Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Short Incident

"Did he fall or was he punched?" the nurse asked. The inmate was bleeding from two places on his face, lying on the wet tiles of the shower floor. His eyes were wide open but he couldn't speak, couldn't move.

I held his head with a gloved hand, stabilizing in case his spine was injured. "Assault," I said, "If he'd fallen and hit the cut would have been on the outside of the orbital ridge. This is on the inside. He was hit."

I caught myself, "Is it terrible that I know that?" I asked.

Later, when the nurse was using super glue (it has another name when a doctor uses it but it's the same stuff) to seal the laceration, the now half-conscious kid asked if it would scar. The nurse said just a little.

"No one will notice it," I said. There was a flash in my memory of a ring on a big fist that matches to a scar in my left eyebrow. "No one notices mine."

Interviews, investigations. The injuries at first seemed serious enough to warrant felony charges. A dorm of 65 inmates with one beaten unconscious and, of course, no one saw a thing. In ten minutes we had the assaulter identified and removed, but it took me another half hour to be absolutely sure it was the right man...

When the injuries proved less serious, it became a misdemeanor, something I could not charge. The victim declined to press charges, balancing his anger, humiliation and desire for revenge against the probability (the near certainty) that he will be in custody again and word will spread that he was a "rat". Societies are self-enforcing in many ways.

So there will be no new charges and it will be handled within the institution with segregation and the loss of priveleges.


Sporklinger said...

The criminal justice system in America is just that - criminal. As you demonstrated, the young man you helped was fortunate to have escaped with only minor injuries. As a minister who has served in prisons for many years, I can tell you that what you do takes guts, dedication and a selfless, sacrificial spirit - something for you to to be proud of. Please keep up the good work which keeps both us free world'ers and those behind bars safer.
Thanks also for the excellent post.

Rory said...

Thanks. I don't believe that the system is criminal so much as unfocused. Many criminals are bad people and will hurt others... yet when we've identified a handful who will victimize others no matter how restricted their access and put them in supermax with no access to victims, we're immediately sued for denying human contact.

We treat murderers and child molestors exactly the way we treat drunk drivers because we are required to be objective, even if it makes it more dangerous for everybody.

We get a tool, the Taser, which is scary and effective. It makes large people on drugs scream and drop to the ground, unable to move... so groups get together to ban the tool, completely missing the objective fact that it doesn't cause injury... because the appearance of pain is more traumatic to watch than the potentially crippling injuries of going hand-to-hand.

You've been there.