Why Should You Care?
WHY READ PRISON DIARIES?
More than a few people have asked why they should bother to read a prisoner’s take on her life behind bars. Even more have inquired as to why they should care at all about prisons. These are totally legitimate questions given the fact that prisons house people who have, at least allegedly, engaged in criminal activity and victimized –if not specific people – society at large.
To be made, inquiries into incarceration do not require sympathy. No one must feel sorry for someone in a correctional facility to understand how the system works. Incarceration is far from irrelevant to the average citizen. What happens inside correctional institutions is so bound up in razor wire and red tape that blocks your view, so you cannot see how much you should – and will – care.
Why should you read Prison Diaries? Here are nine reasons.
- IN TERMS OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM, THE MOST PROGRESSIVE PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION IN HISTORY IS ABOUT TO END
President Barack Obama did more than any other president to expose the problems in the criminal justice system. He tackled the issues of solitary confinement and its effects while letting 10,000 juvenile offenders out of segregation, created a school within the federal Bureau of Prisons, granted a record number of clemency applications (clemency includes commutations – early termination of a sentence – and pardons – formal absolution and erasure of conviction) and actually visited a prison. Although President George W. Bush kicked off justice reform in 2008 with the Second Chance Act, no other United States president ever made such a commitment to redeeming lost lives as Barack Obama did.
- IN TERMS OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, A PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION OF UNKNOWN POTENTIAL IS ABOUT TO BEGIN
The truth is that the 45th president of the United States hasn’t made any detailed statements on justice reform other than he’s committed to “law and order.” During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised a day one-repeal of all things Obama, which would have included the solitary confinement and correctional education reforms, but he hasn’t gotten around to deleting those yet. It’s possible that President Trump will seize recent research that reducing prison populations reduces crime and embrace decarceration to the irreducible minimum (meaning leaving people committed to being bad hombres and nasty women behind bars) but we don’t know yet. If Trump advocates for longer sentences or opposes legislative changes that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences, take a look here to see if that’s a wise idea. Prison is a crazy place that doesn’t make everyone better. You can see that in the Diaries.
- YOU NEED TO LOOK UNDER THE HOOD OF MASS INCARCERATION POLICIES THAT HAVE, ESSENTIALLY, FAILED AT EVERY LEVEL
Even states that try to substitute treatment for incarceration (inpatient drug rehab is a liberal’s version of jail) are not so competent at reducing crime in a meaningful way because prisons and inpatient substance abuse treatment programs are designed to fail. Failure by the system means (financial and career) success for the people who run it, not the clients or people who need help.
- YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
If the criminal prosecution divisions of courthouses are the gut of society, then prisons are its colostomy bag. Lady Justice has a bad case of Crohn’s Disease. On some days, she’s just fine but, on other days, she flares up and shits all over the place and spills that putrid bag connected to her innards. Unless you want these pieces of shit to slide toward your fan, you need to understand how to keep Lady Justice regular.
- YOU NEED TO REMAIN HEALTHY
You probably don’t know that one of the most serious threats to your health is the released prisoner. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July 2013, researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine concluded that one of seventy released prisoners are hospitalized for an acute condition within one week of exiting prison; one in twelve ex-offenders check into a hospital within three months of their release.
Not everyone behind bars has a 35, 50 or 99 year sentence; most will go home one day. When we do go home, we can punch a nice big hole in the bottom of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because as many as 65% of released prisoners will qualify for and receive Medicaid (even more will receive it fraudulently), making everything in your state’s projected fiscal year budgets go totally screwball. Moreover, many of those medical conditions that land released prisoners in hospitals are infectious and, in our newfound states of rehabilitation, we are selfless enough to give them away. Tag. You’re It.
- YOU NEED TO BE INFORMED ABOUT LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES RELATED TO PRISONS
Every state, as well as the federal government, enacts laws each year regarding prisons and criminal justice that actually make people less safe.
Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Governor, just vetoed one of the best and most sweeping reform bills on solitary confinement for no reason at all. Reducing the numbers of inmates in solitary confinement saves money, creates safer correctional environments and reduces crime. Why would he veto that?
California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would maintain in-person visits for inmates – as opposed to the expensive and impersonal video visitation (think about living your life through FaceTime or Skype only) even though in-person visits are proven to reduce recidivism. Why?
For years, the State of Connecticut, primarily through Governor Dannell Malloy’s Undersecretary for Criminal Justice and Policy Michael Lawlor, has touted “supervision” of released offenders (parole or probation, but mostly parole) as the cheaper and much more effective alternative to incarceration.
While Lawlor was working his parole rap on the Constitution State’s constituents, the assholes in Connecticut’s legislative chambers revised the parole law so that offenders convicted of violent crimes cannot be granted parole supervision – that cure-all to overincarceration and recidivism – at all. Instead, those inmates leave the prison gates – at death’s door because they are ill – and move in next door to you with no parole officers to watch them, no one to cull them out of criminal activity, no one to make them go to an emergency room and use that Medicaid card when they start coughing and hacking tuberculosis all over the place.
We’re still playing tag and you’re still It.
- YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO AVOID BEING A VICTIM
Prison Diaries will give you – for free – the secrets of pegging someone as a future offender when she’s just ten years old. Then you can avoid her. Or you can help her.
- YOU NEED TO WATCH WHERE YOUR TAX DOLLARS GO
In the summer of 2016, Washington University in Saint Louis released a study that showed that the total annual cost of incarceration is one trillion dollars when criminogenic and other effects like lost wages are calculated in. We devote as much as eight cents of every tax dollar to corrections. When you factor in the cost of police and prosecution, our devotion rises to about 30% of each of dollar you sacrifice to the government. Approximately one third of your taxes funds the sexual hijinks, outright theft, raw incompetence, abject cruelty and general malaise of the modern correctional institution. Is this what you want on your tab? You’re not It anymore. Now you’re hit. Financially.
- YOU SHOULD DISCOVER THE GOOD PARTS AND PEOPLE OF A PRISON
Many moral, exceptional people live in and work at prisons, but all the crazy crap of corrections covers them up. Some inmates are factually innocent and slog through daily prison life with a smile. Some employees – guards, work supervisors – have worked with the world’s most hated women for almost 30 years and never passed judgment. These individuals are more than tireless public servants; they’re saints. You wouldn’t feel so bad about half of your tax check going to pay their salaries if you knew them. And now you can.