The discussion that the class had with Darrell Cannon last week was amazing. Darrell was able to tell us so much information that we would not be able to get anywhere else. I’m sure bits and pieces of his story are around, but the best information always comes from the main source. The thing that made me think the most was when Darrell talked about being in Tamms. He said that Tamms was made to mentally and even physically break the prisoners. I found this to be very disappointing. The prison system should break people; it should help them. It was reassuring to know that some of the guards were nice though. It was nice to hear that some people were understanding and that they knew that the prisoners were people too. I’m sure not all prisoners go to prison wanting to change and become different people, but they should have the chance if they want to. If DOC officials and guards treat the prisoners badly and don’t give them a chance for rehabilitation then what is the point of the prison?….to keep them locked up for the rest of their lives without a chance to become a better person?
Darrell Cannon brought up some heart wrenching topics, yet the one that really interested me was his story of Tamms. A supermax prison located in the southern most part of Illinois has gone from temporary punishment to long term dehumanization. Many times when Darrell was talking he mentioned the fact that, “Tamms was made to break you mentally, physically and spiritually. This really made me upset with the criminal justice system because conditions in prison should foster growth and change, not take the spirit and life out of a person. Darrell told the class that the staff would sometimes provoke or at least try to get a rise from the prisoners. One can barely begin to comprehend the mental stress one must endure every day in solitary confinement and recieving abuse from staff members. Darrell mentioned that Tamms is all about the commodity a.k.a. the prisoner, and getting money. The supermax is no longer concerned with crime and punishment but helping their economy.
The presentation of Darrell Cannon was astonishing. Sitting there and listening to him, it was almost unimaginable to most of us how a person can go through so much and still remain sane. But not only he persevered though days of unthinkable torture (cattle-rods, fake shotgun shots, humiliation) and nine years of solitude in Tamms, he is stronger now than he was before, as his rage and anger at what was done to him push him forward.
One has to admire the courage of all victims that are willing to relive the pain of their suffering, only so they can teach others and raise awareness about the realities they lived through. What struck me most about Mr. Cannon, was his manners (which he explained by the strong family ties and ethic that he was raised with). Having been in Tamms for 9 years for a crime he was tortured to confessed to, it is striking that he managed to raise above those that were trying tirelessly to bring him down and not for once utter an ugly jargon word at an officer.
His presentation made me wonder about a lot of things though… Continue reading
First of all, having the opportunity to listen to Darrell Cannon’s first hand experience was very beneficial. I really value his courage to reflect on such horrible memories and speak about them to a group of people. This was/is clearly a tragedy. No doubt about it. Not only did he lose 24 years of his life, but he was tortured and lost everything that had meaning to him. I can’t even begin to imagine what he is going through.
During his presentation I could not help but wonder how in the world a jury convicted him. Since he confessed because of being tortured, why wasn’t the confession inadmissible? His attorney could not have proved that he the confession was coerced? I’m sure that the answers to these questions only emphasis the flaws in the system. Darrell mentioned that the prosecution did not have any witnesses again him, so did they base the conviction solely on the confession?
I also found the actions of the parole board very flawed. They constantly refused to grant him parole, yet the state’s attorneys office worked out a deal with him. Again, flaws in the system. In my opinion, in order for the criminal justice system to work efficiently, all of its members must be on the same page. If they’re not, like in Darrell’s situation, it’ll be chaotic.
Finally, I think that Darrell’s descriptions and thoughts of Tamms Correctional Center allowed me to realize how awful of a place it really is. At one point Darrell said, “Tamms is not for humans.” When he said this, I could not help but wonder how he survived and stayed sane for the nine years he was confined there. He mentioned that people around him were going crazy and allowing the institution to “break” them. But Darrell also told us that there were some positives to his experience. For instance, some of the guards were friendly. Although this is a minor detail, I think that it shows Darrell’s credibility and honesty.
This really was an eye opening experience. I can’t help but think about those who were wrongly convicted and are currently in prison, with no way out.
Regarding the letters from the prisoners, I was extremely surprised as to how well some of them could write. Specifically, the way they formatted, structured, and used intelligent vocabulary to express their feelings and concerns. Like many people, initially stereotyping criminals as uneducated and simpleminded, I enjoyed reading the letters because it was truly the complete opposite of what I had originally thought Continue reading
We read three articles about Supermax prisons. One of the main threads of these articles was that prisoners are often placed in Supermax prisons unnecessarily. Although prison officials and guards say the the SHU (Special Housing Unit) is reserved for only, “the worst of the worst,” often it is the more politically conscious, jailhouse lawyers, or mentally unstable that are sent to the SHU. Many people believe that the SHU exacerbates mental illness and creates symtoms- this definitely makes sense, solitary confinement for extended periods of time could drive any person to insanity. Inmates in solitary confinement become, “perpetual prisoners” and they forget how to be contributors to society, they forget how to interact with people for lack of doing so.
Another reason why Supermax prisons are not based upon rehabilitation is that during the 1980s, there was a surge of prison building in which many people made lots of money by creating more prisons. This surge of prisons created a demand for prisoners, a demand to retain prisoners. This is a very sick concept, people profit from prisoners failing to succeed on the outside, people profit when prisoners are sent back to prison.
So should Supermax prisons be eliminated? Kupers, a psychologist suggests that progress evaluations be conducted by an outside agency (to avoid corruption). These evaluations would avoid severe abuses of the Continue reading
Supermax prisons impact the confined mentally, physically, and emotionally. Supermax prisons are more interested in punishing, rather than rehabilitating. When prisoners are kept in a cell, alone, and without sunlight and human interaction, psychological effects occur. People evolve and change in these surroundings over time. They begin lose all societal values and norms because they are behind bars. Kupers discussed the experiment that was performed at Stanford by Professor Haney. A group of students acted out a prison sequence for a psychology experiment. Those assigned as guards started acting sadistic because of their power and domination over the prisoners. This experiment showed that the psychiatric side of prisons is very scary, because even rational and intelligent students can change in these certain settings. Anthropologically, Rhodes actually placed herself in the prison setting. In the form of an ethnography report, Rhodes wanted to truly report what was happening in the prison system by becoming apart of the Supermax. This is different than the other two articles because Rhodes actually became apart of it. She wasn’t merely observing. Rhodes spoke to both prisoners and guards, and shows the entire picture of the Supermax. Rhodes also uses a lot of sociological concepts like Erving Goffman’s “backstage” philosophy when observing the prisoners. In real life, we all have a “backstage” self. This is the self that we don’t let the real world see. However prisoners don’t have a backstage/frontstage self due to their surroundings and limited access to things like make-up, clothing, etc. O’Keefe, a social scientist, used statistics and research to show whether or not solitary confinement (segregation) was harmful to the individual.. This approach was very different from Rhodes and Kupers approach, because it is solely based on statistics and scientific research methods and not personal involvement. I never realized that confinement in these prisons is seriously harmful because it strips human beings of their natural human abilities. It is less of a rehabilitation tactic and appears to be more of a punishment than anything else.