Posts Tagged ‘national dialogue on prison reform’

Smart Prerelease Instruction: Inmates Helping Inmates

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

The double-edged-sword of getting out of prison.

For those of us who follow incarceration and reentry issues, the inmate-created, inmate-run, prerelease program in Cumberland, Maryland, that was just approved by the Federal Bureau of Prisons will be something to keep an eye on.

Ideally, Young Men Incorporated (YMI), as the program is known, will prove that switching from curriculum enforcement to the much more coercive power of wisdom and teachable moments is the right way to reinvent prisoner reentry methodology.

Hitting your release date and getting out is a trip. Individual results may vary, but when it comes to civilian employees, frontline custody personnel, and prison administrators, soon-to-parole inmates often face disparagement and placating attitudes. The way some Badges see it, you’re still a criminal, soon to be protected by rights that weren’t there a couple of weeks ago. More than a few are just waitin’ for you to act special, by which I mean individual. (more…)

Life in a Prison Classroom

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Pre-Release Classrooms are the Future of Prison Reform_Where Excuses Go to DieI know life in a prison classroom, and the learning environment you may or may not find once you’ve taken a seat.

A brief click-through of “5 Projects to Watch in 2016” from Correctional News leaves me wondering how much prison officials really know about the obstacles inmates face just getting through a detention facility’s classroom door. What does it matter, you ask? Well, in an era where words like “reform,” “rehabilitation,” and “recidivism” are on everyone’s lips, it’s important to know when a component as critical as education is simply being given lip service.

Correctional News covers prison operations, design, and construction. It celebrates grand openings and groundbreakings because imminent completion dates tend to matter to rubber mattress merchants, vendors of detection products, and shower flooring suppliers.

Currently showcased are the East County Detention Center near Palm Springs, for example, which is set to open in 2017, the Kern County justice facility in Bakersfield, and the new Utah State Prison, among others. California being where I paid my debt to society, I tend to monitor its prison system more closely than I do others. But all of these entries have something in common, and that’s my point: they feature anemic descriptions of the education facilities also under construction. Rehabilitation-as-footnote here, will eventually make corrections administrators and state officials look as though they’re simply hanging wreaths of rehabilitation on freshly painted classroom doors and leaving it at that. (more…)

Capitalizing on Inmate Firefighters

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Image_washingtonpostThere’s no excuse for inmate firefighters becoming pawns of prison reform.

Inmate firefighters: it’s an odd term, isn’t it? “Firefighter” is a badge of honor, while “inmate” is a brand. Yet these particular convicted criminals are routinely sent on 16-mile marches to square off with raging wildfires for 24 hours at a time, carrying the mark of offenders while performing duties as honorable as they come. For about $2 an hour.

These men (and women) are typically housed in a more congenial, campus-like setting. They eat better than their counterparts who are still behind prison walls, and they’re addressed more cordially by both frontline custody personnel and the civilian training staffers who oversee their participation in California’s esteemed Conservation Camp program.

Most of these folks were convicted of non-violent crimes. But violent offenders have also swung picks and wielded shovels for the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection (CalFire) for decades, and a proposal to expand their participation was recently submitted by California corrections officials. Good thing it was withdrawn almost as soon as it was made public, as the plan could have been a disaster.

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“A fact that needs to be spoken”

Monday, July 21st, 2014

His limitlessly enthusiastic facial expressions just kill me_HBOJohn Oliver joins the national dialogue on prison reform – vividly.

I’m sure it will surprise no readers of this blog to know I’m a radicalized John Oliver fan.

From Net Neutrality to the World Cup, I’m thrilled at the breath of fresh air HBO has allowed Oliver to blow our way on the topics of the day. As I watched this piece last night, I was pleased to see that just about every prison reform and private prison-related topic I’ve covered here – he nails. But, of course, the best part of the segment is the musical number. By singing about prison reform with Sesame Street muppets he sends it all over the top, simplifying the issue, making us laugh, educating and surprising us.

It’s a fact that needs to be spoken

America’s prisons are broken

It’s a hard truth about incarceration

prisons are needed for our civilization

But mandatory minimums for heroin and crack

stack the system against Hispanics and Blacks

Our prison population is bigger than Slovenia

‘Cause we put people in jail instead of treating schizophrenia!

Oliver and his writing team are hilarious. For me, they created a valuable tool I can use to snow plow through an otherwise complex issue. Helping to widen people’s understanding of incarceration in America and those behind bars just became a little easier. Thank you John Oliver.