Timothy Souders; punished to the point of death?

I just read the article about the death of 21-year-old Timothy Souders while he was incarcerated in a segregation cell at Southern Michigan Correctional.  The article horrified me because of the multiple injustices involved in the case.  First of all, TS shouldn’t have been in solitary confinement when his conditions of bipolar disorder, hyperactivity and depression (which had caused him to attempt suicide several times) were known to the staff. Also, he had a couple of physical conditions such as bedsores and urine burns, but they were not properly treated. Second of all, I really don’t understand the point of “top of the bed restraints” even if they are supposed to only be used for an hour or two when an inmate is severely acting up.  Don’t inmates have any freedom of movement?  Nevertheless, the “top of the bed restraint” went on far longer than it ever should have- 17 hours, with no breaks.  TS urinated on himself, was kept in a room that was over 100 degrees and had trouble eating, drinking and even sitting up and walking.  Once they let him up to shower, he could barely walk and ended up passing out/falling while in the shower.  After he was wheelchaired back to his cell, he was yet again put on “top of the bed restraints,” even though it seems pretty obvious he was in no condition to be any kind of a threat to anyone or anything.  A couple hours later, he was taken off restraint and fell off of the cement block.  They helped him back up and a little while later he fell off of the toilet and was not helped for 46 minutes.  What are the personnel doing at this prison? Why wouldn’t they be watching in inmate that they knew was in such weak condition? A little while later, he was found dead in his cell.  This treatment is just intolerable to me, and Timothy Souders isn’t a special case of severe mistreatment.  In 2006, the prison system in California lost one inmate a week to malpractice or neglect.  I can’t figure out what the problem is- is there not enough staff to check up on all of the inmates at least once every half hour?  Or is it that many of them just disregard the inmates’ human rights, like those soldiers at Abu Ghraib? Whatever the case, this problem needs to be fixed. It is simply inhumane and unconstitutional for the system to let such instances happen.

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Supermax prisons: Existing or Living?

When reading Rhodes’ article, centering around her anthropological background, I found her perspective unique in discussing prisoners as beings, and no longer really human.  She ingeniously described prisoners as merely existing, rather than actually living, regardless of what amenities they are provided.  One consequence of supermax prisons is the inability to relate the self to anything other than one’s own thoughts and actions.  While those of us on the outside may think “So what?” upon hearing this, from an abstract and philosophical perspective, this is a huge deal!

Without any ability to compare the self to external factors, prisoners become just beings, clinging on to whatever they can grasp from a theoretical world and existence.  Regardless of their mental state upon entering, these prisoners have no choice but to deteriorate due to a lack of reality.  What do you think?  Can this transition to an abstract life be avoided?  How?

I had never cut myself

Since I arrived at Tamms things have changed dramatically for me. Before I came to Tamms I had never cut myself but after coming to Tamms I started cutting on myself was placed in restraints numerous times was placed on psychotropic medication both voluntary and involuntary which I had never taken before coming to Tamms, as for relations with my family they were okay until my mother passed away in January of 2002 and my communication with others in my family went non-existent after that. I have stopped looking forward to positive things because it’s like nothing positive ever happens to me. I no longer look forward to leaving Tamms until my release even though I no longer get into trouble.
—name withheld for fear of retaliation, in Tamms supermax prison since 2000

tired boxer’s head

Since being at Tamms, I suffer symptoms of depression, frustration, paranoia, mental anguish, sleep disorder, deterioration of my physical health, general mental torture… These symptoms are made worse when the administration uses mentally ill prisoners as tools, or as torture device to either drive otherwise normal prisoners over the edge…the mentally ill prisoners drive the normal prisoners crazy by screaming, crying, yelling into the pod at all hours of the day and night for days non-stop, by banging on toilets, doors, walls, and/or by shaking or kicking the doors so hard that it sounds like rumbling thunder, flooding the wing with toilet water, and by throwing feces at other prisoners or inserting feces into the air vents so that the whole wing receives a dose of the smell for months. The actions of the mentally ill prisoners gives the guards an excuse to enter the pods and use tear gas….The constant bombardment of unrelenting stress takes its toll like flurry of well-placed punches on a tired boxer’s head… How long can I be expected to maintain my own mental health, when I am forced to live in an insane environment, surrounded by unbalanced people, in inhumane conditions?
—Anibal Santiago (in Tamms supermax prison since 1998)