It’s a standard false impression that prisons are designed to rehabilitate individuals, and that we’re getting educated, receiving remedy, and studying trades inside. Individuals appear to suppose that recidivism happens just because individuals launched from jail determine to throw all of that away and select to commit new crimes. It’s simply so removed from the reality.
The Illinois Division of Corrections (IDOC) doesn’t “right” something. There isn’t a such factor as rehabilitation right here. Prisons in Illinois are nothing greater than a waste administration system: society views individuals in jail as trash and throws us away. Society’s perspective towards prisoners has led to more and more harsh situations and dehumanization strategies.
Prisons exit of their technique to dehumanize individuals. It begins with stripping us of our names. Inside IDOC I’m not Anthony Ehlers; I’m B-60794. Your title doesn’t matter. When you get mail, they ask to your jail quantity. To get medication, they ask to your jail quantity. When you go away your cell for any purpose, they ask to your jail quantity! Unconsciously, you start to think about your self by way of a jail quantity as properly: as soon as they take away your title, who’re you?
When an individual endures yr after yr of being degraded, hated, used, assaulted, and dehumanized, instructed they’re rubbish by society, is it any marvel they grow to be depressed, delinquent, and offended?
IDOC provides no academic alternatives and does subsequent to nothing to coach prisoners. I’ve been instructed repeatedly that as a result of I’ve a pure life sentence, I’m not value being educated. Schooling ought to be a fundamental human proper, notably in jail; it ought to be a compulsory a part of one’s jail sentence.
It’s solely not too long ago that Northwestern’s Jail Schooling Program (NPEP) has supplied an possibility for individuals imprisoned in Illinois. It’s by way of this program alone that I’ve been capable of get a proper training whereas incarcerated. Spots are coveted and onerous to return by: of their third cohort of scholars, 20 individuals had been chosen out of some 400 candidates. And from what I’ve heard, IDOC instructed NPEP to not settle for anybody with lengthy sentences, as a result of within the jail directors’ eyes, these individuals aren’t worthy of training, both.
Take into consideration that. Individuals being launched from jail have been intentionally denied any training, but they’re anticipated to be rehabilitated. When these individuals get out, they want an training and job abilities, as a result of the overwhelming majority will return to the neighborhood they got here from. With out even an training, what are they to do? How will they stay?
Society ought to have a vested curiosity of their training and programming. If rehabilitation is actually IDOC’s objective, then training and job coaching ought to be a precedence.
When individuals don’t have one thing optimistic to give attention to in jail, like training, they discover different, extra detrimental methods to fill their time. You get an training in jail a method or one other: if IDOC gained’t present it, different prisoners will. In jail, you’ll be able to be taught from others’ errors, or the best way to get away with issues, or the best way to do belongings you’ve by no means performed earlier than. You may be taught to hate, and to let your anger fester in opposition to the system. You may be taught to hate society, which you be taught hates you in return.
In jail, psychological well being points are exacerbated, and you should be taught to take care of them alone, since you don’t have assist. The jail inhabitants is disproportionately made up of Black and Brown individuals who have been subjected to racist programs all their lives. Almost all prisoners have skilled trauma and each bodily and sexual violence; many have been by way of the foster care system; many undergo from psychological sickness; some boring their ache with substance use. Jail has a messed-up tradition and is stuffed with damaged individuals.
The medical care we get in jail is disastrously subpar, and COVID-19 hit prisoners notably onerous. Right here in Stateville greater than 25 males died of COVID-19, and plenty of had household and associates on the surface who additionally died or had been hospitalized. That type of fear and ache is tough for anybody, however particularly in a spot like this. Think about being locked in a cage removed from individuals who want you, making an attempt to make it by way of the demise of your loved ones or associates on their own. It’s a marvel some guys had been capable of maintain on to their sanity in any respect.
Prisoners are at the next danger for coronary heart illness and different stress-related illnesses as a result of in an surroundings like this one, you should preserve fixed situational consciousness. Being sentenced to jail is punishment, however we are sometimes topic to extra, extrajudicial punishment, as a result of some workers really feel it’s their responsibility to make prisoners’ lives depressing.
Our psychological state is at all times confused, at all times on alert, not simply from the specter of assault from different prisoners, but in addition from the workers who put obstacles in your manner at each flip. Throughout “shakedowns,” they take property—together with faculty work and authorized work, and letters and footage from family members—destroy it, or throw it away. Generally throughout shakedowns they break an imprisoned particular person’s TV, radio, or pill, severing their connection to the surface. Generally they place you in a cell with somebody who’s hostile or harmful, and also you both should battle or voluntarily go to segregation (solitary).
Most guards consider their phrase is legislation. In any case, who are you able to complain to? They usually fabricate guidelines to disclaim your rights, and for those who problem them in any manner, they may write you a disciplinary report. This enables them to remove the few privileges you do retain, like cellphone calls to family members, digital messaging, and entry to the commissary. Each optimistic accomplishment you obtain in jail is accompanied by an intense wrestle to beat, circumvent, or blatantly break the arbitrary guidelines made up by workers.
All of the whereas you must persuade your self every day that your life has worth, even when the remainder of the world tells you it doesn’t.
The jail itself is in a surprising state of disrepair. The cell homes are crumbling. Cracks run from the muse to the roof. The cells are stuffed with peeling lead-based paint and black mildew. Many cells have plumbing that doesn’t work. The whole jail has had no scorching water for 5 months, and we’re compelled to take showers and wash our garments in chilly water. The water right here is toxic. We’ve got very excessive ranges of each copper and lead in our water. Each metals will make you very sick, and may result in deadly cancers and different illnesses. We’ve had earlier bouts of Legionella micro organism right here. We’ve got rats, roaches, and birds in our cell homes and chow halls. How many individuals should take care of birds shitting inside their properties, or within the locations that they eat? What number of have woken up as a result of cockroaches are crawling on their face?
These are the deplorable situations we stay in.
The general public right here shouldn’t have an training or a ability that may assist them get jobs after they’re launched. Many who’re launched from jail will stroll out with untreated psychological well being issues and trauma, lots of their points having been made worse by jail time. After spending years in situations like these I’ve described, they may stroll out with nothing greater than after they got here in. How does that assist or profit society?
Individuals in jail have been marginalized by society in many alternative methods. In jail, we’re taught that there isn’t a manner out, and that our marginalization is state-sanctioned. Society can’t count on individuals getting out of jail to do higher, if society gained’t do higher by them. All of us should be chargeable for what the state does in our title.
It’s time to comprehend that punishment helps nobody. It’s time we started recycling individuals as a substitute of throwing them away.
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