“I don’t know how to live out here,” my parolee uncle said as he smoked in the backyard, watching the day go by.
If someone were to tally up all the years he has been alive, at least a quarter of those years would be behind bars.
Every scar on his body proves it. Every tattoo describes it.
Learning about his difficulties transitioning from life inside to the outside world made me realize society has an unfair outlook on the realities of life beyond bars.
This isn’t a problem that affects a select few people. Instead it affects everyone, because prisons are no longer a center for punishment.
Instead, prisons have become a training ground for aggressive behavior, violent outbreaks and emotional scarring.
When an individual is put in that situation how do you expect them to act when they’re released?
I’m sure most people see the perils of prison; we watch it on television, read it in books and find it on the web, but I think the assumption is that life after prison continues even after being released.
There’s a notion that a happy ending will eventually occur for these people, scenes such as the one in the ‘Shawshank Redemption’ when Red is going to find Andy fixing a boat in Mexico.
The reality is that a lack of skill-building programs offered in prisons has left many released from prison in a wayward stupor.
Former inmates lack the skills to make it in the “real world” and often resort to old habits in order to survive.
In fact, about 65 percent of inmates let out between 2006 and 2007 returned in three years according to the 2011 Adults Institutions Outcome Evaluation Report.
This certainly doesn’t help prisons being filled to the brim with convicts, which was aided by the 1994 Three Strike Law, voted into law by self-righteous California voters.
Maybe the issue is that we don’t consider people who commit crimes to be people, which may explain our relentless effort to make these facilities into hellholes.
First, we support the death penalty which is justified in our minds because it shrinks the amount of people we can jam into cells.
Then, we want cut backs on programs that not only help inmates after prison find work, but also help fund and maintain these prisons.
The worst part is, I think a lot of people know what I’m talking about.
We’re aware of the problem, we just don’t have the time or means to care. How long can we wait before it becomes our problem?
Prison is no longer a correctional facility, it breaks more than it fixes. Everyday it releases the delinquent pupils it creates back into society. Incarceration is a machine that seeks to financially secure itself while giving the illusion it is protecting society from monsters, the very same monsters it produces.
My uncle is not alone in his troubles, lost in a world that hates him by default and judges him for what he has done years ago. Even though he has served his time, he is still being punished by a society that doesn’t care.