"We didn't address the problems when they were only issues of morality and justice. Maybe we'll address them now that they've become issues of self-preservation."

Prison Reform: Repentance and Redemption

October 5th, 2015

The current state of incarceration in America is seriously in need of reform.  Prisons are costly and impacting society in negative ways.  Change is needed badly.  The present model of holding people responsible for crime is ancient at best.  The disproportion of both race and class within prisons is immoral.  American democracy is in theory based on equality, fairness and freedom.  Crime has been a reality since the inception of this nation.  The defining of crime has been held to the majority of this society.  While not a perfect system it is still the leader in the free world as an example of an idea justice system.  This claim today is not reflective with the population inside prison walls.  African Americans, Latinos, poor people are the main actors.   Convicted persons are for some laws that are out of date, slanted against racial groups and covertly politically influenced.  The last century of incarceration has produced more confusion, resentment, and anger for those in prison.  This essay is not advocating allowing crime to be ignored nor discounted.  Hardly.  Prisons serve an important public service.  American society needs an institution to meet the many issues, problems of those who break societies law.  The issue at hand is the present model is much too costly and yields little if any benefits for anyone.  This is a complex, complicated issue that demands the type of thinking that can build answers, policies to protect society and find a solution to those who transgress democracy.  Democracy is not extended to prison institutions.  The price for transgressions in American society is to take away, restrict the freedom of anyone found guilty in the justice system, process that determines innocent or guilt.  The public safety is critical in a democracy.  The draconian methodology, privatization of prisons does nothing to bring this societal challenge into a more productive, preventive mode of operation.

The problem facing many states in America is how long should those who have broken the law be held for their crimes?  The issue of non-violent crimes has surfaced along with other challenges that has filled American prisons.  This essay is the first conversation to begin discussing the transgressors.  What is fair in sentencing them to be kept from society and now equally what constitutes their release?  Who decides who should be released from prisons?  How long should any convicted person serve for their crimes?  What happens to youthful offenders?   The Supreme Court has addressed the issue of cognitive development or has it?  More pressing is there  any new thinking on those who are incarcerated for violent crime?  Murder?  Rape?  Is life sentences with no possible parole an actual slow process for dying?  Rapist are considered redeemable?  These are the questions that American society need to reconsider, review and reform?

This title is asking the question in the State of Michigan as it faces the largest amount of money on the state budget that is more expensive than mental health, community health, public education or social services.  This is something that other states are facing now or in the near future will find.  This is troubling as those who are returning from prison will enter into a different world then originally lived in prior to their crimes.  More frightening is the demise, drastic change or need for non skilled jobs that once spearheaded the working middle class.  The auto industry provided good pay, prosperous benefits all of which provided solid tax bases for communities and the state.  Technology has advanced and replaced many jobs.  The fact is that jobs that exist in today’s society demand the grasp, mastering of technology, education that frankly most of those returning citizens do not have.  The years in prisons have found a decline in public education and shrinking of vocational training,  skill sets for returning to the communities that are flourishing in poverty many times.

Public education has transformed in the City of Detroit likewise in the City of Flint.  The City of Pontiac has transformed downward from the removal of the General Motor signature Pontiac automobile.  These three urban cities relied upon the social, economic and education cultivation, nurturing of a strong workforce that prospered and grew in those days of jobs.  The domino effect of a commerce network feeding off the powerful auto industry has fallen.  Pontiac cars are history, they closed the plants and ended the actual car.  The downsizing of the automobile industry has left the cities in dire straits.  The workplace is not open for many who have been transgressors.  The problem is acute, employers have not been open armed in giving those who have been in prisons a second chance.

This first step for those returning is a social repentance and a redemption to begin fresh, ready to contribute to society.  The business community along with the education community will need repentance from rigid policies that keep returning citizens out of legal work.  The education community redemption is to educate anyone regardless of their past deeds.  The charter school models joined by private schools, for profit organizations who prey on the poor must cease.  Last, let us utilize, learn from those who have transgressed and found their repenting and redemption.  A complex challenge indeed, one that must be addressed as human capital is needed to work within American society.