Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"How America's Prison Systems Could Be Fixed (Part 2)"

What leads to most of the behavioral problems in prison? We could blame the fact that there are so many different personalities forced to live in a confined space together. We could blame the individuals, saying that they are incapable of acting in a socially constructive manner. Many factors may be pointed out, including economy and even racial barriers. The truth is, that while these factors may play a part, they are avoidable. Our militaries see many of the same factors come into play, with less of the problems.

I believe that the main reason for this is the time we have on our hands. As busy as I keep myself, I still find long periods of time with nothing to do. The sheer boredom, combined with the many grating personalities that surround me, often leads to feelings of anxiety and frustration, which turn leads to antisocial acts or behaviors.

I am not saying that I act out, but certainly I have not always filled my days with productive activities. I love to gamble. There have been times when the boredom has set in and the poker table began calling my name. Before I realize it, I'm locked in to the table and neglect all other duties. Even writing takes second place.

Now, if more of our hours in here were spent geared toward productive ends, if we were forced to live and act as a responsible members of society, not only would we be more prepared to reenter society, but there would also be a decrease in behavioral problems within the institutions.

How could our time be spent more productively? Well, there are a number of ways, and certainly some of the population does pursue productive activities, but it is the majority we need for prison to be successful.

Here are a few of my own ideas:

1. Set up prison boot camps - Allow for inmates to volunteer for military training programs, just as if they were joining the Army, the Navy, the Marines, or whatever. Or course, there would be no provision of guns or ammo, but nothing else need change. Those who do well may join the actual division upon release, on a probationary enlistment. This would help increase recruitment and being military run programs, it would be rehabilitation without the added expense to the state's budget.

2. Show more support for talents of prisoners - There are many artists, poets, musicians, authors, and other talented individuals who find no outlet for their works. Most are not as luck as I am to have a sister who supports me by posting this blog. Resourceful individuals will find ways to hone their craft, but after a few years, without a way to share your work with others, the work begins to lose purpose and soon the inspiration is gone.

3. Offer college scholarships to prisoners - Perhaps an athletic scholarship is not possible, but there are quite a few in there that could qualify for academic scholarships. The more we educate the people, the greater our society can become. Neglecting to better those in the prison population, or at least offer the opportunity, means our only expectation for them should be failure.

4. Create a job market in the prison system that is comparable to what one would find beyond the walls - This means not only placing prisoners in positions that aid in the operation of the prison itself, but also developing more prison operated businesses that provide products or services for the communities (construction crews, furniture making, TV repairs, farming, etc.) This would do more to generate funds to cover prison costs and provide necessary services to the state which supports said prison. Rather than being helpless burdens on the state and the taxpayers, prisoners become self-sustaining, responsible citizens working toward the goal of establishing themselves as productive, up-standing members of society.

Certainly, the above ideas need some fleshing out. They are meant to be seeds, that hopefully grow towards necessary changes. Other ideas are needed as well and I would welcom any ideas others may have. But, I am still just a prisoner. My words can only reach out to ears that are willing to listen. Others must make the changes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"How America's Prison Systems Could Be Fixed (Part 1)"

Many of my essays have focused on my social dissent, but what good am I serving by pointing out problems without offering solutions? Perhaps that is the greatest problem we face, too many complaints and not enough answers for those complaints. Personally, I don't believe the answers are so hard to find. If every person in the world cam up with one good idea and put it into action, maybe we would begin to see a difference.

Unfortunately, it is not that way. Too many of us are waiting for the problems to just go away, or for someone to come along and fix them for us. I only wish I could fix everything. I wish I could right the wrongs, and solve all the world's troubles, but I am only one man. I do what I can to voice my opinion here and hope I can make some difference, no matter how small.

I begin with a problem I am currently facing, the failure of our prison system. If you read my three part essay, "Why Prison is Failing" posted in July of 2010, then you are familiar with some of the problems we are faced with.

Perhaps you are wondering why this is a concern, not just for prisoners but for our nation...Maybe the world as a whole (Prisons are everywhere, and they are all failing to stop crime rates from rising). I would answer that by saying that, though prisons are filled with violators of social order, those "violators" are also members of society. A society that can't function at its maximum potential if all of its citizens are not productive. Prisons have one adverse effect on the economy and stability of a nation. Indeed, it is a small part of the problems facing our world, but a problem in need of solutions, nonetheless.

Tomorrow, I will work on homelessness and world peace...For now, here is my idea for the one problem facing society.

To begin with, Prisons have to cease being nothing more than human warehouses. Over 70% of the population are non-productive during their time here. The hours are spend playing board games or basketball, simply waiting for another day to end, when they can go in their cells and watch TV or sleep. After a few years of this they are dumped back into society, institutionalized and unable to function. This, in turn, leads the individual back to prison or forces the state to support the burden of another skilless, uneducated citizen.

The solution is to treat individuals in prison just like they are in society. Make school and work mandatory. Pay the inmates actual salaries or hourly wages, then bill them for food, rent and clothing. Make prisoners pay taxes, just like we would have to if we were free men. This will instill the responsibility required to be successful upon release. It will also allow the prison to be more self-sufficient.

This brings to mind my second point: If prisons were completely self-sufficient, or at least generated enough revenue through a number of inmate operated business to provide for necessary expenses, millions of dollars could be saved by the state. Those millions could go to education, law enforcement, drug and alcohol programs, aid for the homeless, and whatever other areas are in need of support, that would ultimately lead to a decrease in the crime rate.

Also, by paying higher salaries to working inmates, it reduces the financial burden on the prisoner's family and allows for them to offer some support of their own wives, children, parents, etc.

Now, the question remains as to what should be done with the prisoners that refuse to go to school or work? Simple! Put them in segregation units, stripped of all privileges. Why should this be treated as just a vacation for the dregs of society? It should not be. Prison is a wake up call and you either get our of bed and make it to work on time, or you hit the snooze button and oversleep, thereby missing the bus.

In summary, prison must reaffirm its focus on rehabilitation, but even more keyed in on creating responsible citizens, capable of functioning in our societies beyond the fences.