Effective Prison Reform: Restore Hope

By · Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Prisons operate with 70 percent recidivism rates for a simple reason. They extinguish hope. Instead of encouraging prisoners to develop values, skills, and resources that will help them live contributory lives, prison policies and the infrastructure of the prison system crushes the spirit and humanity of every man serving time. Overcoming the pervasive negativity requires an extremely strong will, discipline, and commitment. Those virtues suffocate inside these barbed-wire bureaucracies.

As policies exist in prison, every individual is treated the same. A prisoner’s individuality is ripped away upon his entry to confinement. A registration number replaces his name, and his individual needs become subjugated to the needs of the institution. Prison administrators will issue each prisoner clothing. They tell him where he will sleep and with whom. They assign a job, tell the prisoner when, what, and how much he can eat. They offer zero mechanisms through which a prisoner can meaningfully distinguish himself in a positive way from others. Only the turning of calendar pages and disciplinary conduct matter in the classification of prisoners.

Someday I expect to contribute to discussion on what types of changes are necessary for effective prison reform. After all, I have served virtually my entire adult life in prison. More than 21 years have passed since guards first locked me inside the walls of a high-security U.S. penitentiary. Since then I have earned an undergraduate degree in Human Resources Management from Mercer University and a graduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Hofstra University. Publishers have brought several books I’ve written to market. I have married and built a family with a woman of exceptional talent and beauty, and together we have built criminal-indictment.com, a Web site that helps thousands of others prepare for the journey through prison to a successful re-entry into society. I am well qualified to help both legislators and prison administrators understand reforms they may make to inspire other prisoners to work toward emerging successfully.

Rather than extinguishing hope, I am convinced that administrators and legislators could make better use of prison resources if they were to reform the system in ways that would provide each prisoner with more efficacy over his life. Rules and programs ought to exist that would encourage prisoners to earn their freedom through merit. Those who educate themselves, work hard, contribute to society, and strive to reconcile with taxpayers ought to have objective paths they can pursue that would distinguish them from the inmates who sleep through prison. Few people work to prepare for the challenges that await release because the system has beaten them. Instead of striving to succeed, they engage in behavior that eases their time in prison. Frequently, the decisions they make condition them for further failure.

I’ve written extensively about steps I’ve taken to live as a model for reform, and I stand by what I write and publish. Although I change the names of other characters about whom I write, my own progress through prison has been well documented.

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One Response to “Effective Prison Reform: Restore Hope”

  1. Jason M. says:

    I am a Criminal Justice student at California State University Long Beach. My question in relation to this post is: What would really benefit the majority of prisoners to better prepare for their life once released? Would the majority of them actually take advantage of these things if they were offered? You were able to attain several degrees and educate yourself from prison, was this an extremely difficult achievement or was this promoted by the various facilities you have been in? If it was hard to attain, what is the institutions reasoning behind trying to inhibit your education? Do you believe that easier access to education would have a positive impact on the recidivism rate? Thank You very much for taking the time to answer my questions and help me better understand the prison system. Jason M.