It has been observed that how a society interacts with its prisoners is a measure of that society itself (Foucault?). So what does it say about the United States, that it is so committed to a penal model that obviously does not work? Clearly, the American penal system is failing in its stated purpose: rehabilitating offenders and preventing crime/drug use. So it follows that it must be serving other, not articulated, needs.
Of course, the State and the prison industrial complex do very well for themselves with their war on drugs and monetized penal system. That is not my topic here. My question is why so many normal people support this clearly failed system? What need of theirs is it serving?
We all know the fat man who complains about fat women; the narcissists who despise celebrities and yet can’t stop talking about them; the drunks who hate junkies. Self-loathing is thrust out onto an external scapegoat. Prisoners are that for the collective. Even better than just being a metaphorical straw man, these scapegoats can actually be punished.
As to that punishment:
It seems that when you scratch the surface of moral, proper America, we get a fixation on homoerotic BDSM rape. The Romans used lions in their circuses; Americans like prison gangs.
These people might claim that the system has no control over such things, yet they also take (often not so) secret pleasure that it happens. “Let’s see how smug that punk is once he’s thrown in prison with all those [racial epithet deleted].” And they can go about their day with the happy knowledge that the bad people are being punished. With forcible sodomy. Kinky fun for church pew daydreaming.
Hell, the porn for this is piped direct to the masses on basic cable. “Cops” for foreplay, and then “Lockup” for the happy ending. You have to imagine the penetration, but it’s all the hotter for that, I’m sure. The brain is, after all, our biggest sexual organ.
Like the bread and circuses of that other fading empire; only now it’s oxy and rape.