From Alcatraz to Kootznahoo: America and Prisons
Where: Kootznahoo Alaska, 89460 Gardnerville Ranchos (United States). When: on 17-06-2011.
Written at 17-06-2011 by Denise Real
America and Prisons
It sits quietly, yet ominously, isolated and abandoned, except for an occasional dusting, in the basement of what is still called “The Rock”. The last time it sent its 2,000 volts blasting through a condemned criminal's tormented body and soul was well over a century ago, before its close in 1963. Alcatraz has been a resort and theme park for the bizarre minded and morbid at heart for more than five decades now. The electric chair, designed as a humane and tidy form of capital punishment, has taken its place in history books and museums. Alcatraz as a prison is now just a well-known relic and vague reminder of America's archaic penal system that was tolerated for years.
Since the desperately needed overhaul of our antiquated prison system eleven years ago in 2065, our society has finally been able to relax, to exhale, so to speak. We no longer live in fear, dreading parole of prisoners the system has failed to “rehabilitate.” The time when convicts seemed to have more rights than victims is passe. When you break the laws Americans have made, you forfeit your rights. There are no more lengthy appeals. Criminals can no longer live better than hard-working Americans and enjoy luxuries such as internet, TV, gourmet food, leisure time and free education.
It was an idea that some liberals of the early twenty-first century called ludicrous and insane. Now it's proving to be the answer to America's overwhelming crime and punishment problems. The transfer of condemned criminals to new confinement destinations is not only cost effective, but very profitable. For those who are serving only minimal sentences of five years or less , usually for misdemeanor crimes such as theft, one of our Mexico locations is excellent. The convicted pay for their own keep through labor they provide in factories. If one is foolish enough to try to escape, they are subjected to the laws of that country, which have severe and sometimes physically disabling punishments. Major offenders who commit atrocities such as child abuse, rape, and murder are sent to one of our island sites in Alaska.
The one I find most fascinating is located on Admiralty Island. This ninety-mile-long, thirty mile wide island is the essence of beauty. The island is like an emerald jewel resting in the pristine waters of southeast Alaska. Hundreds of years ago it was named by the Tlingt Indians from the area “Kootznahoo”, meaning “Fortress of the Bears”. The wilderness shoreline is decorated with jagged rocks. Departure from Kootznahoo is possible only by float plane, helicopter, or seafaring boat. The frigid waters that surround this fortress provide an impenetrable fence that brings death from hypothermia to anyone witless enough to attempt a swim. The unforgiving and unpredictable weather often brings the surrounding seas swelling up to twenty feet.
The Indians who resided there for years, leased the island to the government for the logging, hunting and fishing rights on more than forty percent of Alaska's wild and forested lands. The small communities of Angoon, Funter Bay and Whalers Cove all relocated over thirty years ago. Now the only human inhabitants are the ones associated with the confinement facility and its working underground hard rock mine.
The inmates are not under lock and key. They have freedom to go anywhere on the island they want. So far, escape has proven impossible. The island's most prevalent guards are refereed to as the “Brownies”. These monstrous brown bears stand almost ten feet tall and weigh over a thousand pounds. They have been referred to as giant walking stomachs with teeth, claws and fur. They have bad attitudes and their population on the island is roughly one per square mile. There is now way to stay completely out of their way; confrontations are inescapable. Safety from these large predators is only possible by following the rules, something criminals must learn, sometimes the hard way.
I vividly recall the story of one unfortunate outlaw who thought his time would be better spent away from his designated work area. The following day they found what was left of him less than a mile from the mine site. All that remained was his right foot, still in its work boot. Encounters like these serve as warnings to others considering stepping out of bounds. The inmates at Kootznahoo must maintain a system of fairness, cooperation and productivity in order to survive. All the work on the island, from fry cook to environmental engineering and ore processing is provided by the inmates. If there is discord among the residents and the work doesn't get done, the food and the other needed supplies won't get delivered. The mine is expected to produce a specific quota each day. If two inmates fight, nobody eats. This creates a peer pressure situation which encourages everyone to go along with the program.
This facility and others that make up America's new prison system are passing the test of time and truly encouraging rehabilitation and abstinence from illegal activities. Crime in our country has practically been eliminated. We don't have to wonder if the places we choose to live will be safe for our children and grandchildren.
As with Alcatraz, most of the old prisons have become everything from resorts to parking lots. The con controversial Death Penalty is gone. The possibility of parole is gone. The reality of serving the actual sentence given an inmate is here. We do not tolerate those who are counter productive and destructive in our society. We have taken back our country. Our nation truly is indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.