By James Johnson
For the countless men and women currently incarcerated in America’s prisons, the thought of being released can at times bring on more stress and frustration than incarceration itself. While such a statement may come across as somewhat of an oxymoron, you must attempt to understand that these men and women have had to adapt to their surroundings in order to survive life on “the inside”. Not to mention that quite a few of them have received sentences of life without parole or even death. So for them the thought of being released is at times nothing more than a fictitious daydream, and it may serve them best to refrain from such thoughts.
Yet for the majority of offenders, the reality of life after prison is one that sooner or later must be faced. More than half a million offenders are released annually from state and federal prisons. Unfortunately, studies indicate that within five years of their release, approximately 77% of them are re-arrested for committing a serious crime.
Several studies also indicate that in comparison to the average American, ex-offenders are more likely to be less educated, less likely to be gainfully employed and more likely to have a history of mental illness and/or substance abuse. This information raises two profound questions. Foremost, are there enough rehabilitative resources made available to America’s incarcerated population? Second, after having satisfied the terms of their sentences, why are the majority of these individuals still unable to be reintegrated into society?
In an effort to gain answers to these questions lets carefully examine the practice of incarceration in America. Jails and prisons are often hailed as being institutions of reform and rehabilitation. However, statistics indicate that the longer a person spends incarcerated the more psychopathic he or she is likely to become. In no way am I against incarcerating someone for committing a crime, but without the element of rehabilitation jails and prisons are nothing more than breeding grounds for recidivists. Here’s something to think about….. Everything about incarceration resembles domestication.
Individuals are incarcerated and domesticated just as well-trained animals are. They’re told when to awaken and when to go to sleep, fed and let outside at certain times everyday, told when they may have visitors, and even when they may shower. Not to mention that while incarcerated these individuals aren’t required to do anything to provide for themselves. Everything that is essential to life (food, water, clothing, shelter, etc.) is provided for them free of charge. So surely you can see how incarceration itself does more to handicap than to reform. Yet throughout society, there’s this brainless notion that an offender is to be released and automatically make the mental adjustment from incarceration to society.
While many of America’s jails and prisons do offer some degree of rehabilitative services to their populations, it’s imperative to note that these services are oftentimes mediocre and inaccessible by the majority of offenders.
There are usually stringent stipulations regarding factors such as but not limited to an individual’s criminal convictions and classification. Such requirements make it unbelievably complicated for offenders to participate in and benefit from the services offered. It almost seems as if these services are merely being offered to create the facade of rehabilitative efforts and appease the conscience of the tycoons who’ve invested in America’s jails and prisons. Nonetheless, we’ve already established in Part 1 that they have no interest in rehabilitation. Their interests lies solely in seeing their investments continue to grow, and to assist offenders in rehabilitation would be counterproductive to that goal.
Another fact that even after satisfying their sentences, many ex-offenders are then faced with the arduous task of becoming productive law-abiding citizens. With the past behind them and their debts to society paid, they then aspire to live “normal” lives. However, upon seeking housing and/or employment, they’re subjected to the discrimination and double-standards of this morally-decaying society.
Needless to say, many of them become exasperated, give up on their efforts, and turn back to a life of crime as a means of survival. After all, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your opinion is. It’s an undeniable truth that to live in this world requires money.
That being said, it’s also undeniable that there are only two ways to make money. LEGALLY or ILLEGALLY!!!!! Certainly anything that you can think of doing for financial gain falls under one of these two categories. As a society – if we continuously blackball ex-offenders from lucrative legal means of earning a living, then aren’t we in a sense confining them to a life of poverty and crime?
Surely we all can attest to the truth that when bills are due, bill collectors couldn’t care less about where you get the money from. They simply expect for you to have it, and if you don’t you’ll be deprived of whatever resource or service they’re providing you with.
Therefore, it’s downright appalling to subject ex-offenders to such discrimination as they endeavor to become productive citizens. Once these men and women have satisfied their sentences, they deserve a fair opportunity to put their past behind them and excel in life. Isn’t this a nation where there’s said to be liberty and justice for all? If that be so, then aren’t ex-offenders included???