Sunday, December 22, 2019

Prison - a Possible Future

One of my primary interests (though "interest" diminishes what it means to me) is criminal justice. This is an extremely broad and complex subject with many "sub-categories." The two that concern me the most are the death penalty and solitary confinement. My involvement feeds into my writing, of course, and one of the projects that has been slowly developing is a short story or possible novella about a futuristic prison for the very worst of the worst criminals.

In general, when politicians and the media talk about "the worst of the worst," they are, often unknowingly, talking about men and women who may not actually be guilty but are victims of our defective and corruption-riddled criminal justice system, and of the media itself.

In my story, every effort is made to assure that the imprisoned are truly the worst of the worst, people whose deeds were so horrendous that they cannot ever be allowed to live free. The prison is the result of a political compromise that finally allowed the death penalty to be discarded permanently, across the nation.

The prisoners live in a form of solitary confinement that is more extreme than even the worst of our current super-max prisons, in regard to the amount of isolation they endure. At the same, every effort is made to ensure their health and keep them from going mad in their isolation. They will never be released; they cannot escape. But they also never suffer the violence, either by other prisoners or by staff, that exists in most prisons today.

Among the questions the story asks and tries to answer: What does such a prison say about a country when we know the deleterious effects of long-term isolation? What kind of person is capable of being the warden of such a prison, and what are the potential effects on that person?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Parallels - How Many Children Will Die?

 Nicolae CeauČ™escu. How many people remember that name? Or that he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of orphan children in Romania, the country he ruled until his execution in 1989? Even with my poor memory, and the periods when I paid little attention to the news, I remember him, and the horrors he brought to Romania. It's estimated that anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 children, many of them disabled, died in the country's orphanages.

Today's Guardian article goes back to that period, and the ongoing investigation to uncover all the facts, assign responsibility, and to secure a history that has been largely ignored.

It's unlikely that as many children will die in Trump's cages, but the potential for disaster is there. The latest outrage is that ICE has refused to allow medical personnel in to administer free flu vaccinations. A mere handful of children have died to date, thanks to overcrowding and neglect. But those conditions persists, and it's a certainty that children whose only fault is that their parents wanted better lives for them, and many of whom will never see their parents again, will die from easily preventable causes. 

The Romanian children lived in a communist nation. The imprisoned children in the US, who were brought here from countries suffering violence, and poverty, are now living in a democratic nation. Or are they?

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Delights of Book Recommendations

Out of curiosity, I've been tracking my reading on Goodreads this year, posting the titles of completed books, and an occasional short review. How many books do I read in a year? Actually, more than I bother to post.

An amusing feature of Goodreads is their recommendations based on what you are currently reading or on a past read. Why amusing? Because they are often so way off-base that you just have to laugh. This morning's revelation of books I might like because I'm currently reading Dark Age America: Climate Change, Cultural Collapse, and the Hard Road Ahead, might be the most off-base and most ridiculous yet. How in the world Goodreads finds any similarity between a serious nonfiction work and two romances and a book on muscle building has to be the puzzle of the century.

And it has to be a very peculiar algorithm that recommends anywhere from number two to number six of various series when I'm reading the first of a series.

Lest I descend into pure rant, I'll just mention briefly how many sites insist you read certain books. "You must..." "You have to..." No, I damn well don't, thank you.