Why the Missouri Courts and Prison System Should Be Seriously Investigated and Reformed

by Sherrie Pogue about a month ago in incarceration

And Why Missouri Residents Should Care

Why the Missouri Courts and Prison System Should Be Seriously Investigated and Reformed

Prison in Missouri

How much do any of us really know about what goes on behind the walls of Missouri prisons? If you have never been privy to a court case ending in a prison sentence you would have no idea. The problem is prevalent and people are blind if it doesn’t directly affect them. That is where people are wrong.

Just because you are a law abiding citizen does not mean you won’t end up in prison. As of September 2019 citizens of Missouri are being incarcerated for debt owed and back child support.

Because the courts and their procedures are so corrupt and against our basic human rights to begin with, people should pay more attention to the process and its solution to a guilty verdict. Many innocent people wind up in prison. Even if they are not innocent of the crime they are accused of committing, the court process thus far has proved unfair. Many find their constitutional rights are impeded upon. People are being incarcerated for being poor and unable to afford the expensive maneuver of the justice system.

Once you are in the system, it can become a never-ending cycle of poverty and re-incarceration. This cycle destroys lives and families and breeds poverty and crime. It is non-conducive to progress and growth in Missouri. There are many reasons why people end up in prison and not all are prison-worthy. Debtors prison and child support are two instances where normal law abiding citizens somehow end up in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Debtors Prison

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in March 2019 that state courts cannot threaten further jail time for unpaid jail debts. Until now, people were incarcerated for being unable to pay debts related to the time when they are incarcerated. So begins the cycle of keeping the poor, poor. Locking people up who cannot afford to pay for debt is unconstitutional.

In the United States, debtors' prisons were banned under federal law in 1833. A century and a half later, in 1983, the Supreme Court affirmed that incarcerating indigent debtors was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection clause. This has not stopped Missouri from incarcerating people for years who cannot pay their debts.

Now it seems we have some protection from the Supreme Court however, people are still being incarcerated in Missouri municipalities, who are choosing to ignore the Supreme Court ruling.

Child Support

Child support can take a person’s normal peaceful life and turn it upside down. Nobody is immune. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a child support order and you become sick, miss work, or lose your job, it will not take long before you will be sitting behind the bars in a Missouri prison.

Child support debt can land you behind bars fast. To make matters worse child support can cost you your license, which only impairs you further. Holding a steady job while not being able to drive to work, being forced to attend regular court dates during working hours, explaining to your boss why you spent 180 days in jail is absurd. All while being labeled a loser and deadbeat parent. I’m not sure what the people of Missouri and the courts expect will result from this scenario.

Normal law abiding citizens who could not afford to pay a ticket or court costs. People who may have had their license suspended for child support but were forced to drive to work in order to pay child support. Many times these people find they now face a stack of driving while revoked charges that will also send you to prison.

Prison Conditions

Prisoners in Missouri are living in inhumane conditions riddled in violence and rape. The part I find hard to understand is nobody seems to care. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. When the term “prisoners” is used people always think the worst of the worst. What people fail to realize, it’s not just murderers and rapists in our prisons. As a matter of fact it is normal parents like you and I thrown in prison with violent criminals who are murderers and rapists. People whose only charge was shoplifting. Some of these people only shop-lifted because they were poor and their intentions were to feed their children. Some shop-lifted to support a drug habit. Every case has a story behind it. People want to automatically judge people who end up in prison however, rarely do they hear the whole story. There are many very bad people in prison who should be there. There are also many good people who wind up in prison and are forever changed by their experience, lives ruined, spirits broken.

Meals in Prisons in Missouri

In Missouri prisoners are fed some type of substance that is shipped into the prisons and marked “NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.” I do not understand how this is legal. It is not hidden at all. It is open for all to see, yet nobody is doing anything about it?

Another common prison food is “Meal Loaf.” Meal Loaf is a generic name for the process of blending meals together and baking them into a loaf. Prisoners are often forced to eat this for every meal as punishment when they are reprimanded for bad behavior. Many states have changed the law regarding food in prison due to the rise in cancer from what is being served. Missouri has not.

“The Hole”

Prisoners can be sent to the hole for long periods of time with no explanation or reasoning. They are denied phone calls. They are forced to live in a tiny cell the size of a small bathroom with no sunlight and no human contact. They are forced to sit in the cell with nothing but a bible and a pair of boxer shorts on. They are sometimes left in this cell for years.

A prisoner is at the mercy of the correctional officers. There are no checks and balances in prisons. Prisons operate on their own set of rules even denying state representatives and other state officials entry to the prison so they can view the conditions. Prisoners are not able to speak for themselves because at the end of the day they are at the mercy of the wardens and correctional officers and nobody can save them.

There are many good and hardworking correctional officers. But, just like any place else there are many bad and abusive correctional officers as well. They deal with things normal people will never grasp. However, that does not mean that our basic human and constitutional rights can be ignored.

Something as simple as a rip in the thin mattress prisoners sleep on, can land them in the hole. At the end of the day the correctional officers can say what they want and do what they want. They are rarely held accountable for the abuse that is inflicted upon inmates. In a facility that is allowed to deny entry to government officials inquiring on the status and humane treatment of our prisoners this is very scary.

Prolonged time in the hole can cause mental disorders in normal human beings. Many leave with mental conditions they did not arrive with. This only causes an additional burden on our economy when released from prison.

Rape

In previous years Missouri has led the nation in the highest rate of prison rapes in the country. Stories of inmates being locked in cells with cellmates who abused, beat, and raped them, for weeks while guards turned their heads. Young men in jail for shoplifting or child support being attacked and raped by groups of men while guards watched or even set it up. The stories are sickening. Men who will carry with them bowel problems the rest of their lives because of the horrors they endured in Missouri prisons. Men whose only crime was not being able to pay child support or fines. Women who are raped over and over by correction officers.

To continue to ignore the allegations and conditions of our prisons is not only unacceptable it is, wrong on a moral level. To call the state of our prisons horrific and riddled with cruel and unusual punishment is an understatement. Not only is it depravity at its worst, it is also not helping our state as a whole when these people are released. Ignoring the state of our prisons is only increasing the financial burden we already feel. You may not realize the indirect connection. Hopefully, after reading this article you will.

Forcing a normal person who may just have a minor charge or financial issues, such as unpaid child support, into conditions such as these is cruel and unusual in itself. It creates drug addiction and mental disorders. It breeds violence and depravity. It only adds to our already problematic communities where violence and murder are reality.

People are not reformed when they leave our prisons.They are broken and unable to live in a normal society. They are thrown back out into our communities with bigger issues. PTSD, trauma, physical issues, to name a few. Their coping mechanisms are less than they had previous to prison. They turn to drugs to self medicate from the horrors they endured. They are given a new list of unattainable goals forced upon them by our parole and probation system. They give up.

Once released getting back to a normal life is usually impossible. Parolees have no vehicle and a hard time finding honest work. They end up missing appointments and being thrown right back into prison over slight infractions. A large number of prisoners don’t commit another crime. They cannot submit to all the hoops they are forced to jump through and are set up for failure.

Immediate Change

This article only touches on a few of the issues in Missouri prisons. There are so many more. The days of ignoring the conditions in our prisons and the reason people are being thrown into them are over. If we want to change our communities, this is where we start. So many are at a loss as to what to do in cities such as St. Louis, cities where innocent people and children are being murdered every day. This is a good place to start. Drug addiction and crime often is a result of feeling hopeless, poverty, and living through trauma. The courts and prisons are designed to keep the poor people poor. Our prison system is dealing out dishes of trauma to our inmates all day every day. We live in the United States of America. This is not a third world country. The state of Missouri Department of Corrections is absolutely unacceptable.

Our prison systems in Missouri are producing violent, drug addicted people, with mental instabilities due to their treatment and conditions in prisons. It is happening at an alarming rate. It is not only a burden to the taxpayers pocketbook, but is succeeding in making our communities more dangerous. It is taking normal people who found themselves in financial trouble and tearing them away from their families. Throwing them into an inhumane system of degradation, sexual abuse, and trauma. After their stay in prison they are released into the community and expected to move on with their lives without the resources to do so. Please demand change. Write your congressman. Know who you are voting for. It is then and only then, that you will see the violence and addiction start to resolve itself on our city streets.

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Sherrie Pogue

Writing is my passion. I write about sensitive subjects in an effort to spread knowledge and raise awareness. If you'd like to leave a tip, it is always appreciated. To get my blogs follow me here: https://www.facebook.com/poguewebdesign/

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