Monday, August 30, 2010

We're all savages, aren't we?

Yesterday, I happened to run across a news article about Nicholas Pinto, a 29 year old prisoner in Pennsylvania who had been accused of being a child pornographer and was doing time at the Lackawanna County Prison, a notorious lockup that has been riddled with scandal lately.  Because of the crime Pinto was accused of, he was not well liked among his fellow inmates and guards.  Pinto was subjected to regular abuse, which he recorded in a 20 page journal he kept.

Pinto's journal chronicles the cold nights he spent forced to stand naked in his cell.  He writes about the repeated rapes and beatings he was subjected to by a fellow prisoner he calls "silverback", a man who not only stole Pinto's dignity, but also stole his belongings.  He describes the way prison guards would encourage other inmates to attack, degrade and harass Pinto... until August 8th, when Nicholas Pinto was ambushed by an inmate who was determined to beat the ever loving shit out of him.

According to the news article, Nicholas Pinto's skull was bashed in 15 times by a prisoner who had a history of violence and was supposed to be locked down, but wasn't.  The prisoner who did the beating was then able to get back to his cell and wipe the evidence of the attack off of his shoes. 

Nicholas Pinto is currently in critical condition.  He spent about three weeks in a hospital and is now in a long term care facility.  He likely has brain damage and may very well die.  Pinto's family is suing.

When I read this article, I was shocked and disturbed by the savagery that this inmate dealt with.  Indeed, when I read the article to my husband, he asked what country this abuse had taken place in.  He was surprised when I said "America". 

But what's even more shocking and disturbing to me are the comments that people have left.  It seems a lot of people are delighted that some animal in the Pennsylvania prison system has beaten the hell out of Nicholas Pinto.  They've actually said they hope Pinto dies and that he deserved every grisly blow to his head.  A few have even said he should have already been killed... someone should have taken Pinto outside after his verdict and blown his brains out.  No muss, no fuss.

While I won't say that I condone Pinto's career as a child pornographer, I will say that people who think he got what he deserved aren't a whole lot better than he is.  Nicholas Pinto went to court and got his verdict.  He's serving time in prison.  His punishment does not call for guards and inmates to be abusive.  It was not a fellow inmate's place to beat the shit out of him, just because he didn't like the crime he committed to be in prison.  And while Nicholas Pinto victimized children, it was every bit as wrong for other people to victimize him.

As sickening as it was for me to read news articles about Pinto's crime and the fate that has befallen him, reading the comments about the case lead me to believe that there are a whole lot of savages running around in the free world, too.  We have a judicial system for a reason... to promote civility and justice.  There's no place for individuals to exercise vigilante justice against those they don't think are suffering enough.  No one has the right to do what that inmate who beat up Nicholas Pinto did... even if the temptation to do so is very strong.

So... the upshot of what happened to Nicholas Pinto is this.  Pinto is now teetering on the brink of death in a hospital, not a prison.  He's racking up hefty medical bills that will most likely be paid by taxpayers.  His family is going to sue the state and will probably win, thanks to the evidence that stacks up against the folks that run the prison.  It's obvious that there was a major breakdown in security and people weren't doing their jobs.  And who pays for that judgment?  The taxpayers again... the same ones who are cheering what has happened to Nicholas Pinto, the child pornographer.  But aside from the money issue, the way people are reacting to Nicholas Pinto's assault is very disturbing and upsetting.  It reveals that there are a lot of crazy, violent people wandering around in society... folks who, if you were to take their words at face value, are capable of being just as savage and lawless and Pinto and his fellow inmates have been.  And that, to me, is very scary and upsetting.

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