I have a confession: I’m obsessed with stories about prisons and inmates, probably due to my previous work in jails and prisons. I see our incarceration system as an embarrassment and a disgrace to “liberty and justice for all” because of the way we cage and dehumanize our fellow human beings.
My fascination (a nicer word for obsession) was once again recently piqued with the 2022 book Corrections in Ink by Keri Blakinger, published by St. Martin’s Press. Her photo on the back cover intrigued me. Keri is a slender, young-looking woman with dark-rimmed glasses and plenty of tattoos. She exudes “interesting.” The next day, Amazon put the book on my doorstep, and I could hardly put it down for a variety of reasons.
Early in her life, she had been groomed to be a champion ice skater, but that drive seemed to fade away in her teens and was replaced by a need for drugs. Quickly, she became a heavy user and then a dealer and was so addicted that she would sell her body for sex to be able to have money for drugs. (Not the first time I’ve heard that story.)
Despite that, Keri was also bright, so she was accepted into Cornell University. But drugs had taken over, and eventually she ended up a prison in New York for a few years.
While in prison, she decided to sober up cold turkey and rededicated her life to her education and improving her writing skills. When she was released, she then became an investigative reporter centering on criminal (in)justice.
I thoroughly enjoyed her writing and have come up with the following conclusions:
- The United States has a drug abuse pandemic and insists on treating it as a crime rather than a medical addiction. We don’t throw people into prison because they have cancer. Why then do we throw them in prison when they have a disease (addiction) that could also kill them?
- When will we learn that the cops and the criminal system are not the solution to dealing with this social and medical issue? This problem needs mental health experts and facilities that help people turn their lives around in a positive fashion.
- Our prison system is badly broken and corrupt. The guards are ill-trained to deal with anything except more injustice and brutality. Some guards seem to be more corrupt than the people they are guarding. Let’s eradicate our present system of training guards and replace it with a sophisticated program that trains them instead to be rehabilitation counselors.
- Locking people in cages like rabid animals, dehumanizing them, and advocating brutality within the system only make for more violent criminals and create a higher rate of recidivism. This reality is so obvious to everyone but politicians and much of the criminal (in)justice system staff.
Keri Blakinger has shown me through her creative writing skills that it is way past time for prison reform. Our prisons must be transformed into rehabilitation centers that help people have a new start on life.
Does this make any sense to you?
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo courtesy of Annalee Gulley (CC-BY-SA-4.0)
9 thoughts on “Back to Prison”
Another frightful read is “American Prisons” by Shane Bauer which is about the for-profit penal system. We are not the land of the free but we are the land of injustice for the many.
I couldn’t agree more! All our prisons do is make the offenders worse,
I couldn’t agree more. All our prison system does is make the offender worse
Thank you for an excellent summary of the decisions that should be made.
Thanks, David. It’s always good to hear from you. If I had life to do over, I would be in prison reform rehabilitating people instead of dehumanizing them.
But I suspect that’s not going to happen. Hope all is well with you and Beverly.
I’m hoping for free mental health for everyone. This is my thoughts for a change of this terrible prison/jail problem and a solve for most problems.
Free mental health for everyone is not only the “right thing to do” but a huge solving of many problems. Prison/jail system is terrifying and horrific.
Thanks, Christina for reading my emails and responding. Our prisons would be almost empty if we treated incarcerated people for addictions, mental health issues, and gave them an education in place of dehumanizing them.
When it comes to health, every kind, I have no idea why we think it’s a good idea to do preventative medicine instead of emergency room health care. I don’t get it but I also don’t get why we have a Congress that doesn’t do much but become rich.