Reforming the American Prison System

By Larelle Jones.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics data collection, Recidivism of State Prisoners Released in 2005, an estimated 68% of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and 77 % were arrested within five years.

Although these statistics were collected over a decade ago high likelihood of individuals once convicted of a crime being convicted for another crime is still very prevalent today in 2017. After speaking to various individuals it became clear that the common belief is that there should be reforms made to make American prison systems more effective in rehabilitating individuals. Mr. Mann, Sharon’s High’s M.E.T.C.O Director, shared his first hand testimony about one of his friends taking a wrong path that led to their arrest and from that point they [the friend] spiraled into a cycle causing him to “not change once he got out”, said Mr.Mann.

All individuals interviewed had their attention brought to the fact that individuals once convicted of a felony lose their rights to vote. AP U.S history teacher Ms.Malcolm says “it’s terrible , disenfranchisement especially because a disproportionate number of prisoners are people of color.. I don’t think they should be able to vote when in prison but when they get out they should be able to vote.”

Individuals were also questioned on the topic of pregnant inmates being able to keep their newborns in prison after birth. Some prisons such as the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York allow pregnant inmates to keep their newborns in jail with them as they serve their time. However, the programs that allow this are under strict requirements and very few females are able to be apart of them. Such requirements are the crime the inmate has committed and how long their sentence is. “Anytime you can keep a mother and her baby together why not do that,” said Malcolm.

However, individuals still voiced concern for such programs; the common concern was the newborns and their mothers needing to be in a separate area from other inmates. Ms. Smoler said, “It would depend on the conditions of the prisons. I support prisons having safe spaces conducive to inmates who are keeping their babies while in prison.”

Ms. Dungan suggested “pushing for restriction on solitary confinement and the care of pregnant women in prison and the conditions of which people are giving birth in” and agreed inmates “should have a set of skills so that they can find a job and become productive citizen when released from jail”which Ms. Mitlin’s, Sharon High’s Social Worker, said.

There are multiple disparities between the backgrounds and mindsets of all the individuals interviewed yet they all believe there needs to be reforms made which makes it clear that something has to change. Ms.Malcolm couldn’t have said it any better, “We live in a country where justice is more about vengeance than justice itself”.

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