The following contains spoilers for Green Arrow #42 by Mairghread Scott, Matthew Clark, Sean Parsons, Jason Wright and Deron Bennett, in stores now.
Comics are an artform, one which can be used, and often is, to voice sociopolitical concerns, something Green Arrow has been doing for the last several issues. The recent arc, "Better Than," finds Oliver Queen on Stryker's Island (a prison facility for supervillains in the DC Universe) at the behest of the Justice League, tasked to look after Joshua Allen, the latest version of classic Superman villain, Parasite.
However, when a brawl erupts allowing Parasite to escape, it leads to a personal statement from Mairghread Scott and Tyler Clark on the failure of the prison system in America. As Green Arrow #42 illustrates, it's all about questioning whether the setup in place is conducive to proper rehabilitation, or if it's simply creating bigger problems for society and those it's intended to help reform.
Ollie quickly realizes the answer to this is, "No." Sadly, this broken reform system creates just as many monsters as it was intended to stop.
While hunting Parasite in the sewers below the prison, Green Arrow admits he's out his depth, wishing he had powers to take on the fiend, who's grown huge after absorbing the essences of several victims. But for some reason, the hero gets the feeling Parasite is showing mercy. When they eventually meet up, Ollie discerns this reluctance is coming from a place of fear, as Joshua (who had been turned into a monster by accident)really doesn't want to hurt anyone. As Ollie tries to talk Parasite out of escaping, Joshua reveals the torture he's endured at the hands of his guards, including starvation and isolation.
This has taken a toll on him, mentally and physically. Nonetheless, Ollie persists in trying to bring him back to the light but Joshua has no faith in words anymore, especially as the help he thought he'd have gotten in incarceration never came. They end up continuing their fight and Green Arrow incapacitates him, feeling sorry he had to resort to extreme measures for such a lost soul. When he speaks to the warden later on, Ollie accepts the issue is way bigger than he thought.
He realizes the prison infrastructure is lacking; guards are underpaid and the overall prison conditions are sub-standard, which all lead to the gatekeepers being frustrated. As a result, they don't care for the prisoners, and become violent as a means of venting. It's a system eating itself from the inside out, and Green Arrow sees up close and personal how the guards are constantly at risk, which does affect their sanity.
It's a double-edged sword, so Ollie really doesn't judge either side; instead, he empathizes. Sure, he's on the side of the law, but he understands the rehab process needs to be better equipped for everyone involved. The fact that his own weapons cost more than what the guards are paid in a year puts things into perspective, not to mention simple utilities like electricity or cells which prevent prisoners from using their powers are lacking.
Funding has to be better, as taking care of criminals after sentencing is crucial to their ability to reform.. And make no mistake, as much as it's an American matter, it's a global problem, too. Still, he wants the prison guards to do their best because the system must never falter; it has to treat criminals like people no matter what, or else it's just as reprehensible. Ultimately, while there's a laundry list of safety concerns, Ollie cannot condone the security body's misdeeds, urging them to rise above.
Hopefully, with his financial privilege, he can approach another billionaire like Bruce Wayne and truly help revamp policies, because this kind of social justice is desperately needed and fits his modus operandi. In fact, it'd be quite a proactive venture and one which can tie into the upcoming Sanctuary project.
Prisoners who have healthy homes are more than likely to have healthier minds, after all. Let's hope the greater DC Universe recognizes this, because at ground level, while this issue may not seem important, itss something which once addressed can help redeem so many folks who fall by the wayside.