Let's face it, some folks belong in jail no matter their race or background. But what happens once they are locked up? Are they really receiving rehabilitation access or are they being locked up and left there only to be re-released? Not to mention being released without the necessary resources would make it nearly impossible to withstand the test of them not returning back to a life of crime. Some say it is naive to believe that some people can change and be rehabilitated. I do not think this is the case as this would also mean that we would have to give up on our children as well.
The Harsh Reality
All criminals are not created equal. Some are in for petty crimes that are nonviolent in nature while others are violent repeat offenders. Some are even sociopaths or psychopaths. What about those that have an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness? Also, we mustn’t forget the children who have lacked a stable home or living environment and adult figure for most of their lives. Is it ethical to cast off such vulnerable and young individuals? Doing so would leave unexplained outcomes for when they become adults and prior to that whose responsibility they would be. I recently heard a statistic somewhere that as much as 60 percent of incarcerated youth have a disability. This could include emotional or behavioral disabilities, ranging from learning disabilities or an attention deficit disorder. What is most alarming is that they can go most of their childhood and teenage years without being diagnosed or treated. This information makes me wonder what would have changed if there was some kind of early intervention. A child with resources may not turn to a life of crime or become an adult who is a hardened criminal.
Rayshard Brooks was a young man killed during the height of the George Floyd protests last summer on June 12, 2020. In an interview that surfaced shortly after his untimely death, he explained that going in and out of jail is something he hated. He had never been locked up for violent crimes and appeared to be a nonviolent person. He eloquently stated that he wished the prison system could have a mentor or someone to guide you once out and resources to help you stay out. What a simple concept yet something that we have failed to achieve thus far.
The Call To Action
There are non profit groups that exist across the country along with programs to assist convicted felons in integrating them back into our society. Perhaps, we need to double down our focus on our youngest citizens and try to stop the school to prison pipeline before it even starts. My challenge to anyone reading this is to do your own research and see that you do your best as a community member to look for local groups or schools that perhaps you can help make a difference in. At the end of the day, we are each responsible for maintaining a healthy and safe environment and sometimes part of that is understanding why prisons exist and how they can be made better and how undeserving individuals and children can be kept out of them. Our environment, our education, access to healthcare, poverty levels and crime are all some determinants of what healthy outcomes children and adults will have. Don't we all deserve positive and healthy results?