The Kennel by Elijah Green is a brilliant send-up of the prison industrial complex. It is short, just 41 pages. The work is divided into two parts. The first is a parable or allegory. Elijah walking along the road notices a large fenced in area with the sign "State Kennel of Middletown".
He ends up engaged in an extended discussion with John Cox - Kennel Keeper, who explains to him how the system works.
Anyway, Mr. Cox seemed eager to tell me everything, sort of like a kid with a new toy.The tour that Mr. Cox takes Elijah on illustrates just about everything that is disgraceful about America's prison industrial complex - solitary confinement, medical care, political corruption, excessive sentences, lack of rehabilitation, racism, the futility of the war on drugs
"Sixteen hundred!" I exclaimed. "Why so many?"
"Oh, no," he corrected me. "The question is why so few? There are over two million dogs in our state and only fourteen kennels like this. This is only one of ten kennels operated by the state. The other four are privately owned by ICC, Incarcerated Canines Corporation, operating under state contract. At present, there are six large companies, and several smaller ones, which have gone into the private kennel business."
Interrupting him I asked, "Who owns ICC and those other private kennel companies?"
"They are mostly owned by rich folks and senators. The founder of ICC was the former chairman of the Republican party in Tennessee and friend of the governor. In fact, the gover-nor's wife was a substantial investor in ICC, as was the speaker of the Tennessee House.1 Even some judges are shareholders. One of their larger stockholders was recently appointed by the President to be a trial judge in Tennessee.2 They say he has been in the courtroom as a lawyer on only two cases. Some of the families representing their dogs have had more courtroom experience than him."
One of the best jabs was at the complicity of the media
The news media cooperates with us as well. Every time a violent dog is arrested they put the story on TV and in the paper, telling how we are making the state a safer place by tak-ing vicious and dangerous dogs off the street. This keeps the taxpayers feeling good about spending all this money."
"Oh! Back to the news media," Mr. Cox said as if he just remembered it. "If a dog is vicious and bites or kills a human or another dog, they play the story over and over on the news and sometimes even make Hollywood movies about it. It's a shame that only 3% of the arrests are of vicious dogs. The public loves those stories of dogs killing innocent people! Ratings go way up when they are aired. There is even a top rated show about dogs that need to be caught. It's called: 'The States' Most Wanted Dogs.' The DoDC gets hundreds of anon-ymous tips after that show plays."One of Mr. Cox's comments helps explain why the story is told as something of a parable.
"But I thought you said there were sixteen hundred dogs here now," I said in a question-ing manner. Mr. Cox looked a little puzzled and said, "There are."
"Well, I don't understand. Doesn't that break the law and overcrowd the dogs?" I asked. He thought for a brief moment and said, "It does overcrowd them some but hey, they are just dogs.One big problems is that we don't think of prisoners as people like us. We have them classified as "the other".
The second half of the work is an analysis of many of the issues facing prisoners including the pervasive threat of sexual abuse. There is a list of policy recommendations, which for the most part are spot on. Among them are.
Make abuse of prisoners, by prison staff, a felony, not a misdemeanor.
Restore all of the rights of ex-felons. When their sentence is served, their punishment should end
Prohibit all lawmakers, law enforcement, judges, and their spouses from owning stock in prison or prison industries, or from profiting in any way from prisoners.
Eliminate gun enhancement laws. Thousands of inmates have a 3 - 5 year extension to their sentence for a gun they lawfully owned, but was not used in any crime. (The gun was simply in the house or car.) Their enhancement portion of their sentence should be removed immediately.
Make stiff penalties for police or prosecutors who lie on the witness stand, plant evi-dence, or bribe witnesses in any way, even promising "time off" for testifying.
Legalize the possession and use of drugs, and release those inmates held solely for that charge. Provide restrictions on the sale and manufacture of drugs equal to that of alcohol and tobacco, which is to persons age 21 and older.
Don't allow male guards at women's prisons, or vice versaA Review
I did not make it as an English major. The professor who taught Hawthorne, Melville, Twain thought I was an idiot because I thought Moby Dick was a story about a bunch of guys who worked in the whaling industry. So maybe I'm not the best judge. With that said, I suspect that there might be literary issues with the first half of the Kennel, because it lacks the subtlety of Animal Farm or Gulliver's travel. The author hits you over the head with the notion that the Kennel is about the prison industrial complex, although who knows? There will probably be people who don't get it and will be upset about how poorly those poor dogs are being treated.
The Actual Author
It is no secret that Elijah Green is a nom de plume of Kent Hovind the leading light of Young Earth Creationism who has been in prison for eight years on tax related charges. Kent and his supporters whom I have taken to calling Hovindicators believe that he is in prison because he was a threat to the system through his exposure of the "lies of evolution". Myself I think it is about the taxes, not the dinosaurs, which kind of aggravates them.
That disagreement does not stop me from thinking that Kent Hovind has largely hit it out of the park on prison issues. Some of his ideology comes through. There is a reference to jury nullification, which I have mixed feelings about. He disapproves of the mechanism in the Prison Rape Elimination Act to encourage state compliance, because he thinks the federal government should not be sending money to the states.
There is also the notion that under biblical law there are only three punishments - fines, beating and execution. It is true that the notion of punishing people by imprisoning them is a relatively recent innovation, thought to be a humanitarian reform that has not worked out that well. I'm not going to go with Kent and say it would be an improvement if we went back to flogging in the town square and a lot more executions, even if that would be more biblical.
I think that this fellow whom many would consider batshit crazy has pointed out that the enlightenment emperor has no clothes when it comes to the prison industrial complex. The penitentiary is an Enlightenment reform that has failed miserably. It is up to progressives to come up with something better if they don't want to be held up to deserved ridicule by somebody who thinks that the best way to figure out the age of the earth is by summing up begats.