Sunday, December 07, 2014
Afraid to say who he is…but…
As a person who works very hard and generally does not like to complain it is a little difficult for me to come to terms with the treatment of inmates at the Benton County Jail in Bentonville, Ar. I was raised to believe that you should have respect for authority, and that if you make a mistake you should expect to take responsibility for that mistake. I recently made a mistake, and ended up having to serve a few days in Benton County Jail and pay some fines. I paid my fines and set up the days for me to serve my sentence with the knowledge that I was going to jail and I should not expect comfortable conditions, hot food, or that everyone there would be understanding of what had happened and how I ended up there. Taking that into account I was appalled at the conditions and treatment of the inmates at the Benton County Jail.
The current sheriff brags about how much money he saves, but what he doesn’t tell the public is that he does so by allowing inhumane treatment of his inmates. The temperature in the jail is cold enough that anyone with poor circulation such as me can expect for your toes to turn a pretty shade of purple during your stay, and as of 4/08/2014 they are no longer providing socks for inmates. Not even if you are only going to be there for one day, and they will not allow family members to purchase “whites” and have them given to the inmates either. The only way to get socks is to purchase them from the commissary at an inflated price, and if you are only there for a short period, or if you do not have the finances available then you get to have frozen feet for the duration of your stay and in the near future the new regulations will apply to bra’s, underwear, pads, and toilette paper. It makes you wonder how a female is supposed to deal with her monthly cycle if she is unable to purchase underwear from the commissary when the jail is already being paid with federal funds to be able to provide necessities.
The cold food would be bearable if it did not consist of mystery meats that I wouldn’t feed to my animals, and strange concoctions that are unidentifiable in any way. After only 24 hours at a time for my particular visits I was not only starving constantly, but even when I did manage to eat the food provided it was insufficient for dietary needs and I was extremely tired and shaking due to the lack of essential vitamins. While I did not expect a 5 star meal, I did expect to at least be provided with enough nutritional value in my meals to maintain a healthy energy and blood sugar level.
The biggest complaint I have though is not the physical conditions of the jail, but of the mental abuse that continuously plagues the inmates. There are many deputies there who feel they are entitled to curse, yell, and reprimand inmates for the slightest actions including putting your arms in your sleeves because you are so cold that your skin is covered in Goosebumps and turning purple. These deputies feel that no matter what your “crime,” they have the right to speak to you as if you are an animal and threaten punishment for things as simple as asking when they would have your things so you can go home. Seeing as I was supposed to be there for 24 hours and because they felt the need to punish me more, I spent nearly 3 hours after signing my release papers waiting for one of them to simply get my bag of belongings and walk me to the front door. And even though I was technically free during this time, when I asked about my belongings and leaving I was told to “Shut up, turn around, and not say another word.”
Not every deputy there is completely without morals, though a good number of them are under the impression that they are better than everyone and that even if you have taken responsibility for your mistake you are no better than an animal, there are a few who take pity on those who are trying to make their restitution and show a very understanding attitude. But, the ones who feel the need to constantly berate and threaten the inmates should be put through sensitivity training or something because I am not the only person who they will come across who is not a repeat criminal, who is not a drug addict, and who was raised to believe that you should only treat others how you would like to be treated.
All in all my experience with Benton County Jail has not served to teach me any lessons about how a person should be punished for breaking the law and that it is better to take responsibility for your mistakes. It has only taught me that there are way too many power hungry, condoling, unsympathetic people in charge of our correctional facilities and something needs to be done about it. How can they expect to rehabilitate people and give them the desire to do better when they are treated like absolute animals? What kind of system is it that we treat people in such a harsh and inhumane manner for making a mistake? I’m not saying that they should be treated to 5 star meals, comfy beds, and all the perks of freedom, but if our penal system is supposed to help them learn from their mistakes they must be given the opportunity to learn instead of strictly being punished and used as a money maker for the facilities that are holding them.
Sunday, December 07, 2014