Many Americans argue that prisons are nice country clubs and do not need reforms. It is stressed that inmates receive lodging, meals, and therefore should not complain about their living conditions. Unfortunately, we overlook that many of our prisons and jails are a match for any third world prison camp. For example, the Los Lunas Correctional Facility agreed this week to pay $750,000 to 500 inmates who endured a punishment that the guards lovingly called “Nuts to Butts.”
When the inmates were unruly, they were ordered to straddle each other. The genitals of each inmate would touch the behind of the inmate in front of him. New Mexico agreed, as part of a court settlement, to end the practice of forcing prisoners to sit with their private body parts touching other inmates. As usual, it required a lawsuit to end this degrading practice by a correctional system and its officers.
If we had read about this humiliating punishment occurring in a South American prison or a jail in the Middle East, heads would shake with comments about third world prisons. Inmate abuse is part of the daily life of many prisons and jails in the United States. PrisonPath has discussed the serious problems of prison overcrowding and suicides in Texas and Oklahoma prisons. The abusive use of solitary confinement was posted in “Solitary Confinement Revisited.” Recently, New Mexico’s Dona Ana County agreed to pay $15.5 million settlement with a man who was arrested just for drunken driving and held in solitary confinement for nearly two years.
The United States has 5 percent of the world population and 25 percent of the world’s inmates. If we are to lower our high recidivism rate, then our prisons need to eliminate abusiveness and humiliation from the prison environment.