We need to reform prisons to make better citizens

Written by: Rachelle Chery

It isn’t a myth that the United States Criminal Justice system is flawed. From overpopulation to wrongful convictions, the system treats its criminals as though they are not even human. Even during this pandemic, prison systems have failed to implement cautionary measures in order to keep the inmates from spreading the virus.

In one of my classes, I was assigned to watch College Behind Bars which gave insight on the lives of inmates. College Behind Bars is a four-part docu-series that focuses on prison inmates who are receiving an education through the Bard Prison Initiative that offers free, rigorous education to those who would not have been capable of doing so. This series highlights the way that an education, which most people take for granted, can ultimately allow even criminals to positively change their approach to life. The narrative approach allows viewers to empathize with people society characterizes as criminals and allows for change of mindset about the way that prisons should treat inmates.

This series opened my eyes to the impact that a proper rehabilitation can have on prison inmates as it helps them to become better citizens upon their release. Most Prisons in the United States establish a punishment system that dehumanizes inmates rather than helping them to improve on their behavior. Because of these degrading systems, many of these inmates are bound to end up incarcerated again because of the lack of resources that the prison system provides to rehabilitate these criminals and turn them into law abiding citizens.

There are a large number of inmates who were incarcerated as teenagers, causing them to lose the opportunity of having a proper education. In College Behind Bars the BPI allows for inmates to obtain a college degree to allow for them to have the possibility of earning a reasonable paying job upon release. The series highlights this benefit through the story of Jules Hall who got a decent paying job as a telemarketer after he was released from prison. Unfortunately there is a large percentage of people who do not have this luxury, causing them to struggle with a minimum wage job that treated them poorly.

Prison Reform is a topic that I rarely hear being discussed because of the fact that many people believe that prisoners should be punished severely for the crime they committed, but they fail to realize that even though they broke the law, these inmates are humans deserving of the chance to change through a program that allows proper rehabilitation. Reforming the prison systems would not only help inmates to positively change their lives, but it would help to lessen the chance of them going back to prison, but it would allow for a more productive economy. If society continues to treat inmates as less than, how should we expect them to act otherwise?

To Get involved in Criminal Justice Reform, go to https://www.sentencingproject.org/actions/.

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