A recent Seattle Times article highlighted the Freedom Education Project of Puget Sound (FEPPS), a program which offers inmates in Washington the opportunity of a college education: “Education does more than offer inmates a credential, “… it teaches them how to be the people we want our fellow citizens to be — thoughtful, critically aware of the world around them, disciplined and able to recognize authority.”
This, plus the 2013 RAND Corp. study which concluded that “… every dollar spent on inmate education translated to $4 to $5 saved on re-incarceration” (along with many other reasons) are why PLAP is now holding a prison book drive! All donated books will be disseminated to prisons nationwide by the Prison Book Program, an organization run out of Quincy, MA that is dedicated to furthering the education of America’s incarcerated population. Donations can be brought into PLAP’s office until the book drive ends on 2/4/15, though books can always be mailed to Prison Book Program directly.
For the full Seattle Times article, click here.
“Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us,” says Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service.
The United States prison system is widely regarded as broken. Prisons were supposed to “rehabilitate” offenders who have wronged society by punishing them with a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the United States prison system has failed to rehabilitate thus producing high recidivism rates and overall crime. In Sweden, they are testing a new approach to crime. Oberg, the director-general, believes in addressing the inmate’s needs in order for he or she to correct the behavior that led them to prison in the first place. Sweden’s prison rates are significantly lower after they implemented this approach. They’ve also been fortunate enough to actually close prisons because of the lowered crime rate.
Help Lady Liberty Out and Read the Full Article Here.
It seems as if criminal justice reform has been a mainstream topic since the 1970’s, but continuously we see prison reforms being halted or ignored by congress. The “tough on crime” approach was of major attention when New York City promised to harshly tackle the issue, but now that talk of reforming has taken place, the actual chance to take action on it seems to be absent from campaigns and ballots. Why? Well, most people pay attention to the problem of crime and then demand change, not the problems affecting criminals. However, as the article points out, America wears a scarlet letter of mass incarceration, which is an embarrassment for our country. And with so many people being affected by prison sentences, more people should be demanding change for the current system. Just because the crimes are happening behind prison walls doesn’t mean we can turn a blind eye. In fact, the author suggests, by reforming the criminal justice system, we will see a positive change in other areas, most notably, the economic inequality gap.
Mark Olmsted vowed to never forget his fellow inmates that he would leave behind after his release from a nine month prison stint, and he certainly did not. When he got out he continued to keep in contact with his former cellmates, sending them money here and there or just a friendly letter to let them know they haven’t been forgotten by the outside world. As he continued to campaign for prison reform, he received surprising, and seemingly impossible, tweets from an inmate in an Alabama prison. Turns out that some inmates in southern area prisons are networking via contraband cell phones to inform us, the outside world, of their lives and prison conditions. This network has come to be known as the Free Alabama Movement. A part of it’s statement purpose reads, “And this Movement isn’t about getting ‘some outside support,’ or having our family ‘call the politicians or mayor’s office,’ ‘call the news station’ and on and on and on. The reason for this is simple: we can’t form a movement conditioned on ‘outside’ people without first unifying the ‘inside people.'” So, take a moment out of your day to hear the truth about prisons and prison life from the best experts there could possibly be: the inmates themselves.
Free Alabama Movement Official Website– Here you can listen to the prisoners who have been forgotten, silenced and ignored. Listen to them, let their voices be heard, and spread their message further along in the outside world.
AND the Free Alabama Movement is ALL over youtube, recording their lives on the inside and exposing the hard truths to the outside.
Not only are there youtube videos being posted by FAM, but one inmate actually hosts a talk show from inside the prison, allowing for other inmates with contraband cell phones to call in and speak on his online radio station.
“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.
As an assignment for a thesis project, Glen Santayana, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, designed a prison/school hybrid that can be a possible solution needed for lowering recidivism rates. Santayana’s thesis stems off of the “war on drugs” that took place during the 1970’s but still plays a significant role in the increase of inmates throughout the United States prison system. It was designed precisely for the non-violent offender that struggles with repeat offending. The design of PriSchool takes a look at the current US prison system from a completely different perspective, which may come off as a radical idea. PriSchool is a prison that is integrated with a school of criminology and is set in a community environment. The complex is split into four buildings, a “pre-release” building, a community center, the school of criminology, and the prison itself. The buildings are linked together by bridges that show how each intertwine based off of the specific functions. The classroom technique allows prisoners and students to take classes together, which can be empowering and hands on. The “pre-release” building allows prisoners nearing the end of their sentence to gain access to new and employable skills. Also, the community center will serve as a liaison for curious and skeptical members of the community, and a “safe haven” for individuals to deter from potential crimes. Read More Here.