Baltimore City detention center has made headlines after a scandal revealed the inmates were running the show and had been employing guards to smuggle in cell phones, food and drugs. Mother Jones recently produced a list of the top 10 worst prisons and the horrors that occur within their walls. In Louisiana, one in 86 adults is in prison. After release, ex-offenders are 38 times more likely to be unemployed than non-offenders.
Violence in prisons is nothing new; any TV show from OZ to The Wire will tell you that. In 2003, Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act, providing $60 million for a two-year survey of state and federal prisons to determine the pervasiveness of prison rape and creating various panels to offer remedies. So why is violence still so prevalent? With the barrage of information coming at you constantly about trouble with the prison system and the difficulties of making the transition to civilian life, it’s easy to feel helpless.
These programs, however, are fueled by our tax money. The inmates are the product of our communities and educational systems. This gives hope!
What can you do to help?
- 1 in 3 prisoners do not have a high school diploma (contrasted with 1 in 10 of the general population). Tutoring at your local elementary, middle or high school will keep more kids on the path to higher education and away from crime.
- Support ‘Ban the Box’ legislation in your area, this movement is to remove the check box that signals conviction of an offense. No matter how minor or irrelevant their offense oftentimes this check means an individual will not be considered.
- Practice non-violence and model the behavior in your community.
- Organize your community to help stop violence; for tips on organizing, ask Campaign Consultation, Inc.
- Participate in local recreation centers and programs like Beat the Streets to ensure there is a constructive outlet for young people.