Why Prison Reform Matters in America

The United States have the biggest prison population, today over about 2.2 million are locked up and 8 million upon release are being supervised by parole or probation. After an individual is released, many will face barriers due to lack of education and hands-on skills we commonly use makes it hard for them to rejoin their communities. This big expansion is the new Jim Crow, targeting young black men. A recent report showed that black and Hispanic men who did not get to finish high school are more likely to be in prison than employed. My argument is why prison reform matters in America and is it enough to fix the criminal justice system. The number will continue to grow if something is not done about it.

Imprisonment affects families living in poverty. When an income generated individual is locked up, the family has to adjust to the loss of income and having to pay for lawyer fees, transportation to visit the prisoner and paying commissary. When a member of a family is imprisoned, the disruption of the family structure affects relationships between spouses, and between parents and children, reshaping the family and community across generations. Mass imprisonment produces a deep social transformation in families and communities. There is no doubt that America’s prison system being in need to be re-formed. Prison is a revolving door in communities that lack good rehabilitative programming and disproportionate sentencing. But what exactly is prison reform? Prison Reforms is the focus to improve conditions inside the prison by revising correctional policies. These reforms seek to correct the environment of incarceration in ways that allow the system to demonstrate and motivate the attitudes, behaviors, and way of life contributing to personal responsibility and self-control. Achieving these goals through prison reform usually falls in two broad categories. The first category is ensuring there are programs during and after an individual is incarcerated to help gain knowledge, skills, job training. On December 21,2018, the first step act law is transforming prisons into safe and effective facilities that will reduce recidivism and strengthen the community. It also reduces mandatory minimums and better provides for the needs of federal prisoners. Secondly, revising correctional policies will ensure that minimal barriers exist to maintaining positive community relationships during the period of incarceration. By providing individuals with opportunities to gain productive skills and equipping them to strengthen their positive relationships, we can help them achieve their potential and transform their lives upon returning to our communities.

Prison reform is also creating a constructive culture by reducing the number of everyone who are rearrested. Statistic shows that individuals face up to 48,000 legal barriers that stop them from getting a job, housing, or any fundamental things to be a productive person in a community. By providing prison programming it can help a person crucial life skill like family management, substance and mental health support, and religious programs. These programs are implemented by local non-profit organizations such as Hudson Link, The Last Mile, and Miles of Freedom.

A Netflix film called The 13th by Ava DuVernay reveals how mass incarceration is an extension of slavery. The title refers to the 13th amendment which formally abolished slavery and sheds lights on the amendment’s exception clause, which states that slavery and involuntary servitude are illegal “except as a punishment for crime.” The film features footage of former President Obama stating that “the United States is home to home to five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners” and also Donald Trump speaking about the infamous Central Park jogger case. Five black and Latino teenagers were convicted of the brutal 1989 beating and rape, but DNA evidence would later prove them innocent. The case led Trump to take out a full-page ad in the New York Daily News urging New York to “bring back the death penalty.” Some of the emotional parts of the film is videos unarmed black men and women being killed by police.

Another documentary on Netflix called The Kalief Browder Story recounts the story of Kalief Browder, a Bronx kid who was in jail for three years without being convicted of a crime. In 2010, at 16 years old, he was accused of stealing a backpack and his family was too poor to his afford his bail at $900. He was sent to Riker Island where his nightmare began. He was sent to a male adolescent center, as a place with a “deep-seated culture of violence,” where attacks by officers and among inmates are rampant. The report featured a list of inmate injuries: broken jaws, broken orbital bones, broken noses, long bone fractures, and lacerations requiring stitches. Bower said in an interview “they’ll come with five or six dudes. They’d swing on me. I’d have to fight back. There was no escape, no protection, and a suspicion that some of the guards had an agreement with the gang members.” After getting into a fight Browder spent two years in solitary confinement where he was being assault by correctional officers. In solitary he was mentally depressed and tried to commit suicide by hanging himself and cutting his wrist. After many court dates he was eventually released. Not long after Browder returned home, he tried hanging himself from a bannister. His friend stopped him he was admitted in psychiatric ward. Bower said, “Being home is way better than being in jail, but in my mind right now I feel like I’m still in jail, because I’m still feeling the side effects from what happened in there.” He tried his best to keep busy like taking GED classes and having a part time job. Two years after his release from prison, Browder died after hanging himself from an air conditioning unit outside his mother’s home. Browder’s supporters say his suicide was the result of mental, physical and sexual abuse sustained in prison. The six-part series explores how broken New York criminal system is that at every stop is slanted against black men like Browder and other minority groups. Browder’s case was one of five thousand six hundred and ninety-five felonies that the Bronx District Attorney’s office prosecuted. The problem is compounded by defense attorneys who drag out cases to improve their odds of winning, judges who permit endless adjournments, prosecutors who are perpetually unprepared.

There are five areas that prison reform needs to work on in order to benefit an individual and community. Pretrial detention, pre-trial prisoner size is larger than that of convicted. improving access to justice, supporting legal and paralegal aid programs, improving information management and cooperation between courts and prisons should prevent abuse in the justice system. Prison management, Prison authorities have a responsibility to ensure that the supervision and treatment of prisoners is in line with the rule of law. However, this is not always the case. By developing training programs for prison managers to improve their leadership role and staff to apply international standards and norms in their daily practice, and by contributing to the institutional capacity building of prison administrations. Overcrowding is also a main concern and is the main root of human rights violations in prisons. Instead of creating new building which is a temporary fix, instead is recommend a rationalization in sentencing policy, including the wider use of alternatives to prison, aiming to reduce the number of people being isolated from society for long periods. A better long-term solution is by hanging the focus of penitentiary measures from punishment and isolation, to restorative justice and reintegration. When accompanied by adequate support for offenders, it assists some of the most vulnerable members of society to lead a life without having to relapse back into criminal behavior patterns. The fourth is social reintegration. Social reintegration initiatives should start as early as possible within the criminal justice process in order to have maximum effect. It starts from the criminal justice process to appropriate treatment programs, non-custodial sanctions, instead of isolation from society and purposeful activities and programs in prisons, can all be considered as elements of a comprehensive ‘social reintegration’ policy. Interventions to support former prisoners following release from prison, continuum of care in the community for those in need, will all be more effective if the period in prison is used to prepare a prisoner for re-entry to society. Lastly is healthcare, prisoner is entitled to receive the same healthcare as those in the community. The issue is in prison healthcare is under-funded and understaffed. This included women’s health needs, safe drinking water and food, adequate nutrition, housing, and dental service. Improved prison management and prison conditions are fundamental to developing a sustainable health strategy in prisons.

In conclusion, the growth in incarceration rates in the United States has been increasingly high over the last 40 years. It is most affected individuals who live in poor and minority communities most heavily on blacks and Hispanics. Prison reform is recommended to significantly reduce the rate of incarceration in United States by reexamine policies regarding long-term sentences for minor offence. it reduces unnecessary harm to their families and their communities and will improve the experience of men and women interacted.