Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

It’s Broken – FIX IT!

on November 16, 2013

Piper and Larry reunite under Thompson's watchAs you know, I’ve been watching the TV series “Orange is the New Black.” I just finished the book upon which it was based, the true story of Piper Kerman, a Smith College grad who at age 35 spent 13 months in the penitentiary for smuggling a suitcase of drug money for her then-lover, a crime she’d committed 10 years earlier.

This was a memoir, not an indictment. Yet, with her factual telling of her experience, the ineffectiveness of our legal system was evident.

It costs the government (that means US) a lot of money to incarcerate people. In this economy – really, in ANY economy – it’s fiscally irresponsible to spend money locking people up just for the sake of ‘punishment.’ For my money, I want to see increased safety in our society through a lowered recidivism rate. I want to see rehabilitation. I want to see reintegration. But that isn’t reality. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

Kerman states,

What is the point, what is the reason, to lock people away for years, when it seems to mean so very little, even to the jailers who hold the key? How can a prisoner understand their punishment to have been worthwhile to anyone, when it’s dealt with in a way so offhand and indifferent?

She wasn’t speaking on her own behalf. Piper is a educated, connected, privileged person who had a loving husband, a good job, and a network of influential friends waiting for her. She was speaking on behalf of her fellow inmates, few of whom had her advantages. Her prison experience opened her eyes to the desperate social situation of many in America – a reality many of us never experience nor understand.

Public school teachers are required to show proof their teaching is efficacious. Students are tested and must meet minimum standards to show they are progressing. Why don’t we do the same with those who run prisons? I believe they should be required show their efficacy through increased post-incarceration employment rates, increased education rates, and reduced recidivism rates. If they can’t, the systems should be turned over to those who can.

OK,  rant over. The book is an entertaining read, available here: Orange is the New Black

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One response to “It’s Broken – FIX IT!

  1. Kristy says:

    I imagine people running prisons aren’t tested because we as a society can’t define what the goal is. We’d like to think there is a something more noble to it than simply enacting vendettas or locking away “undesirables,” but for many people, sadly, this is both all they expect and all they want from our justice system. It’s creepy. I’ll have to see if I can find the show.

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