Many, many individuals before me have probably uttered the words “call to action” about the very topic this series has attempted to explore. So, to make mine somehow unique this call to action is not one for the sake of the lives of others, but for the sake of our nation’s livelihood. We as a nation, have forged for incarceration and the juveniles that happen to know of it.
For simple review, incarceration, in part, is meant to rehabilitate individuals through the notion of regret. Limit the freedom of a person, and they will indelibly want to conform to any way of living that will prevent them from ending up back where their liberty in life seemed to stop. As we all know, the last sentence I have written is a double-edged sword. Especially because, the kind of rehabilitation, for incarcerated youth in particular, we have allowed our justice system to conform to isn’t doing enough to stop the cycle of juvenile to adult recidivism. Individuals are thrown into a carceral panopticon of forced self-realization from which they start to associate the word prisoner as a part of their personality.
Interestingly, a very simple yet costly solution is for prisons to reestablish their mental care capabilities, occupational/academic classes, and opportunities for the incarcerated to participate in to offer them a glimpse of a future beyond that which they’ve grown accustomed to.
Before we ask of prisons how to rehabilitate the incarcerated we must rehabilitate Americans’ perception of incarcerated people. Whether we like to admit it or not, in this country, as is commonplace around the world, we view individuals who have served time in correctional facilities with shame and hatred. There is no denying that there’s a very active discrimination alive in this country against those who have been incarcerated.
I am not here to say that a person who raped, stole, assaulted, or any combination of the things we might have known incarcerated individuals to have done are acceptable. That is not the point at all. What I would like to portray is that at least for our youth in prison, for the literal purveyors of America’s future, there must be a better way to assimilate and accept these individuals back into society.
Prison reform does not solely start in our prisons, it can begin with our people, our citizens. It starts with employers, removing the box which notates whether an individual has been incarcerated to allow incarcerated individuals the benefit of the doubt when applying for a job. Next, unfortunately, slowly yet surely we are doing to the incarcerated what in our history we have deemed abhorrent, we are withering away nearly 50,000 imprisoned youths in this country on a day-to-day basis by allowing their discrimination to continue as long as their lives do. Formerly incarcerated individuals should not have to continue a life outside of prison still paying for the aftermath of something they have already paid for with their time for in prison. This relentless guilt rooted attitude toward the incarcerated just leads the same individuals into the same lifestyles that led them to the crimes they once committed.
People being reintegrated into a more modern and ever-changing society should have the chance to find shelter, a stable system of insurance and job in order to prevent them from falling back into the grips of what can fail them. We must also consider the role of academic progress in our society, especially for the sake of our at-risk youth. In my second article in this series the broken system of education we have in this country is clear, before we can think about how to save the future of this nation’s incarcerated children we must also consider the changes necessary for our system of to levy a possibility for change.
A topic like juvenile incarceration is not especially remarkable, and yet at least for you, you can walk away from this series a bit more questioning how those young, incarcerated Americans are being treated.