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Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Washington Post ~ The Neighborhood War Zone

August 13, 2006 - This story by David Kennedy, In my opinion, can be directly traced back to the 'new order' in charge. It is a complicated web, where-by the infrastructure has decayed from intentional funding neglect, most if not all of America's infrastructure,dismissed, un-maintained and disregarded.

Take away the money to maintain all needed social programs, deposit it in a funnel flowing to elsewhere. The rip - that's now a gash - in the social fabric of structure grows wider, deeper and more intense. It is realistic to believe that behavior that breaks laws won't be stamped out completely.

Inflated criminal activity, with the climate we have today, won't find solutions in locking people up and throwing away the key, nor does it reduce crime by letting the revolving door keep spinning with each returning offender. Allowing shooting and killing among the element, is not a moral answer.

Given the crisis that prisons are in, the courts do bear much of the burden, as well as law enforcement. A punishment that fits the crime must take into account many factors, right? The systems professionals should keep in mind the reason the person is paying a debt to society, in the first place.

And then one would hope that payment made sense, that the debt was satisfied in relation to the crime committed. Habilitation and re-habilitation are most certainly a benefit to society.

We have a system if used wisely, as it was back in the 1990's, that can deal with personalities that prey on the innocent and on the vulnerable; whether using sneaky soft scams that create mental, physical and financial distress, all the way to the sort of culprit that stalk out and uses hardened violent acts to their advantage.

Police and community activists worked together, that worked when there were adequate numbers of law enforcement on the beat. Foot patrol had the ability to disengage, disarm and suffocate the fire of fury, when the numbers of beat patrol were funded for.

Many programs that provided a shock absorber for the victim and programs that allowed habilitation for the incarcerated, have greatly reduced and disappeared, along with the common sensed staff who did the actual out reach and provided front line services.

Although I do believe California is returning to a habilitation format. Humane half way houses were frequently used and enforced, to help the inmate transition safely and securely back into society.

If there was failure to reach the individual before criminal activity took place, then getting to the person while inside, providing a bridge out and a stepping stone to something better, the cycle of crime could be broken.

Someone told me recently that prisoners are now receiving pamphlets on sexual abuse. A pamphlet telling how to report sexual assault to the prison officials, not a class or a workshop, a pamphlet. The idea of mass produced pamphlets would be plausible, if the foundation of the corrections system wasn't truly collapsing under the weight of so many inmates.

If the person tells of sexual assault, they will suffer backlash from other inmates and some officials. If the person doesn't tell, they will live with the assault upon their person, possibly time and time again. This kind of living hell usually leads to the start of drug addiction while housed inside the system, for someone who didn't have an issue with drugs in the first place.

For those that entered prison with the addiction in tact, then not receive any help for it, is not serving the person, who will attempt to feed the addiction. Their addiction will be fed some how, some way. Just heard that drug studies may be allowed to resume again, using the prison population. That seems to be another 'new order' desire. A human captive audience - guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical companies.

How does one blot out the inhumane violent treatment of assault? On the outside, a citizen victim may get a prescription from their doctor, along with necessary counseling. Some inmates find religion as their salvation, they read, recite and use the scriptures for future reference. Often, they are the ones that try to help other inmates, through the word. This is good for some, but not everyone believes the same thing and some, sadly, have never known anything except where the next meal will come from.

On the inside, there are millions of individuals living in a prison world, where escape from ones worst fears is not possible. Men and women inmates do not typically share those experiences with family or friends, a rule of secrecy, that helps that individual to survive on the inside and the secrecy is needed in order to fit back into their outside world on their terms, when their time is done. But the scenes live on in their heads and can take over how they survive in society.

Young inmates charged with crimes of possession, car theft, stealing food or clothing and housed along side hardened violent criminals, is just plain wrong.
Men and women escaping from countries for fear of persecution, locked up in the prison system for any length of time, another wrong.

The treatment of the prisoners in New Orleans during the levee collapse, some juvenile detainees as young as 10 years old, speaks volumes as to how the guests of the state were and are viewed around the country. New Orleans just happened to be the only city that bared its soul and all of its systems failures due to the collapse of the levee's, thanks to the cuts in federal funding every year.

A 16 year old being charged as an adult for what is perceived as a petty crime or using juvenile records to actually make negations to have that kid do time when they turn 18 years of age. The kid and parents agree, so the kid can get through the rest of high school (yes, the kid is still in school) to graduate and then the young man does his time as an adult with an established record as an adult.

The system has marked another young individual, who may then never know what it feels like to actually be free. This person is marked and may encounter the local authorities from the same neighborhood environment as before, to be a routine part of their week, every week, till they land back inside.

What were the odds that this person would land back inside? The same outside elements exist, no matter how loving a family home can be, every time the man or woman walks out the front door.

Moving away on their own would mean separation from family, from familiar, from knowing - to the unknown. Without the finely tuned support of trained staff outside the walls of prison, with all basic needs being met, until on their feet, this person will always return to what they know best.

Back in the 1990's (I seem to say this a lot), the programs for habilitation were present in the most progressive formats, in the most progressive states. The states that had little to no inmate programs for the long list of individual needs seemed to enforce the most excessive sentences and conducted executions more often than not.

With little to no training programs for educational and job opportunities, to lack of general medical, dental, eye and hearing exams. Learning disabilities and pre-existing physical conditions would become bigger barriers inside than on the outside.

I recall a story about a father and husband serving time on the East Coast, in the early 1990's. This was around time that the 'old order' was finally leaving office. The guy had fallen on a soapy hall floor. He then lay on his bed, in his cell for two days in excruciating pain. He was told he was faking it and was made to get up and try to walk.

When he couldn't walk, with tears streaming down his face from the pain, he was sent to the infirmary. X-rays found that this man had cracked several discs in his lower back. He then received treatment, reluctantly he was given treatment.

There are some that believe public and peer humiliation is a good tool to use. While that may work on a few inmates, it is largely an old useless puritan tactic. One that does not work for the betterment of the person, nor for society as a whole. Can't expect to get to the heart of anyone's matter, while building more walls of resistance.

The prison system in America is a test to the way society views itself.
If society wants to sweep away anyone it holds as undesirable, it is succeeding at a pretty fast rate. Society is at risk of forsaking all social needs, something that we can't afford to do.

August 15, 2006 - Inside Those Walls "It's never going to be easy to root out drugs from prison - they are part of the jail economy." By Buzzle.coms Zoe Williams
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