celebrities, musings

Why do we love to see people rot?

I was just sitting here thinking about what I wanted to write about today. I was looking through old posts I’ve done and toyed with the idea of visiting an old chestnut or two, themes that never wear out or get old. I could write about a pressing personal issue this morning… but I’ve learned my lesson about sharing too much of myself prematurely.

Then I remembered a snarky article I happened to read the other day about Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Gianulli. I had wanted to write about it when I first read it, but then something else came up that was more pressing and it slipped my mind. But now I need a topic, so here’s another article about Lori and Mossimo. It’s one of so many circulating right now… but it may be a little different than those other articles.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Lori and Mossimo are going to be incarcerated soon. Lori will spend two months at a medium security lockup in Victorville, California. Mossimo will likely do five months at a minimum security joint in Santa Barbara. Although the facilities where they will be incarcerated are described as kind of cushy, they’re still lockups. The experience will certainly suck, even if Lori Loughlin’s prison offers courses in calligraphy and pilates. No, she’s not going to be doing hard time, but her crime doesn’t really warrant doing hard time, does it?

For some reason, a lot of people in the United States have the idea that locking people up for as long as possible is the best thing to do when they’ve misbehaved. I’ve read a lot of comments by people who are dismayed when someone gets let of out of jail early. So many people love to parrot that old line, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” They are just fine with people being incarcerated endlessly. They don’t seem to care much about what happens to them after they’ve been locked up for awhile.

The article I read that prompted today’s post was heavy on sarcasm. I’ll grant that it was kind of a funny post. Even more than the original article, I was affected by a comment someone left pointing out the hypocrisy of readers who were jeering at Lori’s cushy jailhouse digs. The person pointed out that regular readers of that publication tended to be left leaning folks who were in favor of prison reform. And yet, there they were, laughing at the idea that someone might have access to classes and activities that promote physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.

Good points here.

And another comment:

I do wonder what people actually want in this situation. Do they want her to be tortured and put into squalid conditions? I’ve noticed there’s this weird sort of thing in this country where we want to lower the bar rather than raise it. So if a bunch of people are treated like shit, and some are treated better, the solution is then not to treat everyone better, but instead treat everyone equally bad. It’s like if you find out your co-worker makes more than you, and instead of wanting to make the same amount as him, you’d rather see his paycheck go down to match yours. Then everybody loses!

I get it, though. Some people pointed out that if Lori weren’t so rich and famous, she wouldn’t be going to a place that is so “cushy”. But… does that mean that everyone in that jail is rich and famous? Surely, there are people incarcerated there who aren’t worth millions and don’t have a pretty face. Moreover, there have been famous people from wealthy families who have gone to “real” prisons . Cameron Douglas, son of movie star Michael Douglas, did “hard time”. So has Redmond O’Neal, son of movie star Farrah Fawcett.

So people are pissed off that Lori Loughlin, who is not a violent criminal and is highly unlikely to ever repeat her crime, is going to do two months in a prison where she can practice yoga and learn new skills. I wonder if any of these folks, having been caught breaking the law (which pretty much everyone does at least once in a lifetime), would want to be sent to a shit hole where they are regularly threatened, beaten up, and fed slop. Would they want that for a friend or a loved one? If there’s a chance that a person will emerge from a corrections facility, isn’t it better that the person comes out with coping skills, good mental and physical health, and a positive self-image? Is it really better to simply focus only on punishment, rather than teaching a person the error of their ways and why they shouldn’t have done what they did? Shouldn’t we also have some regard for them as human beings?

It seems to me that instead of being pissed off that Lori and Mossimo are getting off lightly, we should be pissed off that people with fewer resources end up in worse conditions than they should. We should be angry that people get wrongly accused of crimes and wind up locked up in hellholes for years. We should be pissed off that a man who does 22 years in a California prison and comes out a better person– having actually risked his life to fight wild fires while still incarcerated– gets rounded up by ICE and sent to another lockup, destined to be deported to a country he hasn’t seen since he was two years old and doesn’t recognize him as a citizen.

Granted, no one really needs to know how to write in calligraphy. No one needs to do yoga or pilates. But these are activities that are basically healthy and wholesome and may be a better outlet for incarcerated people than hanging out with other criminals and learning how to make shivs. Moreover, not all criminals are created equally. Non-violent people should not be locked down in cells and forced to dig ditches with murderers and rapists. People who can be rehabilitated should be rehabilitated and given a chance.

Lori Loughlin doesn’t need all of the activities her prison will offer. But she is not representative of all of the people in that facility. Other people who are locked up there might not have those opportunities on the outside. Maybe a course in calligraphy is all someone needs to find a new path. I don’t think incarceration always has to be about punishment and being in hell. It should mostly be about correcting bad behavior and learning better skills. Yes, there are people out there who can’t be rehabilitated. Yes, there are dangerous people who are mad at the world and would never benefit from learning how to crochet or make origami. But I think there are fewer of them than regular folks who have made mistakes.

I don’t cheer for locking people up. I think prisons should be reserved for people who are violent or otherwise extremely dangerous. Prisons cost society a lot– taxpayer dollars as well as the lives ruined by prison records that make it impossible for some people to ever recover. And, as we discovered last week in the story about the women who had hysterectomies against their wills, there are for profit corporations that are committing real crimes against detainees.

Prisoners are people, and they have basic human rights. Lori Loughlin is rich, beautiful, wealthy, and lucky beyond most people’s wildest dreams, but that doesn’t mean she needs to be rotting in a jail cell. No one should be “rotting” away in jail. That’s not an acceptable standard for human beings.

So, I hope Lori and Mossimo do their time, learn something from it, and come back whole to their families. I strongly suspect they won’t reoffend, and especially if they do learn a new skill like “cartoon drawing”, the experience will make them better people. I suspect that most of the people bitching about the “light sentence” would not want to trade places with them, nor would they be sad if they were sentenced to a similarly “cushy” lockup. It’s still prison, people, and it is going to suck. It will be humiliating, degrading, shameful, and unpleasant. But I feel very sure that they’ve learned their lessons, and that is all that really matters.

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