By Avery B.
AUTHORS NOTE: My final writing piece is about unfair Jail and Prison systems. I wrote about this topic because thousands of innocent people are sent to Prison each year.
Prisons and jails are worldwide. In every corner of the world there are prisons and jails. But yet crime rates aren’t going down, instead in most countries they are going up. But yet we keep giving the same punishments and expecting better results. This isn’t working, letting people rot in jail cells isn’t working, this is only making people angry. Angry at the government and at themselves. Instead of punishing people and letting them rot, we should be educating them. Educating them so that they can go out into the world and reach their full potential.
Freedom is something everyone has. But yet it’s always been a problem, humans have been fighting for it since the beginning of time, it’s always been just an inch out of reach for many. Too many. The one problem that can never have one simple solution, it’s always a question with freedom. Can we have freedom? What does freedom mean?
Why don’t we have freedom?
If freedom is such a big problem, why do we not have it? Why is it not accessible for everyone? Why does my race affect whether or not I have freedom? Why does it affect if I have more freedom, or less freedom? Why does my gender or sexuality affect my freedom? These are some questions inmates have to ask themselves everyday. Why does the color of my skin affect my future so much? Why if a white person commits the same crime as me, do they get 15 years and me 45? Why should I have to worry about rape because of my gender?
Inhuman cells, overcrowded, violent, no education, no proper treatment, terrible food, rape, fights, homicide. That is a prison, that is a jail, that is what people have to go through, maybe for 24 months, or 24 years. And yet the numbers of people being sent to jail and prison isn’t going down. In fact it is going up, and not at a comfortable rate. According to The Sentencing Project, “The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration. There are 2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase over the last 40 years” (sentencing project.org)
Why is this? Why is it that more people than ever are committing crimes, and not soft ones. Freedom. Freedom is at the center of it all. But freedom is a good thing, why is it to blame for all of these terrible crimes.
Freedom is an open question mark. Freedom doesn’t have one straightforward answer because freedom is not a straightforward thing. There are a lot of benefits to freedom, it fills people with a sense of satisfaction that they can do whatever they want, be whoever they want to be. And that’s a great thing, until of course it isn’t. Until freedom becomes being able to go out and shoot 17 students, until freedom becomes banning open conversations, until freedom becomes being able to buy guns for people underaged, until freedom becomes freedom to do wrong. Freedom is what you do with it. If we choose to abuse our freedom, we will continue to have to send millions of people to jail, and millions of people to prison. Millions of people rot because they abused their freedom, because they let their freedom become a way to take others freedom away.
Prisons and jail are where you go when you commit a crime. They are where you go to face your punishment, they are the punishment. It’s just like when you were in kindergarten, and you gave the teacher a hard time. They would silence you, and point you to the corner. During your isolated time in this corner you were supposed to think about your terrible actions, and consider how you would do better in the future. This is a lot like solitary confinement in prison. You’re in a little box, and your only interactions are with journalists, and the security guards, who most times are not in a good mood. So during this time you are left with your thoughts, just you and your thoughts, 24/7. Everyday you wake up and it is the same thing as it was yesterday. And while you should be punished for crimes. Solitary confinement is not a punishment, solitary confinement is a slow, and painful death.
Humans are social animals. According to Simon N. Young, a professor in Psychiatry at McGill University, he says humans are indeed social animals, he also says that all animals are social animals, even solitary ones. This proves that you may be an introvert but that doesn’t mean you aren’t social at all, everyone needs socialization. Everyone. Regardless of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you may think. Punishment is one thing, slow death is another.
Panic attacks, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, that, according to prisionpolicy.org, is solitary confinement. Prisionpolicy.org also states that most solitary confinement cells are “smaller than a parking space”.
Solitary confinement is having 24 hours, seven days a week to just think, just be, just be lost with your thoughts, no distractions. Nothing, you are in a box, alone, with your thoughts. Who knows what those thoughts could be, fear, depression, questions, sadness. Prison and jail are supposed to be the solutions to crimes, they are supposed to convince people not to commit crimes, but what they do instead is they make people angry. They make people angry at themselves, at the government, at the world, at the people they love. They fill people with this unbearable sense of anger. And this anger doesn’t go away, it doesn’t vanish, instead it grows, blossoms, until you find yourself in the same cell, in the same place, with the same empty void in your heart.
But what happens if you’re not sent to solitary confinement in prison? What if you’re just an inmate, a boring lifeless inmate. Why is prison or jail so bad then? It’s bad because it’s not working. Nothing is working, nothing is making you smarter, nothing is educating you for after you leave, nothing. Brennancenter.org says that “the American prison system seems designed to ensure that people return to incarceration instead of successfully reentering society”. In jail and prison you are just rotting away. But that’s not your fault, that’s the government, the warden’s, and the prison’s.
Say you’re back in kindergarten and back in the same corner, for misbehaving. Do you really ever think about what you did? Do you really ever say, “Tomorrow I’m going to do better.” No, you don’t, you think that was the most miserable time in your life and you never want to experience that, or anything like that ever again. This is the exact thing that happens in prison. You don’t really hate yourself, you just hate the system, and this is why people go to prison or jail multiple times, 2 out of 3 people go back to prison within 3 years of release.
We aren’t fixing the system and instead we are punishing people. Mostly innocent people, about 20,000 innocent people go to jail each year. This, as we can see, isn’t working. And it hasn’t been working for a long time, but yet we keep doing the same thing.
Jail’s aren’t helping. Prison’s aren’t helping. They are making people angry, and angry people need an outlet, so this outlet could be innocent people, a guy who owns a jewelry store, bank’s, people’s houses. The list goes on. Instead of giving people this punishment and letting them rott, we should be pushing them, pushing their brains, exercising their minds, letting them expand their creativity, so that when they do leave prison or jail, they’re educated, educated so that they can go out into the world and help, inspire, and become something other than someone who went to jail a couple years ago.
Norfolk prison takes this to heart. Norfolk prison is like a university, once you enter you don’t know you are in a prison. You may recognize the name Norfolk because Malcom X also went to this prison. It was the second prison he went to after being in Charleston State Prison. During Malcolm’s stay in Norfolk prison he joined the debate team, yes, in this prison there was a debate team. Not to mention a room instead of cells, a quart, and an auditorium. And you may be thinking this isn’t appropriate, people who commit crimes shouldn’t be going to a vacation house for free. But that’s the thing, it wasn’t a vacation house. It was where people were simply supposed to get educated, Malcolm X got educated there, and look at all the things he accomplished. He was an accomplished man because he was an educated man. And he was an educated man because he found his passion and fell in love with it, and he found his passion at Norfolk prison ( Malcom X memoir).
All in all I think educating people in prisons and jails is a much better idea than punishing them the way we are today. Obviously what we’re doing right now isn’t helping, and from here things can only get worse. We need to give people the freedom they have been longing for, just not in the way they think. In a way that is going to give them the freedom to soar, and be inspiring people. People who don’t just rot in cells, get out, and often do the same thing. We need to start before it’s too late, we need to educate, inspire, listen, speak. We need to bring people up, and encourage other people to do the same thing. But in order to do that we need to get educated, and make it our mission to educate other people.