Friday, August 12, 2011

The National Prison Problem

Written by: Garry Sims, Director- Hope Aglow Prison Ministries.

Garry Sims
Do we really want to lower the recidivism rate of our prisons?

     I’m not sure. Why would I say this? Because, we continue in the same mindset that created the mess to start with and I see no signs of change. If we really want to address this problem and it is a huge problem, we must address it from the viewpoint of why the offender is in prison to start with.
This is the overriding issue of why most inmates are not prepared to re-enter or function in society; they were not prepared to do so before entering prison.
     We must understand we don’t have an inmate re-entry problem. What we have is a segment of our society that does not know how to function in society. Therefore it is not possible to address the problem of prisoner re-entry until you address the mental mind set of the men and women we are working with.

      When I started working in the prison system more than twenty five years ago (after spending two and half years in prison myself) we had men and women who had a number of social problems; but today, we have men and women who do not know how to think.

     Someone has told them what to do for most of their lives either welfare case worker, school or mental health social worker or counselor, gang leader, correctional officer, parole or probation officer. Someone has always had direct influence in their everyday decisions. From his or her first day in the Department of Corrections this has only been magnified. Someone tells them when to get up, when to eat, what they will watch on television, when to go outside, I hope you are getting the point.

How can we expect someone to make good decisions when they have never been allowed or taught how to make good decisions? You can’t rehab what you never had
     If all we do is develop a plan get their welfare or SSI check re-started, tell them where the shelter is, or how to get on the next program where someone will tell them what or how to make it until they can get a job as if that will ever come, when it is just easier to continue working the system. This leads to depression and low self-worth which leads to drug and alcohol abuse which leads to the commission of another crime or parole or probation violation which leads to jail and then back to prison.

    We must re-think this whole process in order to have a client who is able to think for themselves.
Romans 12:2 says,  "be ye not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind; that ye may prove what is good, and acceptable, and prefect will of GOD." We must have men and women with transformed minds.

     Now the real question is what is our intent? Is it to help ex-offenders work the government and social programs better or make a real difference in the lives of ex-offenders and their families?If it is to better work the system we are doomed from the start. If it is to have a positive effect on the men and women who are in the prison system by helping them develop a new positive mindset then we will be successful.

Most inmates have been a drain on the social welfare and court systems for all of their lives. They believe they are failures. Changing their mental outlook while they are in the prison system is the only way to have a positive effect on the recidivism rate.
     As a society we must be willing to at least look at the way we conduct and think of our prisons system.
This will in turn save millions of your tax dollars, which is the only reason we are looking at this problem anyway. If we truly cared about the men and women in the prison system we would have done something about this problem years ago before we spent billions of our tax dollars building new prisons which we are closing.

Is anything going to change? I pray so but I am not sure anyone is willing to take to risk of going outside the norm.

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