November 10, 2013

Regarding the Nov. 8 Metro article “Report: Staff at D.C. jail lacks skills to curb suicides”:

So the D.C. Jail staff regularly put people in isolation cells and take away their clothes, leaving them with nothing but a paper covering — and sometimes even nude. Is this a normal way to treat prisoners? If it is, shouldn’t we be shocked? I cannot see how such actions could be aimed at anything other than breaking the spirit of even a mentally healthy prisoner, which might make him more compliant in prison but is useless as a preparation for release. And doing this to mentally unstable individuals, of whom there are certainly plenty in prisons, is simply unconscionable. If there is a high suicide rate, perhaps it is related to such incompetent and dangerous policy, as well as the untrained staff and contractors mentioned in the article. The problem is at the top.

Prison policy needs constant and careful attention from people outside the system, such as politicians and news organizations, because those given power over others can easily lose their internal moral compasses. I’m sure many prison officials around the country are very aware of this and work hard to overcome it. But something has gone wrong at the D.C. Jail.

Robert Dennis, Potomac