This is my fiftieth prison reform post. When I first posted last July, I knew I had embarked on a formidable journey into a personal and passionate undertaking. I knew the scope of prison reform issues transcended, intersected, and permeated nearly every aspect of life. Through the writing of blog posts, I drew upon much that I had written about firsthand in my prison journals during lock downs and lock ups and while under the influence of relentlessly harsh environments.
My training as a lawyer sometimes puts a different perspective on my approach. Lawyers are taught to focus on a finite set of facts. They’re trained to then advocate within the web of facts that becomes the Holy Grail of a case. Prison reform does not fit squarely into a formula for one single case; it’s a social movement with multiple parts within other countervailing systems: psychology, sociology, criminology—pick your favorite ology.
The complexity of prison reform issues is likewise heightened by the audiences that receive the message. In my post entitled “What Does Prison Reform Mean?” I identify four specific audiences that differ in their reception of the message:
Category One: Detached
You can tell a detached person by his or her callousness: “Let ’em rot in prison; who cares?” The detached ones are turned off by the subject or simply don’t care.
Category Two: Ill-Informed and Content
The ill-informed and content person knows prisons are overcrowded and don’t provide good healthcare but rationalize that the courts and state government are handling the problem.
Category Three: Vicariously Exposed
These people have had experience with prison through someone they love or care about. Detached and ill-informed content people can become vicariously exposed people, depending on circumstances.
Category Four: Current and Past Inmates
Current and past inmates have been there, done that. They live or lived in conditions that would shock anyone with a modicum of human compassion.
Prison Reform Touches All Aspects of Life
Some of my posts highlight what I mean about prison reform’s touching all aspects of life. Families, friends, and society in general are affected in ways that might not be obvious.
- Take Your Kid to Prison discusses the importance of visitation from more than an inmate’s perspective.
- Can’t Afford to Call Home is an exposé about the high cost of inmates’ making calls to family members, and others, and how FCC regulations have put controls on the expense.
Generic Prison Reform Matters
- Mother Nature Nurtures Inmates explores how the environment in which inmates are housed is colorless—austere—and how the brain craves color to ward off depression.
- The Resurrection of Private Prisons looks at how the Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s plan to phase out for-profit federal prisons.
- Smart Entrée to Reentry is about a French restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, where ex-offenders are trained to work in the kitchen. The owner is incorporating a second-chance business model that provides mentoring, training, and a support network.
- Warm and Fuzzy Prison Reform highlights prison trained dog programs that teach inmates to train service dogs, a transferable skill they take with them that leads to productive and self-esteem elevating jobs.
These are just some of the posts that reflect the diverse nature of what prison reform embraces. I confess that the topics and my research continue to educate me far beyond my experiences as an inmate. I did not personally experience some of the most disturbing subjects I write about. You’re invited to read about my prison experience in my book Derailed: How Being a Lawyer Taught Me to Survive in Prison.
I also confess that my writings are enlightening and cathartic for me. When I started this undertaking, I had no idea that this would be the case. I hope you enter the realm of category three, vicariously exposed people, with a new or renewed interest in prison reform issues. If I can touch you in this way, prison will not have been a waste of time for me.
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