“People talk about the euphoria you feel about getting out,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything like that. I was scared to death and I certainly wasn’t happy. You don’t spend three decades in an eight-by-sixteen foot cell and then come out and expect to live a normal life. You become acclimated to prison life and get institutionalized” -Lawrence White, also pictured below, a released prisoner who served 30 years.
The quote above, said by Lawrence White, accurately explains the difficulty of adjusting to freedom after having spent so many years behind bars. Many people who are released from prison do not receive the reentry help and up to date information that is needed for them to survive in a new day and age. After living in a controlled and secluded facility for a majority of their life, many inmates, such as Lawrence White mentioned above, forget how to live independently and without being told what to do. The abrupt push into the free world is only the beginning of inevitable difficulties for all inmates, but it may be even harder for those who are aged 50 and older and have spent a majority of their life in prison. Finding a home, apartment or an assisted living facility that is willing to take ex felons, a job that doesn’t require daily lifting of heavy weights (construction and foodservice jobs are the most commonly available to ex prisoners), medical care and with that the ability to pay for it via healthcare, etc., are just a few of the uphill battles for the aged inmates. For those who lose the battle, many end up homeless or in cramped, illegal living spaces, and begging on the street. Fortunately though, there are programs that are dedicated to helping aging prisoners adjust to society and ensuring they receive the proper care and resources they need. Click here to read the full article.
Above, Bridgewater State Hospital
Bridgewater State Hospital has been under fire after a patient died by the hands of several correctional officers while they were attempting to place him in restraints. The death, ruled a homicide, sparked an investigation into the hospital and the treatment of mentally ill prisoners. As a result, Deval Patrick has written up a plan that consists of decreasing the use of restraints and isolation of patients and hiring more properly trained clinicians that can effectively and appropriately handle mentally ill individuals. Many mental health advocates are in favor of this overhaul, grateful that patients will be able to get the help they truly need from a licensed clinician, instead of relying on correctional officers to do the job. Click here to read the full article.
As the drug epidemic continues to grow and drug offenders continue to pile up in prison, we are faced with the undeniable truth that sending addicts to jail is not going to solve the drug problem. The “War on Drugs” specifically focused on eliminating the supplier while completely ignoring the addicts and the depths of addiction. What we should have focused on was prevention and treatment for drug addicts, but instead of treating the addict as the sick and vulnerable human being they truly are, we punished them for having a problem. As new research comes to light about the brain and addiction, I hope it will change people’s opinions about addicts and the right way to heal them. In the article, it states that when a person becomes an addict, it physically changes their brain chemistry and make up. Instead of receiving signals that they need food or water, they get a message that they need their drug to satisfy the physical dependence. Without proper treatment and counseling for addicts they will go straight back to the thing that makes them feel better; their drug.
How many times are we going to arrest and release a drug offender until he or she passes away from this harrowing health problem? When people are sick, we provide them with care. It is irrational to believe that locking up a sick person will cure their disease, so why do we believe this is true for drug offenders? The scariest part of releasing a drug offender is knowing that their need for their drug grew stronger every day they sat in that jail, but their tolerance for the drug was decreasing at the same time. For some, the drug becomes stronger than them. And for the unfortunate, the drug wins. It’s time to stop letting the drug win and stop letting it overcrowd our prisons.
Link to the Article
For more information about prisoners and drug treatment, please visit:
The Anonymous People Documentary Website
Justice Policy Institute