July 08, 2007

The Nightmare of Piranesi

Imaginary Prison.jpg

By signing a name on a check, a forger signs his death warrant. The sentence of a man convicted of mail fraud never ends; part of his penalty is to forever wonder if the footsteps behind him signal abuse, degradation, and perhaps death. A woman struggling with a legacy of sexual abuse and drug addiction is punished with further sexual abuse.

More complete stories are here, including this obversation, which is in accord with something I've thought for quite a while:

I saw all this stuff about Abu Ghraib. People were outraged that this was happening overseas, but this is also happening in our nation's capital. It's happening to people who need drug treatment. It's happening to 19-year-old girls who have low selfesteem. It's happening to people who are arrested for the first time after being completely strung out. This is happening in our country.

This strikes me as being an intolerable state of affairs.

Posted by Ideofact at July 8, 2007 11:58 PM


May God reward you with good for this post.

I couldn't more with what you said, that the current state of affairs should be intolerable.

Unfortunately it seems to be precisely the opposite, the brutal conditions of our prisons, and the seemingly always increasing numbers of our fellow citizens who we put in these prisons seems to be entirely tolerable by the society -- in fact, have you ever heard a politician talking about more humane treatment of prisoners or even just stopping criminal abuse of prisoners?

People in our society mainly like to ignore what is going on in our name and with our tax dollars in the prisons. And when we don't ignore it, we like to tell jokes about it -- although I haven't the slightest idea what's funny about it.

Posted by: Abu Noor Al-Irlandee at July 9, 2007 03:53 PM

So glad you commented--here's at least one subject on which we can find a good deal of common ground. I seem to recall reading, at some point, that you had done some work for an organization that worked with Illinois prisoners (and forgive me if I've gotten this wrong). Is that true?

Posted by: Bill at July 10, 2007 12:13 AM

Yes I am on the Board and have been a long time volunteer with the Inner City Muslim Action Network here in Chicago (www.imancentral.org)

We have done work with prisoners in the past and we currently have a pilot "halfway house" program for formerly incarcerated people. We also are working with various local coalitions of different religious and ethnic groups to promote legislative change here in Illinois. Our first steps have been focused on encouraging alternatives to prison for non-violent drug offenders as well as other post release assistance to discourage recidivism.

I wish that I could be more involved in improving the conditions of those who are incarcerated. The current system is not only immoral and cruel but is also contrary to the interests of the very society that implements it.

I am also glad I did comment...I often fall into the trap of only writing with disagreements for I love intellectual give and take. As a matter of fact and although I have not hidden my significant disagreements with you I even find much to agree with you on in your Islam/Qutb posts.


Posted by: Abu Noor Al-Irlandee at July 10, 2007 05:49 PM

Also, thanks for pointing to this Piranesi guy -- His work is fascinating.

Posted by: Abu Noor Al-Irlandee at July 10, 2007 05:51 PM

There's an interesting essay on Piranesi by Marguerite Yourcenar that I borrowed the title from (hers was called "The Dark Brain of Piranesi").

There's a reference to it here, as well as a link to a Huxley essay about Piranesi's prison etchings.

Regarding prisons, I'm kind of shocked that newspapers haven't invested more effort into documenting their horrors, which I think is the first thing that has to be done (perhaps it's natural that I think this, coming from a journalism background),

I'm very curious to get the 1973 Jessica Mitford book on prisons, since it was written before the explosion of incarcerations that came with the full scale war on drugs in the 1980s.

Posted by: Bill at July 13, 2007 12:18 AM