Prison Reforms Are Good For America

By · Friday, January 2nd, 2009

The recent comment from a reader identified as ssteacherme in response to my article expresses the cynicism I’ve come to expect from those who adamantly support America’s prison system. In the end, the writer asserted that “Those who spin their prison punishment into success empires cloak themselves in hero’s clothing made from the fabric of lives they have torn asunder.” Wow! I found it ironic that ssteacherme wrote the comment and posted it on Christmas Eve, a time of ‘Peace on Earth’ and ‘Goodwill Toward Men.’ To me, ssteacherme’s comments read like a portrait of vengeance.

As a long-term prisoner, I find much more wisdom in the words of John Dewey, a legendary American educator. Although I don’t recall Dr. Dewey’s exact words, I recall reading he said the good man was the individual who, no matter how much bad he had done in the past, was the man who was striving to add value to society by doing good. The bad man, Dewey opined, was the individual who, regardless of how much good he had done in the past, was the man who ceased trying to make society better.

Those like ssteacherme who cling to ridiculous notions that offenders should not strive to redeem themselves ought not call themselves Americans. Ours is an enlightened country with a troubled system of corrections that currently breeds failure. Through effective prison reforms, new leadership can change this system. With those changes, more offenders would emerge from prison as contributing, law-abiding citizens. Only those who prefer vengeance can dispute that such reforms would lower recidivism rates, make society safer, and prove good for America.

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