Stiftung Freiräume

WHAT IS PRISON FOR?

The point of view of the detainee


1. The judicial point of view
2. The point of view of the specialists
3. The point of view of the detainee
4. Der judikative (rechtliche) Blickwinkel
5. Der Blickwinkel der Spezialisten
6. Der Blickwinkel des Gefangenen
7. Fazit
8. Strafvollzug - eine widersinnige Institution
9. Angst ... als Akzeptanzbeschafferin

This is easy to resume: every detainee knows that in prison one has mainly two rights: the right to be bored and the right to keep your mouth shut. If not, the hole. We have seen that prison is especially the deprivation of life, but for a detainee it is also something else: besides to be bored, it is the destruction of oneself, the destruction of one‘s capability to concentrate and take decisions, the destruction of one‘s fysical condition, the destruction of one‘s emotional life, the destruction of one‘s sexuality... In fact, in prison one never decides about something: one decides neither about what to eat nor about the time to eat. One decides neither about the hour nor about the day to take a shower. To have water under the shower one has to press a button. But since most of the buttons are broken, one has to keep a finger permanently on the button and the water is often ice cold or too hot. One doesn‘t decide about the hour the light goes out at night nor about the hour it it is switched on in the morning. There is no switch in the cell. It is the warden who does it from the outside. One even doesn‘t decide about turning on the heating when one has cold or to lower it when one has warm: there is no button on the radiator. One does not decide about the changing of the bedclothes when they are dirty. The sheets are changed every fortnight. Since seven years I never decide about the clothes I will ware: I always have the same trousers of grey linen, the same dark blue sweater, the same coat of grey stuff, the same socks, the same black shoes, the same too big or too small underpants. In a world restricted eternally by four walls of two meters on four, never something pleasant happens.
This night, I didn‘t sleep much. An addict has been arrested who now misses his dope. The whole night he screamed: I am in pain, I am going to die. This morning another tune has been put on. I did hear a heavy dispute between a detainee and a warden. The detainee was dragged to the hole and regularely I hear him shouting: Chief warden, son of a b.... Continuously, I hear the loudspeaker in front of my cell: Return recreation, Passing workers, 214 for the social assisant, 128 to the lawyers consulting room, Men for the body-search (the latter is after every visit, guards are called to do strip-searches of the detainees).
Yesterday I was called to recuperate my boxes with personal belongings coming from the prison of Huy where I was transfered to for five days by mistake. I noticed that a box with for me important things was missing. It got „lost“, I‘ll never get it back. Some weeks ago they refused me the canteen. After having filed a complaint, the book-keeping noticed that there was another Depouhon and when he was transfered to another prison, they have given him all my money! It was payed back, but since one can order at the canteen only ones a week, I am without tobacco and without coffee for a week.
In the prison of Huy a muslim, whose religion forbids to show oneself naked, refused to take off his underpants during the prescribed body-search after the visit. Result : to the hole. I specify that he didn‘t fight and didn‘t smuggle drugs. He only refused to take off his underpants for religeous reasons. Long live human rights! One could fill papers with similar details. But because nothing ever happens in the cells, the details take the proportion of real events.
And the events are without many exceptions aggravating, humiliating, degrading, shitty, debiliating, infantile... Does one has to add that if a detainee vegetates for years in such a hell , he isn‘t normal anymore and sometimes leaves the prison as a mad dog. I just did read a very interesting work, The aggressive human being of P. Karli (neuro-biologist) published with Odile Jacob (1989). The author shows in particular that if one takes a perfect socialized adult cat and isolates it for only fourteen days, already after fourteen days one observes neuro-chemical changes in the brain. Can you imagine what goes on in the brain of a human being isolated during ten years in this hell? Not only is this human being no longer normal, but, revolting, he leaves prison much more dangerous for public safety than before.
Conclusion
So, what is prison for, if one leaves it much more dangerous? I will tell you: prison serves in the first place to protect the goods of the rich against the envy of the poor.
Of course it doesn‘t protect them against the almost 9000 inside prison now and who were not afraid. But it protects the rich against the millions of unemployed, excluded, low-earners, marginalized... who are afraid to go to prison. If not, prison would have ceased to exist since long. It is evidently not for the abolition of the prisons one has to agitate, capitalism is impossible without repression, it would be a civil war immeadiately. One has to agitate against the causes and not against the symptoms of the decease: capitalism, and in the first place for the transformation of stock-holders societies in cooperative societies. In this economical organisation, where social justice in stead of „repressive justice“ is reality, you‘ll see how prisons will become empty, while now they are filled to burst .
Jean-Paul Depouhon
4 rue de la résistance, 4500 Huy, Belgium
Originaly published in French: " La prison, ça sert à quoi ? " in Alternative Libertaire 214, February 1999, translated by the anarchist black cross-gent with some small corrections added by Jean-Paul Depouhon, July 2002.

Jean-Paul Depouhon is a Belgian anarchist prisoner currently locked up in the prison of Huy. He was arrested in 1989, 42 years old, charged with murder and murder attempt. Although he always defended his innocense, he was sentenced to 20 years for complicity to manslaughter.
In 1995, during a half day special release because of the death of his father, he manages to escape. Abroad, underground, and without any means to survive, he robs several banks to survive. In February 1998 he got arrested again.
It seems that he is subjected to rather arbitrary censorship by the prison authorities in Huy. We try to find out what exactly is going on, we urge everyone to write or to keep writing to Jean-Paul. If you‘ve been in touch with Jean-Paul recently, please contact the abc-gent. Thanks.
Jean-Paul Depouhon
4, rue de la résistance
4500 Huy
Belgium

ABC- Gent
PB 40
9000 Gent 2
Belgium
abc_gent@yahoo.com

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