Thursday, April 9, 2015

9 APR 2015 :: An introduction to how I view prison issues.

I thought I had already posted in this blog, way back in January, but that was when I created the description statement in the title.  I can see that will need to be updated.  I don't know exactly what to share about prison issues, there is so much to be done.  In my own experiences, with two sons that went to prison because of drug and related theft issues, courts and prisons are a frightening thing. 

When my sons reached their teen years, everything changed. Their lives became a battle zone and my life became a nightmare.  As a parent in distress, my desire to recover their lives took a wide variety of turns.  Poverty prevents a lot of interventions that other budgets can access.  Finding poverty solutions to these intervention needs was a desperate effort, but there weren't many.  The ones I tried didn't work out.

A child that has run away is no longer a child. 

These children have discovered freedom, have been in charge of their decisions, and think of themselves as adults.  In many ways, they are.  We have no idea of the things they have experienced while away from us.  Parents may have legal responsibilities for a runaway child, but not the ability to stop them from leaving, from doing what they want, or from creating consequences that will last the rest of their lives.  Drug-affected children can't see what they are doing to themselves...and because they can't continue their freedoms when they return home, they don't return. 

I am thankful to anyone who helped my sons when they were beyond my ability to reach them, but most of the groups that are on the streets have the same issues and aren't going to lead them back to where they should be.  Juvenile detention units, jails, prisons, and rehab facilities, may dry them out, but if these loved ones don't see themselves as addicted, they become what is known as "institutionalized" --  they learn how to work the system, how to pacify those in charge over them, familiar with the survival requirements they have to learn.  Peers in prison are not the mentors a  parent wants for their child... mentors don't seem to be an option.

My hopes for my sons were for the things that would change the course of their lives from prison to self-respect and a prison-free existence.  If prison systems helped inmates to discover and overcome their addictions, improved their lost educations, taught them the daily-life skills they missed by leaving home at a young age, discovered their hidden dreams and showed them a way to achieve them, explored their abilities and opened up new dreams, paid them minimum wage so they could actually feel human, want to work, and allow them to see what their budgets will be like on release (and help them to save for that day), there might be hope the future would not mimic the past.

Visiting is critical to maintaining good relations with the world and family and potential mentors.  That means local access, local prisons for local residents.  In my quest for solutions, I decided a county facility approach would be the best.  If every county was required to house their residents, or inmates that will be released to their area because of family ties,  it would allow better community interventions for education, mentoring, training, work release, and visiting by those who love them.  As a poverty family, I am not able to travel hundreds of miles to visit my sons for a few hours.  With a county approach, the institution would be more easily accessible.  Visiting privileges also need to be taken off the menu of restrictions when there are problems between inmate and administration.  Visiting is essential to family recovery and provides a natural protection against inmate or institutional abuses.  Prisons can find other means of punishment for internal offenses.

At one point I felt that every single inmate needed to be busy every day with activities that would benefit them, improve the institution, and help the community.  Education is one of the greatest benefits an inmate can acquire.  The phrase I created to deal with this issue is :: 

The more you know, the better your decisions will be. 
I believe this is more true for inmates than any other population we know of.  When jobs are not possible, inmates need to be in classrooms discovering all the things they don't know, especially computer skills that are required for future job options.  I decided four hours was a minimum requirement and would set a better tone for each day.

Why do I believe inmates need to be paid minimum wageOne reason is because it would prevent the state or county from turning inmates into slave labor.  Another reason is because it will give the inmate a reasonable budget to work with, incentive to do a good job, and self respect.  A minimum wage is pretty much all an inmate can look forward to.  As an inmate, it allows them to discover what their finances would be like upon release, including required payments of restitution, child support, and fines.  Income allows them to save for their release or larger purchases, allows them to provide for their own needs while in prison, allows them to participate in family celebrations and not become a burden to those who love them.

I suppose I could continue, but I will save some of my experiences and opinions for the future.  Throwing people in prison without addressing the issues that put them there will never solve the larger issues our society is facing.  We have to find a way to change the system to make it better.