Tuesday, March 20, 2007

right track, wrong solution

Maryland shut down its correctional facility in Jessup because of the unacceptable number of attacks, on inmates and on corrections employees.  Maryland also shut down several youth facilities (Bowling Brook, Hickey) recently because they, too, were plagued with problems.
The solution?  Ship them out of state, out of sight, and out of the communities that they will be re-entering.  I strongly disagree with this.  Just in case you were wondering what I thought, Maryland.  I disagree with you.
I think the argument is strongest in regards to juveniles, but is relevant to adults as well.  With the kids in particular, it seems like a bad idea to take them away from their families and from their community to incarcerate them (I'm sorry, I mean "rehabilitate" them).  If the facility is a good one, offering educational services and training programs and mental health / behavioral modification counseling, then how is it beneficial to give kids resources that they cannot continue when they're released? 
And why is a prison in Kentucky or Massachusetts any better than a prison in Maryland?  Chances are, it's not too much better, and really all you're doing is moving the 'trouble' out of sight, out of mind.  You're moving people away from where anyone could advocate for them if they are being beaten, or are unsafe, or not receiving basic care.
I think the solution is more like what is happening in Texas - identify people who would do better by participating in services in the community (non-violent crimes in particular - drug possession, or even dealing), and provide services, instead of incarcerating them.  And stop 'outsourcing' inmates to other states. 


Tom said...

Using the word "outsourcing" is interesting. It makes me wonder... what about "offshoring" parts of the prison system. I'm not talking about an Escape-From-New-York-style island, but I imagine there is some class of prisoner who doesn't get to see visitors because they did something really awful.

Why not build a prison in India or China? I bet it would be much cheaper to run. It might even be a boon for some local economy (food preparation jobs, janitors, guards, etc).

I admit I haven't really thought this idea through... your post just made me think of it.

WomanoftheLaw said...

I used the term "outsourcing" intentionally, to conjure to mind exactly the hypothetical that you pose. I think it'san even more horrid idea for all the reasons I discuss in this post. I don't think there are people who are prohibited from having contact from all visitors for the duration of their sentence. I don't think it would be cheaper to transport people overseas, particularly since there will ALWAYS be court dates, etc that need to happen here in the U.S.

I think the problem is that more people are looking at prison as a money-making enterprise - referred to as the "prison industrial complex." I think what is not examined is the cost society incurs by doing nothing to address sociological factors that I believe are a critical factor in crime generally. And, do you believe that prisons, even if administered by the US, would run under US laws? Heck no - that's the whole point of Guantanamo, no? No one can see the torture, so the torture doesn't exist. The violation of civil liberties isn't happening.

Even if they are criminals, we're talking mostly about people who steal (often because they are poor and uneducated) and people with drug problems. That's it. The idea that we CANNOT deal with them and must ship them far, far away is appalling.

Anonymous said...

Texas doing something right? I thought Texas only put people to death? Also, I don't think there's any requirement that prisoners be located in the US. Court hearings could be conducted by videoconference (and convicted murderers who would be sent to T's India won't likely have any court hearings). And are prisoners located in other states continually flown back to the state of their crime for hearings?

WomanoftheLaw said...

'Requirement' from where? I'm not alleging that there is a "requirement" for prisoners to be held in the US. I think it's pretty clear that my post is stating that I believe we SHOULD keep incarcerated individuals in our country and closer to their communities.

Also, many people convicted of crimes, including big bad murder, have post-conviction proceedings. Lots of them. And these people have the right to be present at their own proceedings. (That is, as you say, a 'requirement.') And people in other states aren't flown, they take prison buses, and it takes them WEEKS of travel time to get back and forth.