Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A Story Problem
Say a young woman did something really horrible--like murder four people. While she was in the county jail awaiting trial, her public defender arranged for a social worker to visit her, talk to her, help her prepare for trial, and for what might come after. Say the social worker was a friend of yours, and she told you stories about this woman--about the abuse and deprivation the prisoner had suffered all her life, and say the social worker came to understand (as you surely will too) that this abuse and deprivation were central factors in the woman's path to this horrible crime. Say that your friend the social worker becomes a kind of friend of this woman, perhaps her only friend, her only support, the only person in the world who listens to her with compassion, so that after her contract to work with this woman ends, she continues to visit, and write letters, and send gifts. Even when the woman is tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and moved from Cook County to a prison that is two-plus hours away, your friend continues to visit. Even though the drive to the prison is long and bleak, and actually entering the prison is frightening and disturbing, your friend continues to go, because she knows she is this woman's only friend and because she wants to go. Even though your friend's heart is breaking every time she sits with this woman and listens to her hopelessness (she has young children who she may never see again), she visits again.
Say that one day your friend gets a letter from this prisoner, and this is what the letter says: In the middle of one night, guards entered this woman's prison cell, handcuffed and shackled her, and put her on an airplane to a prison in Florida. No one told her why. She was not allowed to take anything with her--her books, notebooks (she writes poetry), photographs. The prisoner described the life at the new prison, which involved a kind of orientation in which she was awakened every morning at 5 am, allowed to take a two-minute shower, then returned to her cell where she had to sit on her bed with her feet on the floor, all day, until it was time to go to bed and do this all over again. This was to go on for several weeks before she would be allowed any privileges, but before she could complete her orientation, she was again handcuffed and shackled and moved to another prison in Florida.
Why would this be, your friend asks you. She had been tried and convicted in Illinois. She committed the crime in Illinois. Why would she have been moved? You, of course, do not know the answer to this, but you wonder, and you thought it might be worth putting it out there to ask.