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Claudine Clark

Behind closed doors

In a searing indictment of our legal system, the case of Duane Owen exposes the pervasive corruption that infects our judiciary. Recent revelations surrounding Owen’s evaluation by state-appointed psychiatrists highlight a disturbing lack of fairness, leading to the unjust application of the death penalty on a mentally ill individual. The aggressive and biased conduct of these psychiatrists during the evaluation underscores a deeply troubling lack of impartiality, prioritizing the interests of the state over genuine clinical inquiry. This corruption is not an isolated incident, but rather a malignant force that permeates our entire justice system, casting a dark shadow over the pursuit of justice.

Owen’s tragic ordeal lays bare the systemic corruption that plagues our legal system, depriving him of a fair evaluation. The state-appointed psychiatrists, entrusted with impartiality and integrity, denied Owen the opportunity to present his true self, full of traumas and mentally broken and prevented him from obtaining a favorable evaluation that could have spared his life, considering his evident mental illness. The impartiality that should underpin psychiatric evaluations was compromised, leaving Owen defenseless against a predetermined outcome aligned with the state of Florida’s agenda, who intend to execute him on June 15th, 2023 at 6:00 PM local time.

The aggressive tactics employed by the psychiatrists during Owen’s evaluation serve as a stark reminder of the corruption and bias that taint our justice system. Instead of conducting a genuine clinical assessment, these psychiatrists seemed driven by a predetermined agenda, aiming to extract a confession from Owen that aligned with the state’s narrative. This blatant display of partiality further erodes public trust in the legal system and undermines the fundamental principles of justice.

However, Owen’s case is not an isolated incident, but rather a symptom of a larger problem. It sheds light on the daily mental abuse endured by incarcerated individuals within correctional facilities. Behind a facade of policies and rules lacking penological justification, these facilities perpetuate an environment of dehumanization and constant humiliation. Inmates are stripped of their dignity, exacerbating their already fragile mental well-being and impeding their chances of rehabilitation.

Correctional facilities, entrusted with the crucial task of fostering personal growth and rehabilitation, and to maintain the well-being of those who will never leave these walls, often fail to provide an environment conducive to these goals. Instead, inmates face a range of abusive practices, including verbal harassment, physical mistreatment, prolonged isolation, and the denial of basic human rights. These acts of dehumanization breed resentment, despair, and perpetuate a self-perpetuating cycle of recidivism, hindering successful reintegration into society and breaking individuals and their families.

Extensive research and testimonies from former prisoners have documented the mental abuse endured by inmates within correctional facilities. Studies consistently reveal a distressing correlation between mistreatment and increased rates of violence, mental illness, and self-harm among inmates. Furthermore, the psychological trauma inflicted upon incarcerated individuals often extends beyond their time behind bars, perpetuating the cycle of dehumanization and amplifying the likelihood of recidivism. Yes, the system that is supposed to correct and protect society will create broken human beings who, at best, will struggle to have a normal life once they are released and will be plagued by what they have endured behind those walls. All of this is done to satisfy the desire for authority and the inferiority complexes of some individuals, as well as to enrich a corrupt system of private companies that thrive at the expense of inmates and their families.

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Addressing these systemic issues necessitates transformative reforms. Correctional facilities must prioritize evidence-based practices that emphasize rehabilitation, mental health and addiction support, and the preservation of human dignity for inmates. Shifting the focus from punishment to restoration is crucial in breaking the cycle of dehumanization and promoting positive change.

Additionally, robust oversight and accountability mechanisms are essential to prevent the abuse of power within correctional facilities. Independent monitoring bodies, clear guidelines on inmate treatment, and comprehensive training for correctional staff are vital steps toward rectifying the issue of mental abuse.

The case of Duane Owen serves as a somber reminder of the pervasive corruption and mental abuse that afflict our legal and correctional systems. The biased and aggressive conduct of state-appointed psychiatrists underscores the urgent need for comprehensive reforms. Simultaneously, the inhumane treatment of inmates within correctional facilities demands immediate attention. By prioritizing justice, transparency, and the restoration of human dignity, we can begin to dismantle systemic corruption and mend the fractured foundations of our legal system, ensuring a fair and compassionate society for all. 

In conclusion, a system as corrupt and inhumane as this should not possess the power to impose the punishment of death, and more broadly, none of us should wield such power. As Leo Tolstoy eloquently stated, “The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.” As human beings, we do not have the right to knowingly and deliberately take a life, hiding behind the veil of justice or politics. Each execution is nothing but a contrivance, a political maneuver, and it does nothing to enhance the safety of society. It is crucial that we acknowledge the inherent sanctity of every life and strive for a justice system that genuinely upholds our shared humanity. Let us reject the notion that allows the deliberate ending of life and advocate for a more compassionate and effective approach that seeks to heal rather than perpetuate a cycle of violence.

About the Author
Claudine Clark is president/founder of the French Coalition Against the Death Penalty. An abolitionist, paralegal and human rights consultant, her passion stems from her origins as the granddaughter of Warsaw ghetto survivors. She defends human values of forgiveness and tolerance through numerous actions.