Letter From Prison
Greetings from the Texas gulag! And thank you for Jonathan Schell’s insightful and sensitive editorial “Cruel America” [Oct. 17]. I was moved by his mention of the thousands of prisoners held in solitary confinement—often for decades—for frivolous or trumped-up reasons.
When Ronald Reagan defunded state hospitals and mental health facilities in the 1980s, many were left with no place to go but the criminal justice system. And since many can’t be safely absorbed into the general prison population, the prisons are left with no alternative but to place them in long-term, or permanent, isolation.
Here in high-security, or “superseg,” we have prisoners who are blind or confined to wheelchairs, and many whose only crime is being severely mentally handicapped—oh, and being dark-skinned. The US criminal justice system is being used as a means of ethnic and class cleansing, pure and simple.
Sprague River, Ore.
I appreciated Jonathan Schell’s “Cruel America.” I have concluded that the distinction between the cruel and the kind is simply a matter of compassion. Those possessed of compassion are capable of caring about people they do not know. John Perkins, who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, has told audiences not to judge the CEOs of predatory corporations too harshly, because they love their children. Quite true. However, they do not love my children or your children. Compassion cannot be learned or legislated; it is an existential grace some of us know.
Keynes Takes Pains to Ensure Gains
Kudos to Thomas Geoghegan [“What Would Keynes Do?” Oct. 17] for “rescuing” Keynes and restoring productive labor to the central place in our understanding of how to “fix” the economy. But one other approach should be mentioned: a virtually unknown work by Marxist economist Sydney Coontz, Productive Labor and Effective Demand, Including a Critique of Keynesian Economics, which actually explains why manufacturing (and manufacturing jobs) makes the economy function.