The Marshall Project recently reported on the Bronx’s Fulton Correctional Facility, a former prison now to be used “as a reentry center for newly released inmates”, among other repurposed prisons and jails.
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“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.
“It was serious—but I knew leukemia is very treatable. I didn’t understand what was happening or why she wasn’t receiving treatment”- Sue Ellen Allen (left) on her friend Gina’s (right) lack of medical care.
In a previous post, attorney Joel Thompson was on HuffPost Live to discuss the inadequate healthcare and medical treatment inmates receive when they become a prisoner of the state. One woman, Sue Ellen Allen, has experienced both sides of medical treatment. Six months before she was to enter prison, Sue Ellen Allen was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer. Cancer, in itself, is scary. Cancer, while a prisoner, is unimaginably terrifying.
Before she entered prison, Sue Ellen Allen was given competent doctors and availably ready medical treatment to manage the pains of cancer and chemotherapy. Then, she entered prison, and her life and illness were suddenly ignored and worthless. Her chemotherapy treatments were delayed, she was not given any medicine to reduce the nausea, and when she got a mastectomy, she was handcuffed and shackled throughout the entire procedure. Despite all this pain and misery, Sue Ellen Allen found light in her friend, Gina. Gina was another cancer patient in prison who was also a victim of delayed chemotherapy treatments. Together, they cared for each other through their pain and formed a bond Sue Ellen Allen would never forget. Sadly, Gina succumbed to her leukemia very quickly, and passed away on June 19, 2002.
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.
Above, a photo from the scene at Keene State College’s Pumpkin Fest this weekend.
We’ve been hearing about the Ferguson protests since the day Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer, Darren Wilson. The media has described the protesters as everything from “thugs” to “domestic terrorists” that are out to destroy their town of Ferguson. However, anyone who has been following the story knows that the protests by these “unruly thugs” is nothing more than a prime example of the media’s racism and the ways it criminalizes young African-American men. Compare the “riots” of Ferguson to the chaos of Pumpkin Fest at Keene State College this past weekend and you’ll be able to see the problems that plague the intersection of race and media exposure. Why weren’t the young, privileged white men referred to as “thugs” and “domestic terrorists” as they stood atop flipped cars and threw beer bottles at police? Imagine the images we saw from Keene State this past weekend were of the Ferguson protestors- would the media be using language such as “high spirited” and saying the protests had “gotten out of hand?” Ferguson protestors are using civil disobedience to protest the way they are being gravely mistreated and negatively profiled by police officers because of the color of their skin, resulting in extreme violations of their civil rights. Keene State rioters were blatantly disobeying police officers because, as one student is quoted as saying, “it’s a blast to do things you aren’t supposed to be doing.”
US federal prisons are overcrowded and are housing more than 40% of inmates than they were designed to hold. The number of inmates held in federal custody has increased by 500% and continuously increasing. The majority of inmates are serving sentences for drug-related offenses. Attorney General Eric Holder has proposed his ideas on how the criminal justice system should change and would reduce the number of sentences served because of a non-violent crime committed. Holder devised a plan that would free up prisons and limit the number of non-violent offenders in jail. Rather, prosecution will avoid using the “mandatory minimum” as a form of punishment, but direct offenders to drug treatment and community service programs. Attorney Holder gave a speech back in August speaking on his views of the vicious cycle of the criminal justice system that is weakening communities. He believes that the criminal justice system is doing nothing in its power to alleviate the problem. Read More.