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May 28, 1981 - Image 8

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Michigan Daily, 1981-05-28

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4

Opinion
Page 8 Thursday, May 28, 1981 The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCI, No. 16-S
Ninety Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan
Our prisons: a
study in myopia
THE INMATE eruptions currently raging
within Michigan's correctional facilities
hardly needed a specific catalyst. Although the
present rioting was ostensibly triggered by an
unauthorized punitive "shakedown" of
prisoners by Jackson Prison guards, the seeds
of hatred and rage were sown within the system
ages ago.
This nation's penal institutions are an en-
during American nightmare - beset by
mismanagement and fraud, withered by
emotional and financial neglect. Even under
the most positive conditions, prisons are
dubious servants at best - active symbols of a
society whose only workable philosophy is to
cage its more prominent malefactors.
At their worst, prisons become overcrowded,
sadistic havens for extortion, rape and murder
- the ideal breeding grounds for the worst in
human perversions.
Americans don't like to think about such fac-
ts. Just like our state mental institutions,
prisons fall chronic victim to an out-of-sight-
out-of-mind syndrome which neatly sweeps
such nasty subjects under the carpet. Concor-
dant with the public's head-in-the-sand habit is
the attitude among many that prison inmates
are, in effect, getting "just what they deserve"
- that a little vengeful blood-letting is fit
retribution for the criminal's sins against
society.
Such a philosophy is at least as impractical as
it is immoral. Our prison system doesn't even
pretend to rehabilitate - it takes in first-time
offenders and sends them out full-fledged
criminals; it absorbs callow hoods and tran-
sforms them into potential murderers. It is a
senseless, self-devouring ritual that, contrary
to the law-and-order crowd's arguments, does
far more to imperil our law-abiding majority
than do all the alleged inadequacies of "soft"
laws and "criminal-coddling" judges.
Proper funding would, of course, solve much
of the dilemma. At the very least our prisons
should provide adequate facilities for education
and vocational learning, plus regular
psychological counseling to help combat the
grinding, often terrifying rigors of inmate life.
To do otherwise is the height of officialized
myopia; through our continued not-so-benign
neglect, we produce new generations of embit-
tered ex-cons with chips on their shoulders and
absolutely nothing to lose. And we all pay the
price.

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
!Hillsdale attack unjiust
To the Daily: never asked HEW to begin its complex. Did it ever occur to him
Chris Potter's thinly-veiled at- vendetta against the college, and that perhaps, when waging a
tack on Hillsdale College was a pretending - or deceiving legal battle against the official
piece of shoddy journalism. readers into believing - that billion-dollar power of a gover-
Couched in a strained "you are Hillsdale has not done its best to nment agency in government
there" narrative, Mr. Potter at- get the government off its back courts, it might just be finan-
tempts to smear the college by and end the problem. cially necessary to make people
innuendo. To Mr. Potter, this battle by aware that the battle is on, in or-
Mr. Potters says that Hillsdale Hillsdale and the college's men- der to come up with the support
revels in a "martyr" role, tion of it in promotional literature and funds one day to win the
ignoring the fact that Hillsdale indicate a "David and Goliath" case?
This would not occur readily to
ENVIRONMENT Mr. Potter because of his
unlimitedfaith in the power of
almost all liberal government ac-
tion - and the more the better.
Yet his own frequent use of the
little/poor/impotent people vs.
rich/powerful/monolithic cor-
porate power motif almost never
fails to invoke the very "David
and Goliath" aura that he ac-
cuses Hilldale of using to prop
up an image, and his uses are
ususally mch less justifiable.
thMr. Potter closes by saying
that the faculty members of the
college do not practice the in-
tellectual independence they
preach. He offers no evidence of
this, yet Hilsdale has graduated
not only conservative Christians
R but even liberals, atheists, Jews,
and libertarians. Hilldale has
not practiced any academic
discrimination; HEW's vendetta
began simply because Hillsdale
didn't bother to keep statistical
tallies to document this fact.
To Mr. Potter the fact that
there is an "Orthodoxy" (conser-
vative Christian) at the school
signifies a lack of independence
- because that orthodoxy is pro-
free market. I daresay the collec-
tivist, left-liberal orthodoxy in
Ann Arbor is no more (and very
likely less) intellectually
-h liberating tan the in-
" , i.-j r dividualualistic philosophy
guiding Hillsdale, and it is less
honest, too; the Hillsdale ad-
ministration would not have
dreamed of squandering scarce
funds in a massive "infor-
mational" campaign against the
Tisch amendment, though the U
of M and MSA has no such
qualms. Mr. Potter's sneer is not
an argument.
Hillsdale College is a unique
educational institution,tattem-
pting to remain outside the pale
of government's deadening in-
fluence - that is, trying to
remain free of coercion and
government-imposed standar-
dization and mediocrity. To Mr.
Potter this may seem quixotic,
reactionary, and inconceivable.
To many others - even to many
who, like myself, disdain conser-
vative Christian orthodoxy - it is
truly progressive and perhaps as
close to ideal as one can hope for
in the government-infested,
bureaucracy-stifled world of
higher education.
-DavidM. Stewart

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