Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Cultural Decline"

One would think that the prison system would support the education, social elevation and cultural advancement of inmates. One would think rehabilitation would be a priority. One would think that any effort on the part of a convicted felon to better himself would be encouraged. In my experience, one would be wrong in thinking such things.
For 12 years I have been incarcerated in the state of Virginia and I have personally witnessed every effort on the part of the department of corrections to deny opportunity and availability of resources. I can only take this to mean they want us to stay criminals or mold us into mindless sheep, lacking any motivation to achieve or aspirations.
Of course, that is not how they portray things to the general public. They want you to believe they are "Correction" facilities. So why do they hinder efforts to become productive citizens.

Some examples:
1. They recently institued a rule that prevents us from ordering CD's or cassettes that are not in English, Thus preventing us from learning a foreign language by such methods and eliminating access to culturally significant music. By their standards a Verdi Opera is contraband... but Jay-Z is okay.

2. Stephen King, Jackie Collins and James Patterson fill the shelves in prison libraries, numbing the minds of readers with pop-culture schlock. Guess what is nearly impossible to find? Shakespeare, Hemingway, Frost, Thoreau... The list of classic authors could go on, the point is that they make it easy to obtain literature that is entertaining, but rarely edifying from a intellectual or spiritual point of view.

3. Purchasing educational materials or... education is extremely difficult. They have created so many hoops for us to jump through that many give up the quest or lack the ability to pursue such endeavor. We must go through a number of channels simply to gain approval to receive the materials. Then there is the issue of money. Our families are not permitted to pay for orders or order for us. They cannot send us books. We can only purchase such items from our own inmate trust accounts. When you factor in all other expenses we incur, this is something many of us rarely can afford. It is also much cheaper and easier for my family members to order for me or pay for the orders than it is for them to send me the money.

4. Access to the library or other educational forum is limited. Currently I have been on a waiting list to attend the vocational Print School for nearly 3 years. I am permitted to go to the library for only one hour per week, and only by request. Not really the type of time a devoted student needs for research.

These four examples are only a glimpse of the vast measure taken by the institutions or D.O.C. to hinder the quest for elevation within one's life. There are many other rules preventing us from seeking enlightenment. Bans on ordering non-music CD's, limitations on the the number of programs we can take and even rules preventing us from gathering in groups for study purposes.
I'm sure they have excuses for why these rules are in place, but I see many of these as unnecessary and ignorant. Can anyone give me a good reason as to why my family can't set up a pre-paid credit line with Border's? Tell me why a Verdi Opera is a security risk?
Most people who come to prison already lack education and culture why they into prison, why should they leave the same way.


  1. It is easier to ban all foreign material, than to spend the resources hiring translators who are capable of listening to the foreign language to assure there isn't any illicit material for inmates to get ahold of (how to make bombs, create crossbows from newspaper, etc).

    Tax paying citizens do not want to put their taxes towards prisons. They don't see it as rehabilitation, they see it as "giving stuff to cons."

    It's sad. I don't agree with it. But I know how hard it is to gather any money for prison reform, it's almost impossible to pass a levy.

    Tell them you're beefing up security, they love it. Tell them you're giving inmates books, they're uninterested.

    Keep working towards improving your life as best you can, Daniel. The odds are not in your favor, but I know hardwork and persistence can overcome!

  2. This is an important post and it's too bad that more people don't see it. I wonder how "corrections" is defined. Perhaps the people who named this system and perpetuate either lack the education they are in turn stifling or are afraid that others will become educated enough to see what is wrong and find ways of doing something about it.

    Tossing It Out