Tag Archive for prison reform

Convict Moms May Benefit From Pending Congressional Sentencing Reform and Declining Female Prison Populations

70_MAGGOTSSWEETToday Congress is moving on sentencing reform, which could further ease the pressure on female prisoners with children. In addition, they may benefit from less emphasis on harsh sentences for nonviolent offenses. 

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, says:

The decline in women’s incarceration appears to be related to fewer drug offenders in prison. As harsh sentencing policies have begun to be scaled back, and diversion programs expanded, fewer women are now being sentenced to lengthy prison terms for lower-level drug offenses.

Since the early 1970s, the “war on drugs” led to a surge in the US prison population of both men and women. But percentagewise, women saw a greater increase. According to the Sentencing Project, between 1980 and 2010, the number of women in federal and state prison rose by 646 percent; from 15,118 to 112,797. If you count women in local jails, that brings the US total of female prisoners in 2010 to more than 205,000.

Now the trends are reversing. After peaking in 2009, the US prison population has declined annually–something that has been attributed to factors including the recession, and changes in public attitudes and in the courts. In 2011, the US Supreme Court upheld a ruling that ordered California to ease overcrowding in its state prisons.

Congress is now getting into the act. On January 30, 2014, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted for legislation aimed at reducing prison overcrowding further. In a bipartisan 13-to-5 vote, the panel approved the Smarter Sentencing Act,
which would substantially reduce mandatory minimums for some drug offenses and allow federal judges more discretion in determining sentences for nonviolent drug offenses?

The Act amends the federal criminal code to direct criminal courts to impose a sentence for specified controlled substance offenses without regard to any statutory minimum sentence if the court finds that the defendant does not have more than one criminal conviction. It also authorizes a court that imposed a sentence for a crack cocaine possession or trafficking offense committed before August 3, 2010, on motion of the defendant, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, the attorney for the government or the court, to impose a reduced sentence as if provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 were in effect at the time such offense was committed.

Courts must also reduce mandatory minimum sentences for manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, possessing, importing or exporting specified controlled substances. And it orders courts to formulate guidelines to minimize the likelihood that the federal prison population will exceed federal prison capacity, while it emphasizes the need to reduce and prevent racial disparities in sentencing.

Since women are more likely to be incarcerated for a nonviolent offense than men, they may benefit from the law disproportionately. Already, between 2009 and 2012, the female prison population dropped by 4.1 percent.

This trend has particular meaning for prisoners with children. In 2008, 52 percent of women in state prison and 63 percent in federal prison had at least one child under the age of 18, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Six out of 10 women prisoners with children lived with their kids before incarceration.

Most kids don’t have physical contact with their mother while she is incarcerated, because women are often placed in facilities more than 100 miles from home, where visiting is both expensive and difficult. Collect phone calls from prison are expensive, and some mothers do not want to expose children to the prison environment and security procedures, which can be intimidating.

Bahiyyah Muhammad, a sociology professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., who studied the children of incarcerated parents, suggests:

One solution would be to have offenders serve shorter sentences that are focused on drug treatment and education and that take place closer to their families. That way you keep the family together and allow them to have a role in this rehabilitation process.

A parental classification be implemented for convicted mothers) who have custody of their children, so they can serve their time at an institution designed for parents–that is, “friendlier” for kids.

I think we could save a lot of money if we used alternatives to punish nonviolent drug offenders, especially if they are parents. Parental incarceration has long-lasting effects on children.

Since the 1970s, the dramatic rise in the US prison population has put significant strain on the limited resources available to treat prisoners and to help ex-convicts reintegrate into the outside world.

Talking Justice: Igor Koutsenok and Susan Madden Lankford

Nine Principles: The National Juvenile Justice Network

Prison cell with bed inside Alcatraz main building san francisco califforniaThe National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN)  is an organization that helps state-based groups in their efforts to institute reform of the American juvenile justice system.

The NJJN describe themselves on their website as follows:

Through education, community-building and leadership development, NJJN enhances the capacity of juvenile justice coalitions and organizations in 33 states to press for state and federal laws, policies and practices that are fair, equitable and developmentally appropriate for all children, youth and families involved in, or at risk of becoming involved in, the justice system.

We seek to return the U.S. to the core ideals that led to the formation of the juvenile court more than 100 years ago, when our country realized that youth are fundamentally and categorically different than adults.

By providing tools to state level groups the NJJN seeks to achieve these ends. Access to information, leadership training, community building and other similar techniques are at the core of their approach. The most vital thing to know about them is their nine principles of reform.  Every member adheres to these and must be actively working at the state level based on at least one of them. (These principles are from “A Blueprint for Juvenile Justice Reform,” developed by the Youth Transition Funders Group, associated descriptive text is my own paraphrasing and commentary on the original document.)

The Nine Principles are:

Reduce Institutionalization

While there will always be a few youth offenders that can only be dealt with through incarceration the vast majority of them can be more effectively treated in a community based environment.

Maximize Youth, Family and Community Participation

Community justice initiatives can engage a wide array of adults in the rehabilitation process, an important thing since active adult participation is often needed to keep youths involved in their own reform. Family conferencing is one example of how parents and jurisdictions are learning to work together rather than against each other.

Additionally they help both adults and youth become more active an effective in their efforts to lobby for reform.

Improve Aftercare and Reentry

With over 100,000 youths re-entering society after being institutionalized the question of how to re-integrate them into day to day life is of paramount importance. Youth programs and workforce development are key components here. For best effect many agencies, both government and non-profits, need to coordinate. Special needs kids – those with substance abuse or mental health issue in particular, need quick access to treatment if they are to have a fighting chance. Additionally there are questions of accessibility that need to be examined- if you cannot access the help it is not really helping.

Create Smaller Rehabilitative Institutions

Since the vast majority of youth are not chronic and violent offenders our system is ill suited for their needs. Those that are certainly need close supervision, but the impersonal and institutional atmosphere of jails, prisons, and detention centers have a poor track record. Especially when it comes to recidivism.

Smaller secure facilities run by youth specialists can provide developmentally appropriate programs for these youngsters. They can also be particularly effective if the family is closely engaged in the rehabilitative process.

Recognize and Serve Youth with Special Needs

It happens all the time. Youth whose primary problem stems from mental disorders, substance abuse, or emotional issues end up incarcerated with  criminal offenders. They state it succinctly on their website:

While good mental heath and substance abuse services are vital for incarcerated youth to facilitate their rehabilitation, it is critical that juvenile justice involvement is seen as appropriate only when a youth’s delinquency—not his disabilities—is the primary reason for confinement.

Create a Range of Community Based Programs

While NJJN endorses and supports a variety of community based programs there are some that are particularly stressed due to their proven effectiveness. The three most highly noted, and with solid scientific evidence as their efficacy, are:

  • Functional Family Therapy
  • Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care
  • Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST)

MST in particular has shown amazing results. Serious juvenile offenders demonstrate reductions of 25 to 70 percent in long-term rates of re-arrest, and reductions of 47 to 64 percent in out-of-home placements. Real results with no incarceration.

Ensure Access to Quality Counsel 

In an age where counsel is sometimes assigned mere minute before trial it is imperative that something be done about it. NJJN supports beneficial reform in a variety of ways ranging from special training for those representing youth cases to early assignment of counsel. Any American appearing in court has the right to counsel, but lack of effective counsel is almost as bad, and sometimes worse than, having none at all.

Reduce Racial Disparity

As I noted yesterday in my examination of restorative justice, there is a huge racial disparity in the way our system treats youth offenders. The numbers bear repeating:

In 2008 Pew Charitable Trusts reported that one out of every 15 black men over the age of 18 is serving time. For comparison only one out of 106 white men are incarcerated. One in every nine African American men between 20 and 34 are incarcerated, a striking contrast to the 1 in 30 of that age group across the rest of the general population.

NJJN helps to support jurisdictions that have reduced this disparity and endorse the following proven tactics for doing so.

  • analyzing data by race and ethnicity to detect disparities.
  • using objective screening instruments to eliminate subjectivity from decision-making.
  • coordinating with police to better control who enters the juvenile justice system.
  • changing hiring practices so that justice staff are more representative of youth in the system.
  • holding staff accountable for placement decisions.
  • developing culturally competent programming.
  • employing mechanisms to divert youth of color from secure confinement.

Keep Youth Out of Adult Prisons

Youth held in adult facilities are eight times as likely to attempt suicide as when incarcerated with their peers. They are five times more likely to report being rape victims; fifty percent more likely to be attacked with some sort of weapon; and twice as likely to be beaten by institution staff. These are not good numbers. Add in the much higher rate of recidivism and the over representation of people of color and the picture is bleak indeed.

Back in the 1990′s we saw 49 of the 50 states adopt measures that increased the number of juveniles being tried and sentenced as adults. Twenty years later we can see how much it has cost us as a society.

These are great principles, and ones which can lead the way to much improvement. Our juvenile justice system has some critical flaws and the active coordination of efforts to improve the situation is laudable.

Keep your eyes peeled as we will have an interview with some of the NJJN’s senior staff coming soon!

 Image Source: timpearcelosgatos on Flickr, used under it’s Creative Commons license

The Economics of Incarceration in Arizona

MoneyThe economic side of the penal system is something we look at a lot. In so many cases, the return of preventative programs vastly outstrips the return we see from imprisoning people. Our documentary is titled It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing because that is, quite simply, the case.

Of course, there are also darker sides of the economic angle that bear scrutiny. When we speak of the economic factors, we are talking about ways in which to spend less and achieve better results. For some others, it is a matter of how much can be made from the business of incarceration.

Laura Sullivan has a very illuminating piece on NPR (you can read it or listen to the audio) focusing on this very subject. She takes a look at the spiderweb of business interests that stand to reap serious financial gains from Arizona’s new immigration law. [Note: this is not a debate about the law itself, but an examination of the way in which the prison industry has influenced the letter of the law for its financial gain. Comments debating immigration law will be considered off topic and not published.]

While there has been both forceful opposition and support for the law, it would behoove both sides to look closer at the way the law came about. NPR did some digging:

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry. The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

What follows is a hard look at the influence of lobbyists. It starts with the Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, who claims the bill was his idea. His stated stance is that Americans need to look at the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing the border. The interesting part is that instead of bringing his idea up on the Senate floor, he instead brought it to a meeting of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that took place last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.

If you look at the composition of the group, an interesting picture develops:

It’s a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

Both members of the Corrections Corporation of America and Pearce are not only members but also sit on several of ALEC’s boards. Model legislation was developed at the Hyatt, legislation that was adopted almost verbatim four months later. Pearce claims that even though lobbyists were in attendance, he did not go to meet with them, but rather to meet with other legislators:

Pearce may go there to meet with other legislators, but 200 private companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like him.

As soon as Pearce’s bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC’s influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.

That same week, the Corrections Corporation of America hired a powerful new lobbyist to work the capitol.

This is an economic angle that we need to watch. There is no way to fight the bloating of our prison system without realizing that this is big business. There are so many jobs and so much money wrapped up in the penal system that it’s truly frightening. The approach to imprisonment being taken in Arizona and many other places seems to view an increase in the number of people incarcerated as a good thing, since, after all, it creates jobs and salaries. The fact that it costs taxpayers far more than the alternatives does not enter into that kind of logic.

This is not merely a problem in the areas near the border when immigration is such a massive issue. On the first of last month, I wrote about the astounding and disturbing state of affairs in Canon City, CO, the town with 13 prisons. Just to put it into perspective, Canon City has 36,000 residents, which makes it roughly one prison per 2,700 people. Sounds like big business to me, especially since one of those 13 is the Supermac, the new “Alcatraz of America.”

It does not matter whether this happens in Arizona, Colorado, or some other state. The fact remains that we have 5% of the global population and roughly a quarter of the world’s incarcerated here in the U.S.A. If the trend of embracing the corrections system as a revenue-generating business continues, those numbers will become even more out of balance.

So, as the prison system in Arizona hits a major growth spurt, I’d like to leave you with two short quotes to keep in mind:

‘When we provide treatment, we can cut recidivism rates down 25, 35, sometimes 40 percent.’
– Douglas B. Marlowe, J.D., Ph.D., Chief of Science, Policy and Law, National Association of Drug Court Professionals

and

‘It makes long term economic sense to try and take care of these people in a humane way, and help them heal.’
– Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Child Trauma Academy

Source: “Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law,” NPR, 10/28/10
Image by AMagill, used under its Creative Commons license.
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Debtors’ Prisons: Feeding a Vicious Cycle of Recidivism

Money macroPicture an inmate at the end of his sentence. The barred gates of the jail open up, and he steps out into the fresh air of freedom. Let’s assume this is an inmate who has been wholeheartedly reformed, kicked his bad habits, and has a determined attitude about rebuilding his life.

Then the bill comes. Not the rent or the bill for utilities, but a bill for the legal fees incurred, plus fines. Suddenly, that inmate ends up back in prison through no fault of his own except for lack of resources.

This is the picture presented by Charlene Muhammad of the New America Media as she examines the new findings presented by the ACLU:

After a year long investigation into the assessment and collection of fees associated with criminal sentences in Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, and Washington, the ACLU reported in ‘In for a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtors’ Prisons,’ that courts across the U.S. were profiting from debtors’ prisons by violating a Supreme Court decision ordering courts to investigate a person’s inability to pay before returning them to prison.

Since the poor and the minorities are disproportionately represented in the average jail population, this raises a number of disturbing issues. Since Muhammad’s article is quite long (and is highly recommended, by the way), we’re going to focus on one of the people she has interviewed, Geri Silva.

Silva is the director of Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes Law, and she raises many valid points. For on thing, in a country where right to counsel is axiomatic, the idea of making everyone pay the fees and fines irrespective of their financial means is ridiculous. That right to counsel exists to protect those who have no means:

[Silva] said the irony is that states are jailing people in ‘cash-strapped’ cities for failing to pay their legal fines, but turn around and pay triple or quadruple that amount to put people in jail.

‘It sort of leads one to believe that perhaps jails and prisons are money making enterprises for the states. All roads lead to prison and all thinking leads to the fact that if they’re filling these prisons, it’s not about public safety obviously but it has to have something to do with financial gain for the industry itself,’ Ms. Silva said.

[Silva] reiterated ‘In For a Penny’s’ position that men and women who are re-entering into society from prison already face tough obstacles. They have to try to rebuild their lives with reduced or no incomes, worsening credit ratings, poor housing prospects, and greater chances of recidivism.

Think back to the hypothetical inmate: Will he make it out of the jail with that same attitude after this, or will it kill the idea that he can be a productive member of society? After all, he’d played by the rules, and through no fault of his own ended up in prison again. How would you feel?

Muhammad writes,

‘How far will they go? Who are they trying to kid with this? How do you get blood out of a turnip? How does somebody who can’t pay, pay? Will they then find the one person who had their nails done or something instead of paying? Is that what they’re going to do to justify this insanity,’ Ms. Silva asked.

According to Ms. Silva, all of these issues that hang over a poor person who has been incarcerated stems from America’s building an industry that is skewed, sinister, uncivilized, and centered on punishment. Ask taxpayers if they would rather pay $600 in legal fees or thousands in jail costs and they would pick the more sensible route of less costs, she said.

Which brings us back to one of our recurring themes: It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing. Once more, the imbalance between taxpayer expenditure for jail costs is staggering compared to the cost of defraying these fees. As taxpayers, we would love to know that our taxes are not only being deployed to an effective program, but also that they are being reduced due to that program’s efficacy. It is, as they say, a no-brainer.

Consider the massive amount of cash it takes to run a jail or prison. Think about the cost of everything, from guards to food to laundry, but also about the number of staff needed to ensure a smooth operation of the facility.

Let’s close with one more remark from Silva:

‘The industry itself is tremendous. Can you imagine what it takes to run, say, California State Prisons in terms of food services, clothing, armaments, initially the building trades? It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that a great number of people are getting fat off of so it’s so disingenuous for them to say they’re losing money because people aren’t paying their fees,’ Ms. Silva added.

Should we be paying for this, or should we demand fiscal responsibility and a new approach?

Source: “Report: Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons Devastating the Poor,” New America Media, 10/20/10
Image by Kevin Dooley, used under its Creative Commons license
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“It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing” Wins Second Place at Bayou City Inspirational Film Fest

It's More Expensive to Do Nothing - A documentary form Humane Exposures Films

Click on the image for larger size

HUMANE EXPOSURES films is proud to announce that It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing, our documentary about the flaws in our penal system and their possible solutions, has taken second place at the Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival (BCIFF) in Houston, TX.

We would like to thank everyone who has attended the festival, and everyone who has shown us support so far! Each one of you is an important part of the process as we work towards change, so thank you all!

The BCIFF is presented by the PROGRESS Arts Group, a nonprofit arts and education organization. Here is a little bit about the festival:

The Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival (BCIFF) was founded by its executive director, Shanda Davis, to showcase diverse film and video projects that:

* Educate and enlighten us on political, social, psychological, economic, health, religious, and a variety of other issues,
* Offer hope and encouragement as well as inspire us to contribute towards the betterment of society and
* Display positive relationships, morals, individual, and family values.

The Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival’s mission is:

* To provide a viable platform for independent filmmakers and artists from around the world to showcase their works,
* To provide awareness to the world about the variety of educational, inspirational and positive works available and the need to integrate more of these types of works into society,
* To provide a networking platform for filmmakers and industry professionals and
* To showcase the artistic excellence of children & youth in Houston and surrounding areas and provide scholarships to assist them in furthering their arts education.

For those of you who have yet to see the film, here is the trailer:

If our film hit home, or even if you just have an interest in this issue, please take a moment and share it with a few of your friends. The wider audience we can reach the better chance we have of not only alleviating the trials of those stuck in the vicious cycle, but also doing it in a way that reduces the cost to society and government. It truly is much more expensive to do nothing!

Source: “The Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival,” BCIFF Website
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the HUMANE EXPOSURES films documentary “It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing.” Used with permission.
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Guggenheim’s Superman: Education Is Everybody’s Problem

SupermanHUMANE EXPOSURES would like to salute Davis Guggenheim. The director on An Inconvenient Truth has a new film out, and he is hoping that it will spark a dialogue about education in the same way his prior film has generated debate about climate change. Waiting For Superman is nothing less than an S.O.S. on behalf of our school systems nationwide. A call for awareness and action on this subject which affects us all.

It all started earlier in the year when Guggenheim and his wife decide to visit an obviously ailing school that they passed every morning while taking their child to her school. Why did he do it? Alison Gang, San Diego native and movie critic for Sign On San Diego, reports:

So why visit a school that his kids don’t even attend? ‘Superman’ makes the point that failing schools are everyone’s problem, even if your family has options or you don’t have children at all. But, Guggenheim argues, the system can’t be changed unless the public demands reform, which is exactly what he aims to inspire with his film.

‘I think there’s a series of often unspoken reasons that we give ourselves not to care, not to open our hearts to this,’ he said. ‘I want to puncture this kind of disconnect. That’s what a movie should do, connect all the dots and get people to go, ‘Oh, it’s real. This affects me.’’

This s exactly what we hope to do with our own documentary, It’s More Expensive To Do Nothing. Public awareness and dialogue are essential to effecting any substantive change no matter whether you are addressing education as Guggenheim is, or homelessness and the penal system as we have. Without that essential engagement — there is no pressure to produce change. Fortunately, it would seem that Guggenheim’s effort is getting some legs under it:

Whether ‘Superman’ will start the wave of massive reforms necessary to turn a notoriously intractable system on its head remains to be seen, but it has already earned a nod from Oprah Winfrey, who dedicated an entire show to the film, and it won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

With Oprah’s powerful reach behind it, this film will get a lot more attention. Step one is always getting people to see it so that it can motivate them to explore the topic further and hopefully take action.

Of course, anything that digs deeply into the long-established policy is bound to get a backlash. In this instance, the film’s stressing of educational accountability is, shall we say, less than popular with the teacher’s unions. Gang writes:

Less than pleased with the film are the teachers unions, which take issue with the film’s stance against automatic tenure and lack of teacher accountability. Taking on the normally taboo topic was a difficult decision for Guggenheim, a lifelong Democrat whose father brought him up to believe strongly in unions. ‘But that’s why you make documentaries. To say things that no one wants to say and to make people face uncomfortable truths.’ He smiles, ‘Not inconvenient truths, but uncomfortable ones.’

Uncomfortable truths are important. It is when we face these and deal with them that we mature, both as individuals and as a society.

Documentary film fans should visit the homes of both films on Facebook: Waiting For Superman and It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing. Each covers a different aspect of the overall problem our society faces — providing proper support for children as they grow up in order to help them be productive members of society. Our film looks at the prison system and makes a great followup to Superman as it explores the frequency with which the issues Guggenheim examines impact those children in later life.

Source: “Guggenheim knows he isn’t ‘Superman’,” Sign On San Diego, 10/08/10
Image by emilydickensonrisdesabmx, used under its Creative Commons license.

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America’s Prison Plight

Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing TimeIt is no secret that the American prison system is rife with problems. It is the personal stories of women in our penal system that led our own Susan Madden Lankford to create Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time, in which she juxtaposes black-and-white images taken in jails with quotes and personal narratives from the incarcerated.

This window into the incarcerated life, its hardships, and its social ramifications, is especially important in the modern day, a day when our penal system is bursting at the seams. David C. Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project in Washington, D.C., attributes this to the “Three Strikes” laws and other mandatory minimum-sentencing laws. He asserts that the overly harsh sentencing is responsible for not only causing the prison population to skyrocket, but is also culpable for the fact that approximately one in 11 of the imprisoned are there for life.

There are many aspects to this breakdown. Craig Welkener of AOL News brings us some of the disturbing facts in his recent opinion piece on the subject. Take particular note of the last two items, which directly affect imprisoned females:

The problems with today’s prisons are well documented. Conditions are deplorable. Here are a few facts:

  • Federal prisons are being operated at 160 percent capacity. Mandatory minimum sentences are putting thousands of nonviolent offenders in prison, for disproportionately long terms.
  • Approximately two-thirds of prisoners released each year will be back behind bars in some form before three years have passed.
  • Mental health care is woefully inadequate.
  • Prison rape is a moral outrage rampant across America. More than 60,500 inmates reported sexual abuse in 2007 (the actual number of rapes is likely far higher), and nearly 1 out of every 8 juveniles in custody became a victim of sexual assault from 2008 to 2009, according to a Department of Justice study.
  • Most states still allow the shackling of women during labor and delivery, often causing permanent scars. This unnecessary and humiliating procedure is opposed by the American Medical Association, the Rebecca Project for Human Rights and virtually anyone else who knows about it.

In short, the system is not working.

Those last two items in particular seem like something from the Middle Ages, yet they are faced daily in modern America. All of the factors listed by Welkener contribute to the additional trouble that former inmates have in reintegrating themselves back into society.

Take a look inside these walls, a bracing look at fellow humans fighting circumstances that dehumanize: Take a look at Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time. Unfiltered and presented in the words of the jailers and the imprisoned, it will take you into the chiaroscuro world of the female inmate, a world never seen before in quite this way.

Source: “Opinion: Why Obama Should Take on Prison Reform,” AOL News, 08/17/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.” Used with permission.

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