The suffering of inmates portrayed in Prison Literature
Each culture and the country have its own methods of punishing the lawbreakers. In the 21st century, almost all countries have its own judicial systems. When individuals commit a crime, they are taken into law courts. If there is no substantial evidence to hold the accused as guilty, the person is released. One is only arrested, if and only if, the accusations leveled against him are validated. Assuming that all things are put constant, then one would expect that a fair hearing would be the basis of any judgment. Guilty people should be arrested. Innocent people should be set free. Due to human error, this has not always been the case. Innocent people have been put behind bars. What has inmates resulted to? Inmate’s literature speaks silently although eloquently about their plight as well as the circumstances that make one to be treated as a wrongdoer.
The setting free of some incorrigible people has continued to perpetuate the plight of inmates .The inmates continue to document this in their writtings. One may tend to ask, “What happens when these people are estranged from the rest of society? What happens to the truth, which is only known to them only? Do they feel compelled to enlighten the public on issues only well known to them?” Brydon in the parole gives the possibility of releasing criminals back to the society. Inmates tend to use the available channels to communicate to the world. They use the strength of a pen to champion their cause. Something that is evident t is the fact that, inmates convey strong points to the world through writing. Prisoners, while serving their sentences, tend to engage themselves in other constructive activities (Brydon 16).
Prison literature is rich in themes. These themes continue to bring to the public the suffering that inmates endure. They write books, poems essays, short stories, plays and articles. Some of these genres appear in the form of diaries, autobiographies, biographies, memoirs and letters. Valdivia in his one stanza poem entitled my girls is a good example. She seems to be addressing a certain person but her letter is undelivered. She talks of how bad she feels being separated from the girls. Inmates do not just simply write for the sake of writing. No. They are just as serious as any other writer in the streets. They use the writing avenue to communicate ideas, which appear in the form of themes. Common themes in prison literature have been focused upon in this essay. Apart from giving themes as well thought conclusions, they at times, through their writings, just tend to initiate a debate to the public. Some debates are so controversial. This is reflected in this paper (Perez 17).
Apart from writing thematic texts, inmates’ literature is crafted in such a manner to achieve a certain purpose. This purpose is meant to expose their tribulations as inmates in hope that the public will treat them better. What objective do they intended to achieve? Here, one learns of the different writing techniques that these writings adopt. Writers use these methods to self-express themselves. They also use them to diminish the inevitable physical gap created by their confinements. It is a form of socializing with the external world; a form of interacting with those people who are non- inmates. Different writers use different forms to pass a message. Inmates are not an exception. They too use various methods. Examples of these have been discussed in this paper. (Scott 22).
Reading inmate literature, three major groups of suffering people can be identified. There is that group content with their present state of affairs. They do not seem to blame the forces and the circumstance that sent them in chains. The second group of inmates comprise of those who strongly believe that they were either innocent or were not responsible for the charges leveled against them. They will always engage themselves in the blame game (Brydon 14). The other interesting group of inmates, comprise of those who strongly believe that human life is subject to errors. They do not portray themselves as angels. Different from the first group of inmates who put no efforts to better themselves; these inmates always seem to engage in acts of repentance and forgiveness. Inmate literature materials, found in open line 2009, contain these three types of inmates. They expose the other side of prisoners (Spence 20).
Inmates are very crafty in conveying their laments to the public as well as to fellow inmates. Regardless of their classification, common tools (or else methods) seem to be used by inmates. In order to facilitate their ranking, inmates interrogate their childhood circumstances, their upbringing, their families and their homes. They too interrogate the role the society is entitled to play to actualize their characters.
Juveniles experience trying moments particularly behind bars. They suffer immensely. In an essay sixteen, inmate Charlie Spence uses first person narration to own his grievances particularly the treatment of juveniles. To him, he cannot understand why children should be held accountable for crimes committed during brain maturation. To Spence, children should not be treated as adults. The level of responsibility between an adult and a child should be dissimilar. Many juveniles are made to suffer unnecessarily. Delinquents should be rehabilitated as opposed to imprisonment, Spence believes. He is not alone in interrogating the case of childhood.
Childhood experiences can be responsible for criminal attitudes that can later in life expose one to many sufferings. Using the first person narration, Rick Branson in his short story Strong Mountain, does not hesitate to give insights to narrator’s childhood experiences. The narrator’s errands adventures are vividly described. He appears to be of the idea that, childhood experiences has a way of percolating into ones adult life (Brydon 13). When such a thing can happen, one becomes vulnerable to many acts. These do take place in different environments. A family set up shapes ones character and in deed may be responsible for one own actions. When homes are mentioned, the issue of parenting comes in handy. More so, the absence of two parents i.e. father and mother, in the upbringing of a child causes an abnormal socialization of a child in a society as one develops. Could the upbringing of Alex in Perez’s Alex Saw the Devil, by grandparents only have contributed in the imprisonment of the narrator (Perez 21)?
An inmate suffering starts with the instability of their families. Gray Scott blames an unstable family as providing a nurturing ground for budding criminals. Although he is very ambivalent, he feels the urge to blame his upbringing by a single mother. In his story Dear Self, Gray believes that single mother hood should be blamed but not absolutely. In the third paragraph, Gray says, “what about the sacrifices your mother made for you? Despite all the bad things you have done, she never gave up on you. So you do not give up on her” (Gray). He recognizes the bad things he has done. He is only being realistic. When inmates try to write about their families and relatives, some inmates attempt to establish the reality of the close bond between family members. They too unearth the ugliness of a separation by circumstance that seems to be beyond one's control. Frank Valdivia is such an inmate (Perez 18).
Separation of inmates from their beloved is another trauma that prisoners must experience against their will. Frank suffers such separation. He blames his circumstance. In the poem, he says “life is not supposed to be this way, I feel all spent and through” (Valdivia). He is very hopeful that he will come out of jail one day to be reunited with his family. All said and done; three is still some inmates who seem to be disillusioned by their circumstances. Their literature portrays a lot of hope and hopelessness. The persona in parole plans tells the chair of the board about the fate that was designated to him. He talks of being left to perish (Brydon 18).
Finally, it is good to note that this form of literature differs from other forms in various ways. Inmate literature exploits the first narrative point of view. This is because; inmates feel the urge to present their views so much intimately. This style too helps the inmates to own the texts. This form of literature is very vital in today’s world. The public needs to know, understand and even appreciate what inmates undergo through. It is thus must read it. When all this is done, different people will learn to tolerate each other. They will assist each other. They will support each other psychosocially. Perhaps a campaign to advocate for a fair treatment of inmates will be arrived at and hence minimize their sufferings if not to absolutely end them.