But these were just people; kindly, soft-spoken, with the manners you would expect from the deacons at a church supper. Once again I was helped gently out of the van and marched chain linked into a carpeted hallway, where one by one we were once again strip searched and given a clean set of yellow hospital scrubs. I’m not sure what possesses them to do this, but the assigned clothing is always two sizes too big. I had to roll up the waist of the pants to keep them from falling, roll up the cuffs to keep from treading on them, my shirt came down nearly to my knees, my shoes had two inches of toe space in front of them…. but I wasn’t complaining. The benches were wood, the walls were paneled, there was an actual feeling of space; even light and airiness. When I was given my bedding and extra set of clothing, I asked the guard in attendance, “may I please have my glasses.”
“Of course,” she said pleasantly. Within five minutes, they were in my hands. I put them on eagerly, blinked and said involuntarily, “why, you’re a nice looking woman”.
She seemed as surprised as I was for having said that, but it was true. She was pretty, somewhat tall, her hair pulled back in a dark pony tail, soft, large eyes, and the kind of nice, round little butt men liked to look at. Even a police uniform was unable to diminish her attractiveness. Unbelievably, along with my glasses, she also handed me my police report.
Before being assigned rooms, we were taken to the cafeteria to eat our first real meal since our confinement. Wonder of wonders! The cafeteria was large, well ventilated, with enormous bay windows. Outside the windows was a pavilion with benches and several dogs romping and playing at the end of leashes led by other inmates. Inside the cafeteria was a soda fountain, with four different drink choices. The other girls and I looked at each other with amazement. Free sodas! We filled our cups eagerly, wondering just how many free sodas we were entitled to, but deciding not to press our luck, and settled for one. I could have sat in the cafeteria for hours, just basking in the warm sunlight that streamed in through the windows, but after twenty minutes, we were instructed to follow our escorts to our assigned rooms. We were each given a key.
There was very little about the compound that resembled a jail; no concrete, no bars, no thick sliding doors. In fact, it most resembled the dormitories for a college campus, or a place where people paid twenty bucks a night to attend a seminar. The buildings were all built of wood, attractively shaped, with a ribbon of sidewalk and overhead roofing attaching one to another. Inside each complex was a large day room where telephone calls were made, meetings and mail call took place, and the comings and goings of the other inmates were monitored. At the four corners of the day room were the individual “houses”, each with ten bedrooms containing two bunks apiece.
My “house” wasn’t like anything I would expect from a jail. The central room contained a table, several comfortable, stuffed chairs, two matching sofas, a television set with cable access, a small refrigerator and a microwave oven. I stepped inside my new living quarters timidly. “Welcome,” said one of the girls jovially. “What’s your number?”
I looked at my key. “Room seven.”
“That’s Stephanie’s room. She’ll take care of you.”
That she did. Stephanie was a sweet, smiling Yu’pik girl serving eighty days for drinking and driving with a minor in the car. It may have been very poor judgment to get behind a wheel while inebriated, but in every other sense of the word, she was a saint. As soon as she learned I was deaf, she took it upon herself to be my guide and interpreter. She let me know when it was time to leave for a meal, when my name had been called, when it was time to return to our rooms for count, when it was time to turn in our laundry for fresh clothing and bedding. She taught me the ropes.
That night, after settling in, I finally read the police report and the great electric light bulb in my head switched on. I couldn’t believe it. I had been betrayed by someone I had thought was my friend. I had been set up and though her name had been carefully deleted from the report, I knew exactly who it was.
To be continued
Karla Fetrow- I had always believed my conduct was good; no police record, no debt, a desired employee in the workplace, but the federal government decided this wasn’t so.
Pins and needles until the rest, dear lady.
Thoughts? The first thing that comes to mind is the exchange between Winston Smith and the neighbor kids while he’s fixing the sink – one of the children says, “You’re a thought criminal!” – then their mother says, “Oh, he and his sister are disappointed we didn’t take them to see the hanging of the Eurasian war prisoners.”
And so it goes, in a police state in the 21st century, where we can be ratted out for one petty crime or another – because someone we know and consider ‘friend’ wants to take us down.
Guilty, until proven innocent.
Karla, I’m getting a good idea of what things might be like for most of us, really; your story could be mine, or anyone else’s among the minority which Stayed Awake in Class, connected the dots; told the truth one too many times….
Will, i think you’ve taken a peak at the second part of my small series. Eventually, i’ll be addressing less of my own experiences and covering the ease in which the injustice system has moved to give everyone a guilty status, with a single minded purpose; to control the populace and legally take away our individual freedoms. Thank you for being a kind, supporting friend. Cheers to all who have taken up the fight against tyranny and sided with the humane process of human rights.
And Mitch, what can i say? You’ve never faltered. Even though our initial points of view and experiences were so uncommonly different, we found common ground, and i think that it was this meeting between two vastly different people that has created the basis of understanding interwoven into our magazine today.
Please forgive me if this sounds trite, but it seems to me that you really got lucky back in jail – I know people who have been on the other side of the fence (and they brought back all sorts of horror stories – shankings in the yard, guards brutally beating non-compliant inmates and even arranged abuse of inmates by other inmates!) and I’d say you are very fortunate that the guards didn’t respond with force to your impromptu drum solo.
Not to say that I don’t sympathize with you (I do) nor do I imply that you should “just shut up and take it” (I certainly wouldn’t – I’ve even resolved to swallow a bullet before ever seeing the inside of a prison if that’s what it comes to…) – I don’t believe that anyone should be forced to endure such mistreatment (let alone an elderly woman who’s only “crime” involves toking a little weed every now and then…), but I just want you to know that things could have been *much* worse if the guards or other inmates had a less favorable temperment towards you: in that regard, you are more fortunate than many.
All that said, I’m sorry you had to go through that and I certainly do look forward to reading the rest of your experience.
Azazel, i’m aware things could have been much worse, which is why i don’t think the State would have pursued the allegations that much if the feds had not been involved. Alaska is one step away from total legalization of marijuana. Half the population smokes weed, but the State is under seize by the feds, who have frequently and impudently made arrests. I know a number of cases where the feds have taken people’s computers and demanded documents without just cause. Recently, they made the rounds of all the gun shops to find out who owned guns. Nearly everybody owns guns. This is the wilderness. People hunt for subsistence, not to mention they keep guns close by in case of bear attacks. We want the feds out. They are destroying a state that had always been very humane and progressive in its policies.
And thus begin the seeds of Balkanization.
That’s still my bet for What Comes Next after the U.S. implodes; with any luck, I’ll be living offshore. If not, then I sincerely hope Oregon joins with the rest of the Greater Northwest (including B.C.) to tell the Feds to go to Hell.
What happened to you was disgraceful, Karlsie. I was wondering what had happened to you since I hadn’t heard in a while. I’m going to be off the net most of the time for an indefinite period but I’ll check in for the latter parts of your experience.
Will, i’ve always felt Balkanization was inevitable. Majority vote simply cannot represent fairly the demographics of a land mass as large as the United States, not even with safeguards in place to protect the minorities. Even on a state level, look at the way urbanization over-rides the interests of rural development. With the last safeguard removed, which was supposed to be weak federal jurisdiction within State affairs, the motivations for dissolution from the federal seat have just been amplified.
Bill, i prefer to look at the whole experience as just that much more material to write about. It was an eye opener. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this federal meddling in what should have been State affairs and the probable motivations. I’ve also had a lot of time to think about the injustice system and its profit making policies.
I went through a similar experience in Long Beach — part of Los Angeles County. My offense was listed as “drunk in public” and I can’t recall the exact name of the charge, but it involves fighting arrest.
The facts are: I was having a barbecue in my back yard with friends. I had just made my first mojito and barely taken a sip, when I heard a noise outside of my fence. This was about 4 p.m. and it was a hot and sunny day. I opened the gate, fearing the kids were setting fires again (I was involved in the neighborhood watch and saw kids doing this next to trees twice before) and an officer screamed at me right then to come out of my yard and get on the ground.
I tried to get down and the police officer ran towards me and leaped onto my back, slamming me onto the pavement. Apparently, my 50+ body didn’t move fast enough for him.
In his efforts to cuff me, still not telling me why, he snatched my arms so hard that he left fingerprint bruises down each arm. My toenails broke, fingernails too, from landing on the cement. I had bruises all over me from the arrest. I look like I had been beaten by some lover. In short, he was abusive and excessive in the way he handled me.
What the officer didn’t know was the cameras on the apartment roof line recorded the entire thing.
It began when a local gang member was being arrested (that was what I had heard when I looked out of my gate). But when I looked out and the officer ordered me out of the gate and onto the pavement, he claimed I was drunk in public. The breathalyzer made the officer look ridiculous; because it proved I wasn’t drunk at all. What made him look worse was the fact that I had never been arrested in my life, before this episode at 50 some years. I was also on the neighborhood watch. AND I was not even mildly buzzed from one sip of a Mojito. My eyes were red, though. I had been cooking over a barbecue and the smoke was irritating them. They took me to jail, threw me in a drunk tank, where I was screaming to make my phone call. Two female officers threatened to beat the crap out of me and left me there with the freezing air conditioner running all night. By morning, I was sick as I had been dressed for a hot day and even barefoot.
After 24 hours passed, they took my report for excessive force and took photos of all of my bruises and broken nails. It was then, that I asked for my phone call and couldn’t call anyone as I did not have their numbers memorized and they wouldn’t allow me to use a phone book. I was forced to remain in jail all weekend because of that.
What did happen was someone at my barbecue tried to bail me out. Bail was denied until I saw the judge, because of the trumped up charge that I had fought with the police officer. On Monday, I went to court and they dropped the charge of fighting with the cop. I was released on my own recognizance at noon. I had a friend waiting until 8 p.m. with no way to let them know what was going on. I wasn’t released until 9 p.m. that night and the friend left, thinking they weren’t releasing me. Since I had no purse when I was arrested, I had no cellphone, no money, nothing! I had to beg a bus driver to let me get a ride home. I could have been raped there.
The facts are, after trying to continue the case for months, requiring that I go back to court and sit for hours every few weeks, I got fed up. Since I wouldn’t drop the excessive force charges against the officer, they put the fighting police charges back on, again. Finally, my public defender told the prosecution that there was film of the event, showing I had complied with the police officer’s orders, not fought him. And they learned I was on the neighborhood watch. Their case looked ridiculous against me and they dropped the charges after I threatened to sue the city.
I learned this. In Los Angeles, the jailers are as corrupt as they come. They threatened to never allow me to go to court. They threatened to beat the crap out of me for asking questions. They DID beat the crap out of a mentally challenged woman. They were vulgar, low class and disgusting. I was denied a shower for the entire time I was in jail, as were many. When we were in an elevator going to court, some mental midget detective commented on the smell of us, knowing we were denied showers. I now know I will NEVER be arrested in Los Angeles again. Why? Because the jailers are so corrupt and I might not leave alive.
It is good to have this discussion, as sorry as I am that you, Karla had to live it to bring it to us.
However people suffer this everyday, and how is this any different really than just rounding up the elderly, “unuseful” and “undesireable” in order to make way for the workers?
I really hate it when people bring up Nazi’s we aren’t that we are something that is becoming somewhat scarier. However, I do recognise the easy comparison.
I will wait for the rest to say more. Glad you are safe and sound.
Grainne, i agree. The Nazi’s, however, warped, misdirected, bigoted and fanatical, had an ideal. They wished to create an Aryan society, a superior society. They emphasized physical fitness and education for their chosen people. As far as i can discern, there is no ideal involved in what is happening to America. The concentration is on our resources; environmental, material and human. Beginning with disposable products, we are now a disposable society; inconvenient and hardy worth attention if we have nothing, within the radar if we have something that can be dissolved; a good income, property, or even self-reliance.
Jennifer, the reason my articles will be shown in parts is because there is so much to be unveiled. I really had no idea the situation was as serious as it is… i’m absolutely shocked by the criminalization for profit system. You are lucky they couldn’t make the charges stick. Assault is a felony, and judging from your story, you would have been firmly locked into a system of abuse for a very long time.
Karlsie, I’ve been giving the for-profit prison system some advertising for some time. Ever since 2006, when they locked up my husband in immigration holding and denied him too many human rights to list here. I’m all for you bringing it back to the public eye. Here’s an old video from my activist days:
And here is a newer one:
Unlike others here, I DO feel it is a continuation of Fascism and Nazi mentality. I feel there are too many indicators from history to now to feel differently. I just did a blog about Hitler’s House in Hollywood and Jose Rodriguez’s book about his position in charge of CIA torturing at Guantanamo Bay. If you don’t see the comparison of criminal war crimes of today and yesterday, then you don’t have a heart. The only difference is that today we have been conditioned to accept Jose Rodriguez as doing his job instead of breaking conditions of the agreement we signed with international communities regarding torture. We are being conditioned now too, to accept imprisonment, a loss of civil liberties, and searches. Not only that, but we also feel it’s okay to surrender our passwords for Facebook, become part of lay off lists for being overweight, black, brown, purple, female, a mother…you name it. WTF is WRONG with us? Why DON’T we see how much this was like the conditioning of Hitler’s regime?
Here’s the old video from when my husband was being held. Oddly enough, the terms are still true, six years later:
Jennifer, i think what Grainne meant, and i know what i meant, was that the mentality involved was something far more horrible than fascism. It’s the stripping of all the complexities and personalities of being human. The viciousness that is slowly moving into the foreground; discrimination against all people of color, the eradication of religious diversity, the escalation into poverty, the dissolution of the family unit, the suppression of woman’s rights; are reaching proportions never seen before. My conviction, reinforced by watching your videos, is that we are rushing into an abomination that is poisoning the world, one that will have far-reaching and longer lasting effects than Hitler, in the height of his madness, could never have dreamed of achieving.
Yes, what Karla said. Also, in terms of it being “A continuation.” as you stated Jen, it has become something else. My problem with calling out “Nazi” is twofold.
1. Concerns immediately get discounted because of course, we aren’t Nazis (This especially in the older generations)
2. It doesn’t really cover the extremes we are reaching. It is something new and if it’s own.
Although I must say, it’s a little disappointing not to hear and see more holocaust survivors and their children raising an alarm. It seems they are more interested in museums to their own story and failed state than keeping watch for other possible take-overs.
My heart goes to you Karla. Ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand and I’m always appalled by what happens when people who can’t think for themselves and obey compulsively are given superior rights, authority and guns. Every couple of months the police here in Montreal kill a homeless person or teenager in the ghettos, and the agents are never held accountable. Consequently, the leader of the Montreal fraternity once claimed the police is paramilitary organization. And I could go on.
My thoughts are with you, I hope things get better soon.