Written by R.M.
In the 1995 movie “Murder in the First”, Henri Young did not die in vain, yet in victory.
Convicted of stealing five dollars from a grocery store, which also contained a US Post Office, Henri was sentenced to federal prison eventually ending up at Alcatraz. After trying to escape with a few fellow inmates, Henri was sent to the dungeon. The dungeon was roughly 35 square feet and only about five feet tall with no windows and essentially no light. He was left there for three years and two months with only one day of those 1000 plus days out of the hole for a 30-minute exercise period. He also endured beatings from the guards.
Once released from the dungeon, Henri attacks the fellow prisoner who betrayed him in the escape attempt years earlier, killing him.
During the murder trial his lawyer uses the insanity defense describing Henri as the tool for the murder, but the prison, warden, and guards as the murderers. Near the end of the trial, Henri feeling like he would be found guilty of first-degree murder, wants to change his plea to guilty so that he will get the death sentence instead of being sent back to Alcatraz. He stated that he would rather die than being sent back to the prison where he would endure more beatings, more isolation, and more of the dungeon. The jury found Henri not guilty of first-degree murder but instead found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to three years back at Alcatraz.
Arriving back at the prison, Henri tells the warden that no matter how much he is beaten nor how long he is in the dungeon, he (Henri) still won. Henri was found dead in his cell prior to the appeal. The dungeons were so closed off forever, the warden found guilty of mistreating prisoners and the prison closed in 1963 primarily due to it’s failing infrastructure and the escape of several prisoners.
This film, although not entirely accurate to the real Henri Young, portrays much of what happens to those put into the penal system. Being locked away from society changes a person and not necessarily for the better as the general public is led to believe. In today’s sentencing structure, convicted persons are sent to prison “as a deterrence” and “as punishment” not for rehabilitation as one would hope as what good does it do to lock someone up for years only to have them return to society and commit further crimes.
Anxiety issues, depression, PTSD, substance addition, phobias, paranoia, and trust issues are amongst only a few of the issues ex-convicts experience. Sexual abuse, fights, violence, physical and societal isolation, lack of support, no sense of help, etc. contribute to those post prison mental issues.
Like Henri Young, many of those convicted of sex crimes and sent to prison also endure inhumane treatment from the prisons, the guards, other prisoners, and the lack of mental health programs. Unlike Henri, the abuse continues once released from prison (the real Henri Young was released from prison in 1972, jumped parole, and was never seen again).
With the increasing restrictions placed on those required to register, whether still on parole/probation/supervision or not, many registrants feel isolated from society and would rather die than go back to prison. Some commit suicide instead of feeling the pain. Many seem to be complacent while some fight for our rights and the wrongs placed upon us. A few, like Henri, many even sacrifice their life for the betterment of others.