In Corrections: Punitive Correction is Violent Criminal Justice

Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 267 –270
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096890
In Corrections: Punitive
Correction is Violent
Criminal Justice
Jarret J. Keith
“Get the fuck over here” (a guard commanding where to stand) . . . “Strip all your damn
clothes off” (a guard ordering the next task) . . . “Get in there” (a guard referring to a
cage) . . . “You do what we say here, get it?” (a guard menacingly indoctrinating the
established dynamic between inmates and guards) . . .
These are all the comments from correctional officers that have been seared into the
mind of a 19-year-old kid, fresh out of high school, being incarcerated for the very first
time. That kid was me, 20 years ago. The other sounds I remember were mumbled
voices echoing down the dark grey concrete corridors I was led down, and then I heard
the sound of a big lock clack and a correctional officer pulling the bars open just
enough for me to fit through, as well as the old wool blanket I was carrying. There
were about 15 older men looking at me as I walked into the cement cage, not knowing
what to do or where to go, I stood there scared until one of the other prisoners said,
“That bunk is yours,” pointing to the third bunk above two other narrow steel ones. I
climbed up and laid down to stare at the dark grey concrete ceiling that was about 3
feet above my face. These are my first memories of incarceration.
Over the next 15 years of my incarceration, I would experience some of the most
degrading and dehumanizing events of my entire life. These occurrences would not be
at the hands of other prisoners, but were perpetrated by the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The immediate lessons I learned from CDCR,
was that my identity is primarily based on my designated race, conviction, and corre-
sponding sentence. Being that this was the first time I was sentenced to prison; I had
no idea of the implications that came with these designations, such as, who I would be
required to be “housed” with and that this would determine my placement in a cor-
rectional facility that had a higher level of security.
Due to my last name being of Caucasian decent, I was designated as “White Male,”
there was no option to be identified according to my heritage; which is a mixed racial
identity, being someone who is part Caucasian, Mexican and Native American. I
would come to learn that race is important within CDCR, because the entire institution
1096890CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096890Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeKeith

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