Posts on this blog have been intermittent (at best) since my senior capping class ended. I suppose that without expectations looming over me I lost motivation to post regularly, let alone at all. But lately the itch to write has come back. And, after all, to become a better writer you need to write. Writing just to write without really having something to say is boring and, at least for me, produces poor writing.
However, something in the news recently sparked my interest. I saw two
separate articles about California prisons, which I'm sure almost everyone has
seen. One was about supplying
condoms in male prisons to cut down on the STD rate, the other was about forced
sterilization of female inmates. Obviously, both of these articles
bring forth questionable issues. I'm going to come right out and share my
opinion about the sterilization: I absolutely believe that forced
sterilization is 100 percent ethically wrong.
One hundred and fifty women were reported sterilized in California over the
course of five years. No one can say for sure if every one of these women did
not willingly agree to the procedure, but the general assumption in the media
is that it was forced sterilization for the most part. Not only was it forced,
but it was also illegal since the prisons did not go through the state's proper
channels to legally perform the procedures.
While I understand the legal seriousness of the issue -- misuse of funds,
mis-documenting procedures as "medical emergencies" -- I feel the
ethical seriousness has been downplayed. I have read some quotes from inmates,
saying things about how they overheard prison nurses pushing sterilization on
other inmates and such. One sterilized inmate said that doctors convinced her
that sterilization was the best thing to do since she already had five
children, but that she later regretted the decision. I understand that these
women are inmates, in prison for crimes. And criminals should be punished -- I
am all for solitary confinement and the like when circumstances warrant it. But
basically stripping a human being of their reproductive rights is heinous. This
is comparable to a civilian's right to choose an abortion being taken away.
The beliefs of some should not dictate policy for all. Meaning, in this
case, inmates' reproductive rights should not be abolished simply because some
think it is the right thing to do without medical criteria backing it
up. Criminals, drug addicts, homeless persons, a mother of 10, I don't care.
Unless a medical professional has solid, indisputable evidence that
sterilization of an inmate -- or anyone-- is necessary, forced sterilization is
wrong. This is my ethical standpoint. I can foresee people reading this tearing
their hair out, citing statistics about unfit mothers who have more children
just for the welfare check and then use the money for drugs, et cetera. I get
that, I really do. Those kind of situations are horrible, and those mothers
should have the welfare cut off and their children taken away. But as much as I
agree with such concerns, I cannot condone the act of a human being taking away
an inherent, biological right from another human being.
All this being said, my view on condoms in male prisons is not nearly as
clear-cut or lengthy.
Having sex in prison is a felony. Clearly, this is not stopping many
inmates, consensual or not. By giving them access to condoms, California is
sending one of two message: "Go ahead, we condone this." or "We
do not condone this, but at least be safe." Either way, I do think that
the premise for such an action is justified; the state wants to cut down the
STD rate. This concept is great! And California wouldn't be the first state to
try something like this. Vermont (my home state) has had condom accessibility
in prisons for years. Other states have more restrictive rules, such as those
involving conjugal visits.
Again, the concept behind the idea is great. But I think about how often men
get raped in prison and I worry that by supplying condoms the state is giving
rapists another reason to rape. I do not think that lawmakers are considering
supplying condoms in order to validate or encourage inmate rapists. However, I
wonder if these abusers will see it that way. On the other hand, a small part
of me thinks that perhaps giving out condoms is more about protecting the
inmate victims rather than the rapists. Though that may be little comfort if
they are still getting raped.
When it comes to inmate rapes, my view on supplying condoms is murky.
Consensual relationships are definitely a different story. Maybe if prison
couples disclosed their relationships the state would feel more justified in
supplying condoms for consensual sex. Unfortunately, that still leaves rape
victims unprotected and may even make them feel discriminated against.
This post isn't about coming up with answers to the condoms issue or
sterilization issue, but they are two things that people should think about. We
tend to discard people once they are sent to prison, disregard them as human
beings deserving of rights. And in some cases like cold-blooded murder I'm sure
one could create a strong argument for it. Another debate for another post. In
the two instances presented here, when you get down to it, one is about
reproductive rights and the other is about sexual health. Just think about it.
(Citation: Specific information in this post gathered from the two articles