Maine Department of Corrections Running Scared!
February 18, 2010I’ve never seen anything like it! Opposition to the solitary confinementbill, LD1611, on Wednesday, February 17, brought out an army of correctionsofficials, guards, social services staff and hangers on, all glaring withcontempt at the assortment of people advocating for prisoner rights. It wasan army coming out after a guy with a sling shot. If there was one therewere fifty people lining up to cover the Commissioner’s back. With theCommittee as obviously in his pocket as they are, it is totally mystifying as towhy he would need anything more than a pack of Rolaids. The only conclusion an objective observer could reach was, “Me thinksyou protesteth too much!” Objectivity, however, was in scarce supply. The Committee missed the point entirely. If it takes an army to silencea guy with a sling shot, what does it take to silence a prisoner with nothingbut a pen and a piece of paper? That question was answered over and overagain – it takes a dysfunctional system with a fierce commitment to secrecy.What you do is more important than how you do it, so long as you don’tcross that proverbial line.Perhaps the sage was right! “The pen is, indeed, mightier than thesword.”Spearheaded by the Maine Civil Liberties Union, advocates includedfamily members of prisoners, former prisoners themselves, psychologists,the Maine Coalition Against Solitary Confinement and yours truly, a formerChaplain and notorious traitor for daring to speak out against a system runby and defended by a lot of otherwise good people who could do a lot betterif somebody threw open the windows of the place.As I watched this circus play itself out, there were a number of toughguys and ladies displaying their toughness by flexing their muscles. Onehigh ranking official who shall remain nameless and, hopefully, extinct as theBaldacci Administration winds down, shoved into me and by me on the wayto the hearing room with, “Excuse me.” It was the only way he had of demonstrating his toughness, I guess.Do these people really exist, or are we watching a bad movie? Whatkind of $125K a year professionals would hide behind a $14.50 an hourprison guard? Look around the room, and you could see the future of corrections in Maine, absent an overhaul.Ironically, it was Ash Wednesday, a day for those of us who claim tohave put our “…hands in the hand of the man from Galilee” to reflect on the1