It is a stunning realization when you check the Federal Bureau of Prison’s web site to look up your wife’s name and see she has been assigned and reduced to a number. However, that “number” has a family, feelings, hopes and dreams.
In this time of “Black Lives Matter,” I would remind people that all lives matter and that includes inmates. It is easy to treat somebody like a slab of meat if they are a prisoner and referred to only by their last name. Inmates are vulnerable in advocating for anything without fear of retribution. Nonetheless, out of sight and out of mind does not mean out of hope and no future.
It is easy to watch “Lock Up Extended Stay” and conclude that the hardened institutionalized inmates shown on TV reflect everybody in prison. Perhaps the producers should interview inmates struggling with schizophrenia or female inmates serving lengthy sentences because an abusive boyfriend or husband was dealing drugs and they were assumed to know about it. Everybody has a story, which includes inmates.
Reality TV is not necessarily reality; it’s just a tool to obtain ratings, more advertisers and network revenue. What is real these days is Riker’s Island jail in New York City being the poster child for everything wrong in a jail. Nationwide, guards and prosecutors, not accustomed to being held accountable, are now being scrutinized for abuses like withholding evidence or using coerced confessions; stuff that has put innocent people behind bars for years. DNA testing is a new game changer, color blind and impartial to power; it has revealed miscarriages of justice that are a disgrace.
It will take years to reform the damage done by mass incarceration. In fairness to the American justice system, it has occasionally worked well with good people doing their jobs properly. But, there is also an established history in America of punishment that far exceeds the nature of the crime and common sense. America has the most residents imprisoned of any country in the world, a sad place to finish first.
Here is another number to consider; 68% of inmates who have done their time end up back behind bars: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rprts05p0510pr.cfm
I believe everybody deserves a second chance for a future filled with hope. Inmates’ lives do matter.