Convicted Ohio Amish face unfamiliar lives in US prison

From the article: “After living rural, self-sufficient lives with little outside contact, 16 Amish men and women are facing regimented routines in a federal prison system where almost half of inmates are behind bars for drug offenses and where modern conveniences, such as television, will be a constant temptation.”

Read more here.

This article brings up the very interesting topic of culture clash in prison.  People tend to think of conflicts in prison being predominantly gang-related.  I don’t have any great examples off-hand, but I’m sure that cultural differences (urban versus rural, ethnic differences, etc) also play a big role, especially when combining cultures not just within a state, but multiple states or even other countries.  One Ohio prison that always fascinates me is the federal facility in Youngstown that houses Bureau of Prisons inmates who are illegal aliens serving time before being sent back.  Many different countries are represented in the prison population and I would imagine that basic cultural and language differences would cause conflict, even as all of the men would be under the label “inmate.”

As this article points out, an equally interesting dynamic is when the prison environment causes not just conflict with others, but internal, spiritual conflict.  While prisons have to make reasonable accommodations under RLUIPA, there is simply no way to avoid all of the things that the Amish generally exclude from their lives due to religious beliefs.  Take the prison ID with the inmate photo that inmates are generally required to wear at all times – how do you handle that?  The televisions constantly running?  While prison is not a comfortable environment for any person, it may be particularly difficult for persons for whom many aspects are spiritually dissonant.

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2 thoughts on “Convicted Ohio Amish face unfamiliar lives in US prison

  1. Joanne says:

    You bring up a good and interesting point. We don’t need to go that far to find cultural–or in this case sub-cultural clashes though. Not everyone in prison has a criminal background and they often find themselves not fitting it–or worse–having to change to better fit it and avoid many potential negative repercussions.

    Having said that, long terms offenders can be a very forgiving and accepting bunch and those who do poorly elsewhere (e.g., intellectually deficient or mentally ill) often find people who are willing to help them while they are in prison.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Joanne! You’re completely right that culture clash can divide along criminal history, socioeconomic, or any other lines. One of the biggest culture clashes that we have in Ohio is actually “old law” versus “new law” (aka flat timers) – in part this is due to sentencing differences, but it’s also due to age, since “old law” inmates were sentenced prior to 1996. They often talk about the difficulties of relating or talking to the younger inmates.

    Prison. It’s a melting pot.

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