Media Attention May Promote Prison Reform

By · Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Television networks have begun broadcasting shows that bring the ugliest aspects of the prison culture into American living rooms. Shows like Lockdown, Maximum-Security, and Inside America’s Prisons perpetuate the stereotypical images of the prison yard. Those shows focus on the failure, the gangs, the tattoos, and the violence. I am convinced that lobbyists who represent the organizations that benefit from massive prison expenditures have had an influence in bringing these kinds of shows to market.

To further the possibilities for prison reform, and the safer communities that would result from lower recidivism rates, I’m hoping to persuade television networks to show the flip side. I’d like Americans to have a better understanding of the reasons behind the high rates of failure that come out of our nation’s corrections system. The truth that I’ve lived for the past 21-plus years suggested that if Americans wanted to see more prisoners emerge as law-abiding, contributing citizens, then they would have to support meaningful prison reforms. Prison administrators obstruct the public from learning about the oppressive infrastructures that policies create. Instead of showing the motivation behind negative adjustment patterns, the administrators advance their cause by profiling prisoners who plunge knives into the flesh of others, or men who run with gangs that terrorize.

American citizens need access to another type of prison show. They should see how policies extinguish hope among men who serve time. Without hope for a better life, too many prisoners succumb to the negative influences that pervade the penitentiary.

The prisons of America confine more than 2.3 million people. Ironically, the longer we expose a man to corrections, the less likely that individual becomes to emerge as a law-abiding citizen. Prisons condition failure. A man cannot swim through the rough seas of imprisonment when administrators shackle his ankles and wrists in steel manacles.

Although I expect to meet resistance, I intend to work toward helping Americans understand how prison reforms can lead to safer communities. We need reforms that will encourage more people in prison to reach their highest potential. They need hope. They need mechanisms through which they can work to reconcile with society and earn freedom.

For more than 21 years I’ve been working to build a record that would help me counter the image most Americans have of the long-term prisoner. Now, as I advance through these final years of my term, I hope media representatives will join these efforts to show how prison reforms can lead to more enlightened society.

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One Response to “Media Attention May Promote Prison Reform”

  1. Erika Gonzalez says:

    March 12, 2009
    Mr. Santos
    In your article entitled “Media Attention May Promote Prison Reform,” you indicate that if the media shows the reasons why prisons fail and why there is a high level of recidivism then it can promote prison reform.
    My questions to you are:
    (1.) If televison networks were to consider your idea, what would you recommend the televison network(s) to include in the show to be able to promote prison reform?
    (2.) You state that there should be prison reforms, but do you think that there should also be post-prison or after prison reforms which can help priosners, who have just come out of prison, integrate into society? This can be, for example, by offering them jobs.

    I really enjoyed reading your article and your book and I have come to the conclusion that something has to be done to help prisons be a better instituion that helps citizens be law abiding and does not make them fail. I thank you very much for making us understand corrections and for taking the time to answer my questions.
    Erika Gonzalez