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No Justice from the Prison State

Florida’s Department of Corrections recently fired 32 guards after years of alleged corruption in the prison system with at least four related inmate deaths. Union officials call the mass layoff a “Friday night massacre.” Now that’s one massacre I can get behind.

Reporters digging deeper into the prison records found multiple incidents of abuse and so-called “inappropriate uses of force.”

As prison system inspectors visited Franklin Correctional Institution they discovered an incident from three years prior in which an inmate, 27-year-old Randall Jordan-Aparo, begged officer Rollin Suttle Austin, to take him to the hospital because of a blood disorder and the officer ordered him “gassed.” Jordan-Aparo died that night.

The inspectors rightfully found that the fiasco constituted “sadistic, retaliatory” behavior by the guards, but they allege that when they brought their findings to Florida Department of Corrections Inspector General Jeffrey Beasley, he told them he would “have their asses” if they didn’t back off. The involved officers remain on staff, although the U.S Department of Justice is investigating the situation.

That makes me feel so much better …

Another incident involved mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey; after defecating in his cell he was locked in a closet like shower, “blasted by hot water,” taunted and then abandoned officers to die. Witnesses report he was found on the shower drain with chunks of his skin falling off.

These incidents of pure evil are deemed anecdotal by those who continue to try and justify the prison state. How many examples of despicable abuse will it take for people to realize the problem is structural? How much more blood will prison guards have to get on their hands until they are rightly viewed as enemies of a peaceful society, rather than its protectors?

While the victims are merely names on a paper for various state functionaries to pretend to look into, they were real, flesh and blood individuals who suffered sickening torture at the hands of the prison state. Randall Jordan-Aparo and Darren Rainey are not anecdotes. Rather, they are examples of a much bigger, institutional problem.

That’s why the layoffs are not going to solve anything. The abuses of the prison state, while sad, are a predictable consequence of handing “justice” over to a state monopoly. The prison state is a system of oppression that normalizes abuses of power and acts of terror, leaving inmates at the mercy of unaccountable guards.

Unaccountability, as in the case of officer Austin, is routine. There are simply no incentives for the inner workings of the prison monopoly to tend toward keeping guards’ power in check. Only when outside reporters delve into the reports – a rare occurrence – is the state forced to act “responsibly.” And even then, the response is often mere show to appease the public rather than actual change. After all, real change would involve relinquishing state power – the last thing state functionaries will allow.

It took three years for Randall Jordan-Aparo’s death to even come to light and now all we get is an “investigation” — the state’s favorite appeasement technique. While it looks like accountability, an investigation by a fellow state functionary is no such thing. Real, true accountability is only achievable through a dispersion of power — and that means abolishing the whole system.

The state claims a monopoly on justice, but that’s not the real truth. The real truth is that the state removes any chances of justice.

Cory Massimino is a Fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org), a Students For Liberty Campus Coordinator, and a Young Voices Advocate. He is a philosophy student who has also written for such publications as the Daily Caller, Antiwar.com and The Libertarian. Massimino lives in Central Florida.

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