Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Exercising humanity in the "Face of Evil"

Following is a second extract from the publication The Power of Compassion; Transforming the Correctional Culture, by Vicki Sanderford-O'Connor*.

The author is an experienced correctional officer who worked for 16 years for the California Department of Corrections, the third largest prison system in the world. The first extract was printed in Corruption Prevention News Number 10.

The author proposes that evil can exist in the most routine situations; it can become part of everyday life. She sees it as arising from an "us versus them" attitude which can deprive a group of people of their basic humanity. This is what she has to say...

"In corrections..."They are the criminals and 'we' are the 'good' people. How can we tell? Because 'they' are the criminals and 'we' remain free. It's a harmless...idea at first glance. We have a common humanity with those we condemn.

The 'us versus them' attitude aids us in the self-deception that we are somehow different than the criminals we supervise. We believe that their misfortunes were the result of a clear choice made by a morally bankrupt individual, and that we are somehow immune to the frailties and weaknesses of the human spirit. This belief is a mistake.

Accepting or supporting any action that does not 'ring true' with your values sets the stage for even further compromise...I can only emphasise that caring and concern for humanity is not weak. It actually takes more strength to care."

When you work in an institution, you are out of the public's view. Isolation is dangerous; it creates breeding grounds for distortions of what is acceptable. It is difficult to go into a new environment such as corrections, without wanting desperately to blend in, to be accepted, to show that you are capable of handling anything thrown at you.

It is easy to become accepting of behaviours that most health people would question, especially when everyone around you accepts abnormal behaviours as 'normal'. At just this point you must hold on to your values and standards, and not become a person of compromise.

The first time that a fellow officer, or a superior, or an inmate, [prisoner], suggests a compromising behaviour, you must stand and your ground. Believe me, in the long run, your words, your standards and your refusal to compromise will make your reputation and garner much more respect."

Here are some suggestions;

* Be aware, not paranoid - measure you decisions and behaviour by the yardstick of principles, values and morals.

* Discuss issues of concern with others - You can be sure that if you questioning the appropriateness of an action so are others.

* Be accountable for your behaviour and hold others accountable for theirs.

* Manage stress by taking care of your body with a healthy diet and exercise.

* Be aware and beware of the 'us versus them' attitude.

By Vicki Sanderford-O'Connor posted 29 June 04


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Rumsfeld had approved abuse
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorised hoods, the stripping of prisoners and the use of dogs to terrify inmates at Guantanamo Bay almost two years ago, documents released yesterday revealed.

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US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, acting at the request of the CIA, ordered that a suspected Iraqi insurgent leader be detained off the books to conceal his identity from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Pentagon has confirmed.

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The United States is holding terrorism suspects in more than two dozen detention centres worldwide, about half of which operate in total secrecy, according to a new human rights report.

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For some time now, I've been trying to find out where my son goes after choir practice. He simply refuses to tell me. He says it's no business of mine where he goes after choir practice and it's a free country.

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Queensland's anti-discrimination commissioner has been asked to investigate claims of human rights abuses in the state's women's prisons.

Carr's Castle the real story H.R.M.U.The High Risk Management Unit Goulburn Correctional Centre The Australian Institute of Criminology's Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia - 1996 just don't cover the Goulburn HRMU according to Mr Ron Woodham Commissioner of Corrective Services. The High Risk Management Unit (HRMU) is the centrepiece of a major $22M redevelopment of Goulburn Correctional Centre.

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We the prisoners at the High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn Correctional Centre would like to ask you for help in receiving equal treatment and opportunities as other prisoners throughout the system. As we are told that we are not in a segregation unit but we are treated as though we are in one.