Criminal Justice Policies
Incarceration is EXPENSIVE in all sense of the word. To some extent it serves as a ‘business,’ but lets get real, some people need to be incarcerated. They pose a threat to society. They are unsafe and unpredictable. Unfortunately, their incarceration always comes after someone (or many “someone’s”) has/have become victims before they can legally be quarantined from society. Is it fair? Not especially. However, it’s also not ‘fair’ that many are victims themselves. Victims of child abuse, victims of a drug-addicted mother, victims of being ignored throughout their childhood- left to fend for themselves, left playing violence filled video games on long summer days, victims who were told they were unlovable and would never be anything. Victims of self-hatred.
In reflection to the article we read this week for class by Musheno, Palumbo, and Levine, I am reminded of the forces that make it so challenging to improve the criminal justice system. I think this article did a great job painting the picture of how intertwined the issues within criminal justice really are.
I remember six years ago when I started working in the jail and thought I could change the world. I was going to ‘save’ everyone. I had (and still do) the purest of intentions. These people (offenders) needed me (or someone of the equivalent). Their tears were genuine. Their life was a mess. I would work endlessly to assist them in ridding them of their problems. Never really ever knowing what the ‘end all’ would be, but clearly seeing that something had to be done. Anything. To my dismay, all too often, I would see these same people back in jail after only a short time post their release.
Throughout the years I have: written grants, built community relationships, created budget amendments, facilitated groups, provided case management planning, used evidence-based tools, worked with offenders to heal their relationships with their loved ones, learned about trauma and the brain, addiction, … and I have one conclusion: It isn’t easy. The same people keep going back to jail.
I understand the challenge of building a program while maintaining it. It is not easy. Infact, it is quite exhausting and overwhelming. There are so many problems. You always need to be a step ahead, which is hard to manage when it is your first experience. I feel like this is a micro snapshot to the larger picture: the need to change the criminal justice system, while we still need to be able to use it. There is no easy answer.