Friday, October 08, 2004

Prison Reform

Yesterday the History Channel aired documentaries on several American prisons, along with a history of the concept of prisons. While I was watching, I began to wonder why the two major candidates for president never mention prison reform. So, I checked out their websites, and discovered that there is no mention of prison reform on either (unless you count Bush's "faith based-initiatives" being used in prisons). Given the sorry state of America's prison system, with its racism, inhumane living conditions, the barbaric "three strikes you're out" laws, and other major problems (visit the link for a longer list), I don't understand why this isn't a major talking point for liberals. I suspect that it's because Democrats can't afford to sound soft on crime, and Republicans are good at making any talk of prison reform sound like softness on crime. But how long can we let Republicans get away with framing the issue this way?


Anonymous said...

I think it is one of those issues, like legalizing marijuana for medical use, silly banning of guns that "look" scary (even if they have the same firing mechanism as legal guns), modifying the methods of the drug war, and endless other items.

The problem is that these issues are decided not in terms of actual impact on the world, but their symbolic role. (I tried to be fair to both the right and the left in the above - although I do tend to find the right far more guilty here) The problem is that if anyone tries to inject some pragmatism into these issues, they will immediately be labeled and will lose the election. Thus there is immense pressure not to be sensical on prison reform and the like. I actually thought that after the prison scandals in Iraq that more attention would have been shone on local prisons, at least by the press. But it never happened.

Of course the ultimate source of these problems are the electorate which seems to enjoy listening and judging candidates on sound bites and talking points. Politicians do what the electorate show they care about. While the press is partially guilty for moving towards 30 second "bites" on news, I think the public is far more guilty for showing that it accepts that as its news.

Were the public to just say no to these sorts of "symbolic" acts and actually start to investigate various things and hold politicians accountable I can guarantee the politicians would act amazingly swiftly. 

Posted by Clark Goble

Anonymous said...

I think you're right. I also thought that prison reform would get more attention after the Iraq prison abuse scandal, particularly since at least one of the participating soldiers was a prison guard in the United States (South Carolina, I think). There was all this talk of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the inherent violence in prison contexts, but liberals never seemed to pick up the talking point. Given the fact that it's a difficult issue to bring into the political debate, because any talk of making things "easier" for inmates is bound to bring accusations of "soft on crime" from the right, the oppurtunity to bring the issue forefront that the Iraq situation afforded should not have been missed. 

Posted by Chris

KM said...

Greetings to you from TEA, a newly formed grass roots movement that is dedicated to Prison Reform. We started with a few members on the Prison Talk On-line forum, and have grown to represent over 25 States and 6 Countries (so far!). Our birth came after the newly released Pew Report stated that, “1 in more than 100 American adults are currently incarcerated”. For many of us, that was it. We decided that enough was enough. We are now “brewing up” a campaign to launch ourselves into the Judicial and Prison Reform Movement.

We are initiating a mass mail event that will begin on June 30th and culminate on the 4th of July (in keeping with a Freedom From Tyranny theme). It is our intent to send letters to every single legislator, in every single State including the Nations Capitol. Most of us will be enclosing a TEA bag, to symbolize that it is time for a new Boston-Style Tea Party – a 21st Century Tea Party!

We believe that when the Legislators realize that a large amount of people are uniting on the issue of Prison and Justice Reform in this country, they will be forced to act on implementing the improvements that America is in dire need of, in regards to our Prison Systems.

We have drafted a few different letters (single and double page) that people may use to mail in if they so desire. But we’re not picky! Anyone is free to write whatever they want as long as it somehow relates to the need for reformation in our prisons. As mentioned, most of us are choosing to send in a TEA bag with our letters (which is perfectly legal – so far) along with the TEA bag logo we have designed. A few have hesitated to go to that extreme, and will instead be using only the TEA logo on their letterhead. Again, we leave it to the individual to make the statement however they are most comfortable with. We also plan to fax and email our letters, for maximum exposure. BUT PLEASE REMEMBER – The letter campaign does not kick-off until the week of June 30th.

As the family and friends of inmates that are initiating this campaign, we are also informing our loved ones that are behind bars what we have planned. There has been an extremely positive response from those behind walls. Word of mouth is spreading this like wild fire, and the inmates themselves plan to also write to the legislators. If you have a “safe” way of doing so, and know of any imates that may be interested, please inform them of this movement so they can spread the word between themselves (and other inmates will be able to pass this info on to their family and friends on the outside). Also, since the inmates cannot send an actual TEA bag, they can draw a TEA bag symbol on their letters. If even 5% of those incarcerated send ONE letter each, that alone would be over 100,000 letters. But we don’t believe they will be sending “just one”!

We would like to see your forum joined with us in this event. The letters we are planning to send can be tailored to be more “State specific” needs if you should wish to addresses certain issues that you feel strongly about or are involved with.

The time is ripe. America cannot continue to call itself the Leader of the Free World when we hold the prize for locking up the most citizens IN THE WORLD.

We hope that this event will open the doors that have been slammed shut on prison reform, and slam shut the revolving door our prisons have become.

Should you wish to do so, please post a link on your forum to our site. If ALL of us in this Country unite together for specific events such as this...we will move mountains.

Tea’s On!

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