As we keep going forward after the Prison Strike of 2018, people must be wondering would reforming the system actually work? After all aren’t these scary criminals! Why would we want all those mustache twirling doomsters to be out their concrete boxes!? The strikes were meant to show these folks how to be better people. With thoughts like this mixed with the degradation of good lifestyle conditions it only proves that they’re pushed into even more violent and unstable conditions.
Therein lies the problem with real prison reform; the way we look at Inmates and Ex Felons. As I mentioned earlier we should be looking at them as fellow human beings. A lot of them want to redeem themselves in the eyes of society. But in the eyes of society they’re always some kind of sub-human monster that wants to end the world. We need a change in that perspective! Just because Justice is blind doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be.
Now there are several places that have acted on the principles that are stated by the 2018 Prison Strike! Ok, just to be fair we will start in the United States. Yes, the hypocritical country that claims we have unlimited freedoms like AT&T claims you get unlimited data but has largest prison population like AT&T has largest contractual fuck yous.
And I’m starting here because now people can’t sit and claim that I hate America. I don’t hate America, I just want it to stop hating itself. America sold itself to corporate power and the whims of the elites forgetting about how the working class and immigrants really built the place…oh and slaves. What makes America, America is being stomped on and oppressed by itself! I just want America to see that it can be better than a oligarchical corporate shitshow.
Now that we got that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about the PACT program thats is being implemented in Massachusetts. The People Achieving Change Together program’s main goal is teaching responsibility and breaking the cycle. This might be the first time that something is tried that hasn’t been a initiative of profit.
And if responsibility is the main goal of this program maybe we can put the CEOs of War Profiting companies in there. You know teach Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics that too can and will shoulder the blame of a exploitative war machine and maybe they should stop funding it! By which I mean themselves. They should stop themselves. They could shut their companies down and help rebuild the countries they helped destroy.
PACT operates as a separate unit where jail politics don’t exist and the inmates can be off guard. That means what we’ve seen in shows like Oz and Oz: the Next Generation doesn’t happen. In this separate unit they can go to therapy and mandatory Anger Management. They are also on a consistent schedule of work and classes. This is all to help them re-enter society as functional adults.
The point is that this will help decrease recidivism and help at risk youth. But some people like the Bristol County Sheriff, Thomas Hodgson claim that we should focus on decreasing at risk youth at the start instead of pushing experimental practices that restore compassion and empathy.
But unfortunately Sheriff Hodgson wouldn’t like to decrease the amount of non-violent crimes that are prisonable offenses like smoking or knowing what marijuana is. Oh and when cops stop looking at these so-called at risk youths as the enemy. Or if we can decrease the racial barrier between cops and the communities they are supposed to serve and protect instead of harass and separate we wouldn’t have so many people be at risk! What we are at risk from is the law.
Maybe more of America would be able to adopt more of these experimental practices if people weren’t so constantly worried about being number 1 in everything! We are competing over an excellence in slavery and giving our citizens permanent PTSD! Look let’s all agree right now that if you’re country uses any kind of slave labor you don’t even get a participation trophy. Until they decide to pay a fair livable wage to their factory workers they don’t even get a gold star by these country’s names!
In Germany there is a large focus in 2 aspects for prisons. The first is architectural safety. They want to make the environment is safe for their prisoners instead ones where they get an infection and are ignored by the guards. They want create an environment where dropping soap doesn’t just stop possible prison rapes, but also diseases contracted from a dirty prison shower. The point is a more comfortable environment means they focus on rehabilitation rather than trying to Andy Dufrense themselves out of prison.
The second thing the German’s focus on is relational safety. They are encouraged to make friends and form bonds, not gangs. That way a culture of fear isn’t bred in the prisons. Freedom from fear can lead more compassion and empathy in a person. And again this helps in the rehabilitation aspect of prison reform!
And we can totally use these idea in American prisons! If we can’t curb violence from the guards we can put those puffy gym mats on the walls, so they shove the inmates against that they just bounce back at the guard and land a hug. Showing the guards they don’t need be feared and that even if their dad didn’t love them maybe this reforming murderer does. I feel like that is way better than Orange Is New Black! Compassion Is The New Orange!
Let’s head over to Brazil, which has the fourth largest prison population in the world. They don’t really get an trophy. Maybe that’s why they have such a radical prison reform idea. The Association for Protection and Assistance to Convicts or APAC program is a prisoner run incarceration program. It’s run by inmates for inmates!
APAC doesn’t look at prisoners as inmates, they called them “recuperando”, or recovering people. There are 3 levels to prisons. A closed section where there’s a sign that says “the man enters, crime stays out”. This where the people that commit the most heinous of crime are kept in a calm environment. The phrase above ensures that you have an opportunity to not be defined by your misgivings.
The semi-open section includes things like running a store room or office and an open section that involves jobs like guarding the door! That’s right, the prisoners guard their own doors and none of them want to escape! They want to stay there and serve their time to show their remorse and better themselves as individuals within a community. It’s like being an RA in college but you actually get learn something at the end of the instead of hunting for freshmen kids trying to get their dicks wet.
With the environment they are in, they can focus on returning home to their families and pursuing their passions outside prison. PLUS if they do escape they lose their opportunity to be in the APAC system. A sign of remorse is a major quality to get transferred from the violent, unstable prisons to one where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Because you’re actually allowed to hangout in the light!
In this system no one should be in their cells unless they’re sick…or yes faking sick. Because this is pretty close to the outside and people call off work sick all the time, I’m sure it’s known to happen. But instead of playing X-Box in their underwear they’re still in some kind of a prison, so I think these prisoners have a better attendance record and discipline than most free people!
They all have a regimented schedule of work, chores and extracurriculars. They sweep the streets, they run the stores, they add labels to soaps made in the prison itself, which I have to assume come with better grips. And they do so much more. They get to re-engage with the community, give back and have a sense of purpose and responsibility. This creates less recidivism and some even want to work as apart of creating more APAC prisons!
The first thing they do when they get to the APAC is go to woodworking shop where they work with their hands. The idea is, they destroyed something, so now they have create something to being their process of redemption. This instills the fact that they are still human beings and much like the sign above the closed area, they won’t be defined by their crime.
Overcrowding isn’t an issue because they only take in about 200 people per APAC. This program has been successful enough to spread to Ecuador and Chile. It is hard to get a program like this together everywhere because it takes a lot of political will and state involvement! So the people have to be on board and a system has to be less about profit and more about people.
We can totally adopt a system like this in the states! Maybe if this was adopted here in the States, bankers wouldn’t be so scared to go to prison and they’d learn that fucking over the Middle Class with predatory lending practices isn’t right. Instead of justifying their actions and looking for corrupt politicians to bail them out in fear of gang shivings and dropping the soap, they would you know ask for forgiveness and serve their time. The same can go for violent cops, War mongers, domestic abusers, and anyone that ACTUALLY wants to redeem themselves in the eyes of the people and their community.
Now I’m sure there’s some of you out there that say that if prisons are actually comfortable places then what’s the point of punishment! “The harsh environment is what they need to know they’re punished Krish!” Actually the fact that they’re away from their families, communities and loved ones is the punishment. The rest of prison is meant to be a way to re-introduce them into society. Not just keep them there for the purposes of a CEO somewhere that needs to light a cigar with a hundred dollar bill.
Aside from the PACT program there isn’t any prison reforms on a large scale happening in America. And part of that comes from the dehumanization of prisoners in the eyes of society. We need to be better and treat these folks better. They’ve asked for redemption and we can give it to them. Programs like APAC, Germany’s prisons and the PACT program help people find their second chance. They work to break the cycle. So why not let them have a REAL second chance?
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!