Ever been inside a state prison?
It isn’t exactly a place where everyone gets along in perfect harmony.
They have their share of violent gang members of all skin tones. And it goes without saying most of the folks serving time aren’t exactly model, law-abiding citizens who are respectful of their fellow man.
Add to that the fact prisons are overcrowded and often use common space such as exercise gyms to house inmates and you can have a bit of a challenge to keep the peace and try to assure the safety of every prisoner as much as possible.
And it has to be done basically with - for the most part - unarmed correctional officers who spend their entire work day trying to keep order among murderers, rapists, hardcore gang members, child beaters, pedophiles, violent robbers, and a host of others who could politely be called the dregs of society.
So it is understandable when the California Department of Corrections has a fight on its hands between various members of gangs whose membership requires them to at least be of the same skin tone that prisons will determine the best way to assure the safety of their charges as much of possible is by imposing a lockdown using skin tone or ethicality as one of the determining factors.
This, of course, has lawyers for the inmates howling that it amounts to illegal discrimination. Which is why they are suing.
One has to wonder whether they’d sue the department if there weren’t lockdowns and the number of deaths of inmates started escalating due to violence attributed to a degree to gang-related racism.
Now the courts have ruled you can’t house inmates based on their race. California has ended that practice when told to by the courts. Other states had stopped race-based housing segregation long before after noting it actually encouraged valence by splitting inmates by racial considerations.
What the department is now being sued for is - pardon the pun - a horse of a different color.
Perhaps the lawyers instead would like to sue inmates doing the attacks for being racially motivated as if that would protect potential victims. The last line of defense for many inmates are correctional officers that aren’t armed with lethal force who need whatever tools they can to keep order. Lockdowns help manage what is essentially a powder keg. And while some non gang-members may be caught up in the lockdowns it effectively stops much of the violence.
More than a few correctional officers will tell you that you need something to keep the violence that can often come from boredom under control.
They are the ones who best understand what is at stake. Lockdowns are a better and safer way to deal with some problems instead of spending time trying to cherry pick those who need to be subjected to tighter rules and isolate them from the rest of the population.
No one is saying you should treat state prisoners as being among the damned. But let’s face it. The primary objective is punishment although rehabilitation does some time enter the picture.
And since they are being punished, they should have no expectations of full rights. That goes for cases where their safety and the safety and that of others are at stake and when the Department of Corrections needs to employ sweeping measures to make sure they don’t have riots or a prison takeover.
Besides, there is something highly ironic about the entire legal system doing contortions on behalf of individuals who acted upon their own to take away someone else’s right to life, someone else’s sense of innocence and security, and someone else’s property to act indignant when what they are essentially being required to do is give up only access to visitors, education materials, and exercise for an extended time period. And yes, the lockdown decision can be based in part on racial considerations in a sweeping move to protect lives.
I bet there are more than a few murder victims who would gladly trade those rights for their right to life.