Locking More People of Power in Prison Will Promote Prison Reform! Bring in the Governor!
News reports show that federal law enforcement officers have arrested the sitting governor of Illinois. Governor Blagojevich may soon follow his predecessor, Illinois’ former governor Ryan into federal prison.
I’ve been locked inside various federal prisons since 1987, and it always pleases me when formerly influential members of society join our community of felons. Besides the two governors of Illinois, our prison system confines the former law-and-order congressman Duke Cunningham. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, a new convict, may soon join other former legislators and government representatives who serve time with me at Taft Camp.
My enthusiasm in welcoming these leaders of society into the prison system isn’t because I want them or their families to suffer. Rather, I want them to bring attention to the absurdity of what is becoming our prison nation. Most influential people in society live in oblivion with regard to the more than 2.3 million people who languish in America’s prison system. Locking up these leaders may advance the chances for prison reform.
I do get a kick out of conversations I’ve had with people who were born into privilege, yet now struggle through the indignities of prison alongside me. Despite their erstwhile passion for lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key justice, they now whine about the complexities of confinement. They don’t understand why administrators limit our access to telephone calls home and visiting privileges. They consider policies that prohibit parole and work-release programs against the public interest.
These men who once thrived in the trappings of power at the highest level, men who hold degrees from America’s finest universities, maintain social connections with other people of influence. As such, they enjoy an audience for their grievances. Rather than complaining to family members trapped in welfare lines and drowning in systemic cycles of poverty as most prisoners do, these prisoners who hail from legislative chambers and executive suites cry to people who can change the wretched system of so-called corrections.
In my article entitled Eighteen Year old Receives Ten-Year Sentence, I describe the more typical prisoner. I hope the mayors, senators, congressmen, and other politicians coming to prison will help usher in a kinder, gentler, more compassionate America. Perhaps they will promote the teachings of Christ that urge forgiveness, and condemn the writings of Machiavelli, that encourage duplicity.