THE KENNEL – F.R. Martinez

If there is a term meaning the opposite of ‘anthropomorphism’, i.e. giving animals
‘human’ qualities, I don’t know it. What do you call it when humans are given
animal qualities, as in prison for instance? Here in prison all of us inmates are
dogs. Dogs in a kennel.

It was, and probably still is, a thing women say:
‘all men are dogs’. Here in prison that cliche is realized fully and for the
mean, sour-faced female prison guards who are now commonly seen in
corrections settings the saying must have a mantra-like quality. It is, in
fact, to my perception, the playbook for how they deal with male inmates.

But let’s be fair. It’s not just female corrections officers, it’s the entire prison
system and by extension most of society. Prison inmates are, for all intents
and purposes, no more than dogs in a kennel, whether they are male or
female. At the higher security level one finds the most violent dogs, those that
have certifiably been the most vicious. At low security and prison camp level you
find a more tame variety, one either broken by long incarceration or despondent
for lack of meaning and purpose. These tamer dogs may have glared and snarled,
maybe bared their teeth, but never bit.

The prison kennel is not one of those places you visit when you want to adopt
a pet. Prison kennels are the city dog-pounds where animals wait to be
euthanized. They bark and whimper. They sit listlessly or sleep. They are
tossed enough food to keep them alive and occasionally they are let out of
their cramped cages into a fenced-in yard. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes
they form packs. Sometimes they even wag their tails, sit up and beg. Some
lose their sense or propriety, no longer house broken they may pee or poop
in places they’re not supposed to. The treatment they receive is baseline
humane but ultimately despicable.

They are dogs after all, feral dogs that deserve no better.

I don’t have a term for turning people into animals but as an inmate I clearly
see the process taking place every day. We bark and whimper. We grovel.
We fight. Even sit up and beg through legal appeals. Bigger dogs rule over
smaller ones. It’s a long cruel process and when a dog is finally released
from the kennel it faces the difficult process of turning human again. Many
fail. Some find ways to stay in the kennel or die to avoid ever leaving it. In
the U.S. the probation systems allow for released inmates to continue their
kennel existence while suffering the illusion of freedom. The kennel becomes

You never leave it.

American kennels are possibly the best in the world but they are still kennels.
The U.S. has a deep fascination with the idea of Calvinist punishment, torment
of the flesh, deprivation of freedom for your ‘sins’. It’s in our Judeo-Christian
DNA. It’s very old testament. There is no merciful loving God. Only the Kennel
Master, the dude with the guns and the keys to the cages. He is Big Brother
assigned to enforce the laws, the Commandments. The dogs must fall in line.
Dog nature can never be salvaged. It must be curbed and punished. Crushed.

Make no mistake. We all have the potential to become dogs, whatever the
term for that process is.

There are plenty of kennels now, all legal and sanctioned.

Maybe there’s a cage in one waiting for you.

Try not to bark too loudly…


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