Aug. 27, 2019

Prison Reform

From Dances With Thugs by Joseph Dickey (author's profile)




There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about prison reform. Politicians are seizing the opportunity to use this issue as a "platform" to run their campaign on. You would think that because I am in prison and "prison reform" would have a direct impact on me I would be very excited about the prospect of something changing. However, I am not. Why? Because I think that all of this talk is missing some major ingredients.

America has a long history of doing stuff that research and experience show do not work. Just a few examples are: the religious right that preach against sex education because any sex outside of marriage is "wrong", yet their approach has no effect on teen pregnancy or out of wedlock birth rates; the prohibitionist who thought outlawing alcohol would stop the "evils of alcohol" yet an underground black market emerged; the "war on drugs" which has had little to no effect on the drug problem America is facing. It makes me wonder why a country which has such an educated base of people do stuff that just does not work. Stuff that research shows over and over does not work. Well, other than the fact that one professor told me when I was an undergraduate majoring in Human Development.... "People are basically crazy creatures who often do things that make no sense:..... I think that America's moral code and sense of justice is based upon an idea rather than a reality. One could debate forever the examples of how morality and a sense of justice is sometimes not based in reality but this is about prison reform.

Our country has a tendency to enact things for a group of people because we think "this is what the problem is and this is what they need". However, we do this without actually talking to the people who are in need or really understanding what the problem is. How can elected officials really know how to reform the prison problem unless they talk to the people who are in prison? Prisoners need to be asked: "Why did you do what you did?" "If you could have anything you wanted, what would you ask for to make your life better?" "What would you like for your life to be like when you get out?" "What are your biggest fears about getting out?" Because I am a behavioral science person at heart, I have asked these questions over the last 14 years I have been in here and some of the answers will surprise you.

One of the biggest things I hear over and over (and I sometimes feel this way myself) is that there is a sense of hopelessness because you have been convicted of a felony and now you are forever labeled. There is a disconnect with those on the outside. I have described it to a counselor like this: "It is like I am in one of those snow globes where you shake it up and it looks like it is snowing. I want to be on the outside with all of the people who are looking in at me but I am stuck in here and can only beat on the glass to try and get the attention of anyone who might look at the snow globe for a few minutes before they go on with their real life. I am not real anymore." People in here feel like they are in another world and when they get out they will forever be an alien and labeled. So what do these people want? They want to not be treated as an alien for the rest of their life because they had to live in here. Please stop holding it against them everywhere they go. The... "you can't work here if you are a felon, you can't live here if you are a felon", etc... All that does is drive those people out of society even more and being "ANTI-SOCIAL" is of the biggest problems with one committing a crime to start with. The attitude I get from a lot of people in here is... Why should I change, society will never accept me. I understand there is a concern with recidivism but if you treat people like a criminal for the REST OF THEIR LIFE, then what do you expect one to be. In psychology I have heard this described as a "self fulfilling prophesy" It is when one is told and believes they are a certain thing they become that thing. If you want people to continue to behave like a criminal it is easy, just remind them treat them like one and remind them everyday that they are a criminal.


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vh1234 Posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago. ✓ Mailed 7 months ago   Favorite
Thanks for writing! I worked on the transcription for your post.

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