Saturday, August 1, 2015

What's it like in a Zimbabwe prison?

This is Walter Palmer.  He is the newly famous dentist who killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe.  The blinding white smile and pricey X-ray laser vision goggles obscure an important truth about Walter, which is... 

...that he is doomed.

Conditions in Zimbabwean prisons are unpleasant, to put it mildly.

You don't need me to tell you about Walter Palmer, do you?  

In case you've been living at the bottom of a deep well, he's the American dentist that paid over $50,000 to hunt and kill a beautiful, regal male lion named Cecil, who lived under protection in a Zimbabwean national park.

For our American audience, Zimbabwe is a country in Africa.  Africa is a continent, kind of like Europe or Asia.  There is no country simply called "Africa."

And as an aside, the country known as "Mexico" is located in North America.  Yes.  

Geology is damn confusing.  I know it.

But We Were Talking About the Evil Dentist  


So the hunt for Cecil the Lion took place at night, with a spotlight.  Walter Palmer and his Zimbabwean guide tied a dead animal to their jeep.  The smell of fresh meat lured Cecil off protected lands, at which point Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow.  

Palmer and his guide, heartless monsters, then tracked the wounded Cecil for 40 hours, shot him with a gun, and cut off his head.  In other words, rather than coming to their senses and rescuing the wounded animal, they got all medieval on Cecil instead.  

Cecil the Lion in happier times.

When Palmer was revealed as the murderer this past Tuesday, it set off a firestorm of criticism which has only recently abated a touch.  

Palmer the Great White Hunter, using a crisis public relations technique as old as the hills themselves, issued one tepid statement denying any wrongdoing, then disappeared.  He has now spent several days in hiding.  

His public relations consultant is clearly a pro, and it is likely the plan that Palmer will stay in seclusion for months, if not years.

What Happens Now?

Not so fast, dentist.

As of this writing, the Zimbabwean government has declared that it plans to move forward with an extradition request to the American government for Walter Palmer.  

In other words, they want the Americans to arrest Palmer, then hand him over to the Zimbabwean authorities.  Then Zimbabwe will put him on trial for poaching.

Bad news for the dentist.  As Thee Optimist checks his Magic 8-Ball, it seems that this situation is likely to play out in one of three ways.  None of them look particularly rosy for Walter Palmer.  

Good.  He's been an unbearably smug bastard for much of his adult life.  So what scenarios are we looking at?

Ugh.  Here's Walter Palmer posing with another one of his victims, a spotted leopard.  This macho Vladimir Putin act makes it hard to feel sorry for Walter. 

Scenario #1 - Walter successfully fights extradition

This is the best case scenario for America's worst dentist.  

Walter appears to have a lot of money, so you know he is going to hire the best lawyers available.  They will make a case that sending Walter to Zimbabwe is cruel and unusual punishment under American law, or that no crime was committed, or that Zimbabwe has no jurisdiction in this case.

Mostly they will say "please don't send Walter to Zimbabwe."

This may work.  It may not.  The whole thing puts the US State Department in an awkward position.  The United States has an extradition treaty with Zimbabwe.

If Zimbabwe requests that the US hand over Walter, and they don't, then the US has broken the treaty.  This will give Zimbabwe every reason to break the treaty at a later date.  

This will give all manner of drug lords, international terrorists and assorted gangsters every reason to go live in Zimbabwe, outside the reach of US law enforcement.

One possible outcome here is a negotiated settlement where Walter agrees to do some time in a cush minimum security American prison, in lieu of time in Zimbabwe.

No matter what happens, a legal fight against extradition will be long, stressful and very expensive.  To make matters worse, every time Walter appears in public, a crowd of people will show up to scream and curse at him.

Scenario #2 - Walter goes to Zimbabwe 
Prison in Zimbabwe - not a good look for the dentist.

This can only be described as the nightmare scenario for Walter.  

Conditions in Zimbabwean prisons are among the worst in the world.  They have been described as a "human rights tragedy."  According to THIS ARTICLE, dying is a welcome relief to many Zimbabwean prisoners. 

The prisons are overcrowded - in some places, 25 men are held in cells meant for 6.  There is little to no sanitation.  There is no electricity.  There is no heat.  Rape, disease and malnutrition are common.

Prisoners are often forced to fight among themselves for food.  As a result, the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker, and slowly die.  Yes.  People die of starvation in Zimbabwean prisons.

Which do you suppose Walter will be, strong or weak?

And don't assume Walter will be treated differently because he's an American.  Once he is handed over to the Zimbabweans, there's no telling what will happen.  

The legal system there is utterly compromised, and Walter is as despised in Zimbabwe as he is everywhere else on Earth, if not more so.  He did kill their lion, after all.  

Just in case we weren't clear before - this is what life looks like inside a Zimbabwean prison.  Not a pretty picture.
Scenario #3 - Walter eats his own gun

This scenario is more likely than it might seem.

Suicide is the nuclear option for Walter.  There are several reasons for this.  The most obvious is that for a rich American, one accustomed to a certain level of comfort, instant death is a more attractive option than spending time in a Zimbabwean prison.  

Another reason is that as a profession, dentists are surprisingly likely to kill themselves.  They are right up there with doctors, and ahead of both lawyers and cops, two other thankless jobs very likely to send people over the edge.

A third reason is that statistically speaking, middle-aged white men who have suffered serious career, financial or personal setbacks are the most likely people in America to kill themselves.  

Walter has suffered gigantic career and personal setbacks.  In short order, he has gone from a rich, high status, self-satisfied jerk to an international pariah.  His dental practice is closed until further notice.  His patients are gone.  His staff are certainly leaving.

From now on, no one likes Walter except lawyers, bodyguards and his publicist.  

Maybe his wife, but I doubt it.  Her lawyer is probably preparing the separation papers as we speak.  You know his kids hate him.  They probably did before any of this even happened.

The last reason, which may be the final nail, so to speak, is Walter has guns.  People with guns are up to twice as likely to kill themselves as people without guns.

Why is this?  Because the gun is there.  It's right there, waiting.  It's late at night, you can't sleep because the entire human race hates you, the clock is tick-tocking.  You're alone, and you've been drinking.  It seems so easy.  

Just pick up the gun and... 

Suicide usually takes a certain amount of planning.  But not when you have a gun.  Suicide is often a thing you can back out of, even after you've started.  You can call 911.  You can make yourself vomit up all the pills you took. 

With a gun, all you got to do is pull that trigger.

Right, Walter?

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