To the statement that prisons provide safety, we should ask, “Safety for whom? And from what?”
By Victoria Law, Yes Magazine, April 19th, 2021
The United States now has 2.3 million people behind bars of some form or another.
These are not 2.3 million isolated individuals—their imprisonment sends reverberations into their families and communities.
On any given day, 2.7 million children have a parent in prison. Incarcerating that parent removes a source of financial and emotional support for both children and adult family members.
For families who are already in economically precarious situations, removing a parent can plunge them into poverty, reduce their safety, and make them more vulnerable to arrest and incarceration.
This is not to say that we don’t need interventions when harm and violence happen.
But prisons have proven again and again to be an ineffective intervention.
First, we must remember that incarceration is a form of punishment and incapacitation that happens after harm has occurred, not before.
We must also remember that incarceration addresses only certain types of harm.
People who sell drugs on the street risk arrest and imprisonment.
But the same rarely applies to wealthy people like the Sackler family, who earned billions from OxyContin, the addictive painkiller launched in 1996 that spawned today’s opioid crisis.
Likewise, board members and corporate executives responsible for oil spills and other environmental disasters or for precipitating economic crises rarely face handcuffs and jail time.
So when confronted with the statement that prisons provide safety, we should ask, “Safety for whom? And from what?”
If we focus solely on interpersonal crime and harm, we might believe that the threat of imprisonment deters crime and wrongdoing.
But with 2.3 million people behind bars, we can see that deterrence actually isn’t happening.
Americans have been sold the story—lock ’em up and you’re safe.
Danielle Sered is the founder and director of Common Justice, a program that promotes alternatives to incarceration and provides services to victims.
Based in New York City, the program works with young adults facing violent felony charges, including assault and robbery, and their victims.
Sered recalled posing a question to the program’s youths, all of whom had been incarcerated.
As you were committing the crime, she asked them, what penalty did you think you would receive if caught?
Their answers debunk the theory that the threat of incarceration deters people from committing crime: one-third did not think of a penalty at all.
Another third thought the penalty would be substantially less.
The final third thought they might face a far greater penalty if caught but, at the time they committed the acts, were indifferent to the potential consequences.
In other words, the threat of prison was no deterrent to their decision.
But what about incapacitating people who commit harm?
Imprisonment does incapacitate a person, but it also rips people away from their families and communities, placing them in environments rife with chaos, abuse, and violence.
“Americans have been sold the story—lock ’em up and you’re safe,” reflected Kamadia, a former nurse, who has been imprisoned in Texas since 2007.
“But you create a more damaged person. The first lesson I learned in prison [was] don’t trust anyone. Don’t show emotions. I scare myself with how desensitized I have become to suicide and rape. I often ask, ‘Where’s the empathetic nurse?’ Gone.”
She’s referring to the often torturous conditions inside jails and prisons.
These conditions include physical assaults, verbal taunts, and sexual abuse—from prison staff and other incarcerated people.
They also include inaccessible and often inadequate medical and mental health care, which often exacerbates a person’s pre-existing conditions.
They include practices like solitary confinement, or locking a person in a cell with no human contact for at least 23 hours each day.
In some states, people have been locked in solitary for months, years, and sometimes decades, creating and exacerbating post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.
For those lucky enough to receive visits from family and loved ones, conditions include submitting to a strip search before and after each visit.
Invoking Clarity and BALANCE with St. Germaine
“The Violet Flame is the essence of the unknowable
at that point of Conjunction and Love Creation
with the Mother, and a way for us to know
the Love of the Father, as well.”
(Quote through Linda Dillon
channel for the Council of Love)