Prisons, like guns, have the unique identity of constantly being seen as the answer to the problems they individually create. Very few people, besides drug addicts & delusional Libertarians, would argue that the answer to cocaine addiction is more cocaine. But when it comes to public safety, more guns and more prisons are the politically popular response to dealing with the issues that spring up from the proliferation of guns and prisons in society in the first place.
This blogger’s friend recently wrote a nifty piece about how local municipalities in the Bay Area clamor for more jails to fix existing problems. The past 40 years serve as a testament to the fact that CA cannot incarcerate it’s way out of the contemporary prison crisis. Are there any business models that receive annual budget increases despite 60-70% failure rates? *cough* CDCR *cough*
Modern incarceration is very expensive, but invests very little in inmates while they are being housed. Programs are few and far in between. The recidivism rates are as shocking as they are simple. Solving the numerous problems stemming from CA’s prison crisis is not straight forward. On the legislative spectrum updated penal sentencing laws are desperately needed (locking up inmates and throwing away the key is the definition of a zero-sum game). Barriers to re-entry like employment and housing discrimination also need to be addressed in proper legislative channels. But there’s only so much the law can do. Changing social attitudes towards inmates is a difficult beast to tame. Caging the primal instinct for retribution when one is harmed is even harder to corral. Prisons need to be re-envisioned to help inmates get better, not worse. It’s cowardly to sit back and watch a social problem swallow communities whole and do nothing but feel bad for them. The last thing you want for someone growing up is to not having anything in life to look forward to, because those are the people who are likely to do anything just to get something. The system is broken, but not so much so that it’s beyond repair. This blogger firmly believes that empathy is the crucial factor that is acting as a roadblock to CA’s prison problems.