I’m seriously considering not voting this upcoming November. No candidate (or elected official, for that matter) in recent Guatemalan history has managed to follow through with one crucial aspect of our nation’s concern: a somewhat decent prison system. To keep it simple: it’s no secret that organized crime, drug cartels and notorious gangs all have their share of residents behind bars. Why, just last year we had a gruesome reminder of this fact (see link above): “just because we’re locked in, that don’t mean a thing”.

Though the US and Guatemala’s prison systems are not similar by a long shot (budget and staff training come to mind), I can’t help but think of System of a Down’s Prison Song, an in-your-face wake-up call to authority and hypocrisy:

Drug money is used to rig elections,
And train brutal corporate sponsored
Dictators around the world.

So, power-thirsty wannabe candidates: what are your plans towards targeting this country’s need for a prison system reform? What do your advisors say? To which inmates do you owe the most?

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2 thoughts on “Give me a decent prison system (and I might give you my vote)

  1. I read the BBC article, and find it quite disturbing. I try to reserve my opinions, as much as possible, about the domestic situations in countries other than the U.S., because I don’t live in those countries. That said, from the article, I understand that prisoners in Guatemala are communicating with criminals on the outside, and are thus terrorizing the Guatemalan people.

    And though the systems in the U.S. and in Guatemala are different, in many ways–this also occurs in the U.S. (though perhaps to a lesser degree). Prisoners here have Internet access, as well as cable television. And they get off on parole, at an alarming rate. Here, minor offenders are put in the same prisons as major offenders–thus they are not reformed, but actually taught by the major offenders to be more serious criminals. In addition to being confined, of course–prisoners here are constantly raped, beaten, and tortured, more often by other prisoners than by guards. They call the prison systems in the U.S. “Departments of Corrections”–but they correct nothing. The prisoners are not reformed, in any way–and the purpose of punishment, in any country, should be reform. As a result, the prisoners suffer, because of the way they are treated by one another; the victims of the prisoners suffer, because they never have closure (and almost always face the fear for their own lives, when the prisoners are released or paroled); the American people suffer because they have to pay the countless millions of dollars to keep these prisoners alive behind bars. And the situation only worsens, our prisons are so overflowing that many prisoners are simply allowed to walk.

    The long-term cause of this failing justice system in the U.S. is the lack of guidance and discipline of children by parents and educators. But the short-term cause is this country’s aversion to the death penalty.
    Well-meaning opponents of the death penalty consider it “cruel and unusual punishment”–but somehow fail to realize that years behind bars, where one is confined, raped, beaten, and tortured, is definitely cruel and unusual punishment–a fate far worse than death. Yet ironically, most hardened criminals don’t fear this fate. But they all fear death.

    Many Americans say the death penalty (execution) doesn’t work. The reason it doesn’t seem to work is that it is almost never implemented. Criminals are sentenced to life without parole, more often than death. This makes no sense whatsoever. And those who are sentenced to death stay on death-row for decades before they’re finally executed. Even Charles Manson is still alive and well, in prison.

    My proposal is simple: There should be no prisons–only jails. And jails should be temporary holding places for those awaiting trial. Each convict should have the right to one appeal–that should be the limit. And if he/she loses that one appeal, the judge should do one of three things: Have him/her executed immediately, send him/her to a psyciatric facility for treatment, or simply set him/her free.

    Even my mom argues that some innocent people would be executed. But what innocent person would prefer decades of confinement in a prison, where he/she is raped, beaten, and tortured–to a quick execution? I know I wouldn’t.

    1. Hi, Scott. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the death penalty and the US’s prison system. There’s a cable channel called Tru Tv, where they broadcast documentary series about life inside the US prisons. This would never happen here in Guatemala, since human rights and the general population’s concern (which you mention, parolees and retaliation) do not allow to see the forest for the trees. Death penalty has not been a solution in Guatemala, though it is still legal, but I understand a lot of your points regarding its implementation in the US.

      I see the need for a thorough reform of the Guatemalan prison system, for its actual state is something to fear… as in “Hannibal Lecter” type of fear.

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