It isn’t easy

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.

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5 thoughts on “It isn’t easy

  1. ” 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.” <- I feel like this is wisdom that rarely comes without an intimate knowledge of how the whole this works. Very thoughtful post. If we are to change the system, the projects will need to be let by those who understand this complexity.

  2. Excellent post. You are so right. I think it’s so difficult because of the dual (and expensive) responsibility to protect the general public while at the same time rehabilitating people so they don’t return to jail. As you have, I’ve encountered so many offenders who have been victims all their lives. Many have simply become products of their environments and personal traumas. As it sounds like you are, we have to offer some compassion toward offenders if there will be any chance of rehabilitation and reintegration back into society.

  3. I think this ties into the Gerkin article from last week, how it talked about that the macro community is often too concerned with retribution and restitution instead of offenders needs. While we are very concerned about victims and providing the supports they need (rightfully so), we isolate offenders. At best we teach job skills and provide educational opportunities but what about their other needs. Like all of us, offenders have a story, a family/ancestral lineage that is integrated into who they are, and the choices that they decide to make. I know some prisons offer “therapy”, and religious ceremonies but what about support groups, that contain people outside of inmates and ex-inmates? Do you know of anything like that?

    • Thanks for your note. I know many prisons/jails throughout the U.S. offer many different groups. Some of which are support, whereas others focus more on education (as you noted). Unfortunately though, I can’t speak to the integrity of these groups as they seem to be led by untrained individuals. In the facility I work in, we have partnered with the CSB to provide different groups that meet the criminogenic needs of the offenders (so true therapy with licensed clinicians) and seem to be having really positive responses (although the program is still relatively new). I hope that answers your question…. ?
      Also, I am going to be posting a link under “Media” on a curriculum that I believe is powerful for the offender population. You might want to look at that.

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