An interesting conversation was had today with a friend of mine today. Lita and I got to discussing the prison system of all things…though we generally seem to have this style of conversation bordering on debate all the time.
The crux is that the prison and punishment system in this country is broken, but beyond that the means to change the system are nearly impossible. The problem in my eyes, as it stands now, is that the prison system is locked into the idea of “penance” instead of reform. Our country’s legal system was brought over with the Puritans and the ideas they held dear found their way into the laws and traditions of the land.
Penance does little to nothing to reform someone. You need to give people the tools so when they get back into the real world outside the walls of the prison to integrate back into society as a productive member of society.
But the problems are then compounded by the shaming that goes on for those who have served their time. If you have a felony on your record you’ll have a hard time finding work, finding a place to live, and just generally getting by. If you’ve served your time, done your penance as it were, why are you now treated like a second-class citizen? If the reason is “you can’t be trusted,” the question is then begged: “why are you out of prison?” If you’ve done your time, you’re a free man or woman are you not? Of course the answer now is “you’re not.” You get out helpless to reintegrate and, bam, recidivism. Back to jail.
Add in the for-profit prison system and you wind up with the judicial-industrial-complex clusterfuck we’re dealing with now.
So how does one change this?
This is where I grew frustrated.
I don’t know. Even if you run for office on the platform of judicial reform, all you need is for your opponent to spout “I’m running against someone who is soft on crime. You want to feel safe, do you not?” and your ship is sunk.
So I’m sitting here still frustrated. I have no idea how to even try to fix things. Ideas?