“Waiting to get blown up”

In today's Washington Post, a story that takes a look at troop morale.  Some of the more interesting quotes from soldiers:

“Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what
you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes
twice a day, in 120-degree heat,” he said. “Then ask how morale is.”

“It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to
get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you,”

“No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what
we do,” said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. “We were
excited, but then it just wears on you — there's only so much you can
take.”

I find the following war on drugs analogy quite interesting:

“At this point, it seems like the war on drugs in America,” added Spec.
David Fulcher, 22, a medic from Lynchburg, Va., who sat alongside
Steffey. “It's like this never-ending battle, like, we find one IED, if
we do find it before it hits us, so what? You know it's just like if
the cops make a big bust, next week the next higher-up puts more back
out there.”

For me, being pro-troops is trying harder to bring these poor guys home.

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How to drive a person insane

Penology is one of my favorite topics, but I haven't gotten around to writing anything on it yet.  Now I've been inspired by a current NPR series on  the use of solitary confinement in prisons.  (You can even read the full text of the story).  As you may or may not know, solitary confinement is a great way to drive human beings (as well as many zoo animals) insane.  Of course, we've known this since we first experimented with the concept at Eastern State Penitentiary  in Philadelphia (from which I have a t-shirt and is worth a visit if you are in Philly) almost 200 years ago.  (NPR has a nice timeline).  The Quakers had the idea that by silently focusing on penitence, prisoners would be rehabilitated.  Alas, not so, rather large numbers of them went insane. 

You make think that driving prisoners insane is an appropriate form of punishment.  But ask yourself this, do you want people driven insane before they are released back into the general public?  Unfortunately, many of the prisoners who experience these conditions are not there for life, but will be reintroduced into society.   Presumably, this is not exactly what we want for persons who will be rejoining the general public.

On a quasi-related note, one of my favorite books of recent years is Newjack which is the first-hand account of a journalist who decides to spend a year working as a prison guard in Sing-Sing.  Well worth reading if you have any interest at all in the topic. 

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