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'Counsel Me Before I Leave Prison'

Voices / A Forum for Community Issues | Gripe

February 13, 1999|GARY W. BORNMAN | Gary W. Bornman is an inmate at Lompoc federal penitentiary

In little more than 14 months, in all probability I'll commit murder, perhaps even mass murder. That's when I'm due to be released from federal prison where I'm serving a seven-year sentence for bank robbery.

Having spent the better part of my life in and out of penal institutions, beginning at age 9 (I'm now 37), not only have I become institutionalized to the point where society is just an abstraction, but the very environment has engendered an intense hatred and resentment, which, when coupled with already existing emotional and psychological problems, wouldn't appear to bode well for society. Unfortunately, the federal Bureau of Prisons doesn't seem to think that my problems are all that serious--certainly not enough to warrant treatment.

They dismiss the notion that almost continuous exposure to the violence and brutality of prison from an early age could have had any adverse psychological effects on me; that having witnessed countless rapes, stabbings and even murders has somehow not been traumatic. They don't seem to find it significant that I suffer from mood swings, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, loss of appetite, feelings of worthlessness and difficulty sleeping. What little sleep I do get is filled with unremitting nightmares--violent dreams in which someone is either trying to kill me or I'm trying to kill them. Prison officials aren't the least bit concerned that I have constant thoughts of harming others or that I fantasize about such things as assassinating the president or killing a bunch of them (prison officials) as they leave work, something which I already came to within a trigger pull away from doing in the past. Nothing wrong with me though that being dumped back out onto the street wouldn't cure.

All of this raises the question: Why, knowing this, won't the Bureau of Prisons provide someone like me with the treatment they need prior to releasing them? Very simply because to do so would be to open up a Pandora's box of recriminations revealing one of the system's dirty little secrets: that prison does more harm than good. Instead they choose to hide behind the fact that their only legal obligation lies in keeping the individual incarcerated until his sentence is completed. What happens after that isn't their concern or, perhaps more important, their responsibility.

Of course, none of this is meant to suggest that I and others are not responsible for our actions; we are.

So the next time you hear of someone committing some horrendous crime, it could quite possibly be me they're talking about. Only don't say you weren't forewarned.

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