Facilitation Discussion #2 from Harmon Dhaliwal
Chapter 3 of Laura Bates’ Shakespeare Saved My Life opens with a flurry of events and sequences. It is highlighted by a failed attempt at escaping the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility by a prisoner named Newton. This is significant in the sense that he is the first real prisoner that the readers get an insight into. The parting sentimental dialogue at the end of the section develops further into Chapter 4 and beyond where we are introduced to Donald and a few others. More importantly, we finally are exposed to how crucial and beneficial education can be for the incarcerated. Here, we get a taste of what this opportunity meant to the men, “You’re locked down all the time… no programming… it’s worse than death row [the prisoners’ hot takes on prison]” (42). It appears that as the novel progresses, Bates will attempt to break the presumed notions that inmates can not be aided to better themselves.
Bates going out of her way to understand and rationalize the prisoners’ motivation for getting an education assists in humanizing the men. Although it isn’t immediately addressed, we can conclude it has something to do with the treatment of the individuals. With a large emphasis placed on describing the frustration and harsh realities faced by the characters, I decided to direct my facilitation discussion on the severity of sentencing prisoners. Coupled with the personas in the novel and opinions of many, it can be argued that the length and treatment of inmates is slightly inhumane. To put this into perspective, ACLU’s Fathi from CQ Researcher, alleges “A prisoner can go weeks, months or years without meaningful human interaction” (771). From a human emotional stance, this blew me away. Being that I personally crave conversation and the presence of others, I found myself clamoring for lighter sentences. I can’t even begin to imagine how the men in solitary confinement remain sane.
Similar to how the text alludes to the men expressing urgency for change, Fred Cohen, co-editor of Correctional Law Reporter, describes the mental implications of extensive isolation; “One guy told me, ‘I don’t know who I am’” (771). Prisons seem to be intent on wrecking the lives of its inhabitants. Rather than promote working on becoming the best version of themselves, these institutions seem to leech on shutting down and breaking the men. All of this assists in raising the question, how can the sentencing and treatment of prisoners be adjusted to be less severe? Otherwise, do you believe prisons should maintain their current practices?
Mosesso, Vincent N., and Paul M. Paris. "Solitary Confinement: Is Long-Term Isolation of Prisoners Inhumane?" 8.1 (2004): 769-72. CQ Researcher. 14 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.