Monday, March 16, 2015

Lets Talk About Our Penal System

The New York Daily News reported Saturday, March 14th, 2015 on a new book published by a ex-Riker's Island prison guard who served time for selling drugs to inmates and pimping out female officers as 'copstitutes'.

This comes on the heels of an earlier report on February 21st, 2015 in which the New York Times reported, Brutality at Rikers Island Persists.

I'm not going to detail those two articles. Anyone who's interested can read them for their self. Suffice it to say anyone coming out might become a worse person then when they went in. However there are exceptions. I became aware of this when later on the same day I came across this TED Talks video.

Ismael Nazario: What I learned as a kid in jail
(TED Talks: Published on Mar 11, 2015)
As a teenager, Ismael Nazario was sent to New York’s Rikers Island jail, where he spent 300 days in solitary confinement — all before he was ever convicted of a crime. Now as a prison reform advocate he works to change the culture of American jails and prisons, where young people are frequently subjected to violence beyond imagination. Nazario tells his chilling story and suggests ways to help, rather than harm, teens in jail.

My Personal Thoughts
The most prevalent attitude most people have regarding prisons is they only exist as punishment. What most overlook prisons should also be a place where rehabilitation should be made possible.

There are tons and tons of so-called white collar experts who seem to have countless solutions to our ever growing prison populations. However I think the best person to listen to is someone like Ismael. Either we can keep treating people like animals in a cage or recognize many (not all) are salvageable. Too many times we think of the world in simple terms such as good or evil. Human beings are not that simple. Very few are 100% pure evil. In a number of cases there is a measure of good that just needs to be nurtured.

I'm not talking about mass killers or the criminally insane, but rather the larger portion jailed today for crimes in which they can make amends. It makes sense both economically and for society as a whole that we pursue whatever course is necessary to reduce recidivism.

Presently in the United States 2.66+ million adults are in jail and over 70.8 thousand juveniles in detention. In a recent report the average cost per inmate in New York’s prisons is $167,731 per year. This same article stated there are 12,287 housed a Riker's Island. If just 10% of those could be rehabilitated it would save million$ at that prison alone. Multiply costs estimated nationally to be well over $74 billion (2007 figures) and we're talking billion$. Not to even mention how society would become safer.

I have several ideas how this could be accomplished, but this post is too long already. If anyone has further interests I'd be happy to discuss them via the comments below.

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