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HomeHuman RightsFrom the Previous to the Current – UAB Institute for Human Rights...

From the Previous to the Current – UAB Institute for Human Rights Weblog

A picture of a tightly packed girls’s jail. Supply: Soumya Misra (Nursing CLIO) through Yahoo Photos Public Area

This can be a continuation of the dialog in regards to the Alabama Jail Disaster as uncovered by Mary Scott Hodgin in her podcast, “Deliberate Indifference.” When you’ve got not learn the earlier weblog put up on this subject, “The Ongoing Alabama Jail Disaster: A Historical past”, it is suggested that you simply achieve this. Additionally, if you want extra data and particulars concerning this subject, please hearken to the podcast, “Deliberate Indifference,” by Mary Scott Hodgin. Now, with out additional ado, allow us to leap proper in from the place we left off.

Within the earlier weblog, we centered on the historical past of jail programs in America, and notably, a number of the legislations and ideologies that laid out the muse for the correctional establishments we all know at this time. We explored intimately the convict leasing system that helped rebuild the infrastructure of the Antebellum South following their defeat within the Civil Conflict, and the racialized legal guidelines and legislations that disproportionately landed Black and Brown individuals in jail over their White counterparts. The Conflict on Medication period adopted by the Powerful on Crime period landed a whole bunch of nonviolent offenders in jail, serving longer and harsher sentences and life with out parole. Whereas our focus within the final weblog was extra nationwide, it was vital context to set the stage to raised perceive the realities that face the Alabama jail programs centered on on this weblog.

The target now’s to look deeper into the circumstances of the penal system in Alabama, the lawsuits they confronted in 2017, and the newest one in 2020, how the pandemic exacerbated these circumstances, the jail strikes that occurred inside these prisons, and a few methods to maneuver ahead to result in precise change – change within the mindset of our fellow Alabama voters, and a shift in the best way the jail inhabitants is seen and handled as an entire. We’ll take a look at some teams which are making an attempt to do exactly that, from organizations like Alabama Appleseed and the Offender Alumni Affiliation to spiritual teams and different academic teams that sponsor applications inside the jail system to offer alternatives for larger schooling to the imprisoned inhabitants.

Jail Situations

An image depicting a dormitory style housing unit. Many of Alabama's prisons are structured this way.
A picture depicting a dormitory-style housing unit. A lot of Alabama’s prisons are structured this fashion. Supply: Yahoo Photos through ACLU

Whereas exploring the newest reviews that resulted from the federal investigations of Alabama’s prisons, there have been many similarities within the reviews. Whereas the issues of understaffing and overcrowding have been expressed intimately, (which shall be mentioned under), there was additionally in depth statement of the dwelling circumstances contained in the prisons. What the investigations revealed was surprising, and regardless of having been suggested to deal with these points even within the Nineteen Seventies investigation of Alabama’s prisons, the circumstances had not improved. Moderately, it had deteriorated much more as a result of penalties of staffing and crowding points.

Each reviews extensively present detailed examples of violent outbreaks inside the prisons, between prisoners, and even by the hands of jail employees concentrating on the prisoners. Many such incidents go unreported, and others have even ended within the dying of the imprisoned particular person. One of many issues that contribute to this violence is the construction of the jail itself. A lot of Alabama’s prisons are original in a dormitory-style of housing models as an alternative of the person cell models depicted in in style tradition. These housing models are primarily monumental halls which are secured on the edges, with bunk beds piled into the room as shut as they’ll match. With little to no privateness, and jampacked in tight areas, individuals can get simply agitated, and this may result in violence. Because of the overcrowding situation, many individuals are even anticipated to sleep on the flooring, which could be unsanitary and uncomfortable. Because of the steady staffing points these prisons face, these giant models might go unguarded for lengthy durations of time, typically even total shifts.

This places each the inmates inside the models in danger for violence, and the jail employees who, to the incarcerated people, symbolize the authority from which these circumstances are sanctioned. Even nonetheless, many officers, as a result of understaffing situation, have ignored contraband possession (similar to medicine or cell telephones), deciding to choose and select their battles in an already tense setting. On account of all these points, corruption is rampant inside the jail partitions, and lots of jail employees, in response to narratives from each reviews, reap the benefits of this tense setting to claim dominance over prisoners with elevated brutality. People who find themselves incarcerated will not be seen by society as people with their very own pasts and presents. They’re solely seen as “criminals,” stay invisible to society and are dehumanized. Whatever the crimes that an individual commits, they’re on the finish of the day, nonetheless, individuals, who deserve dignity and fundamental human decency. As an establishment of the state, prisons are legally liable for offering a protected and safe setting for people who find themselves incarcerated to serve out their sentences as punishment. The American Structure doesn’t assist “merciless and strange punishments”, and beneath the Common Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the rights of imprisoned people are totally supported.

An infographic which lists the universal rights protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
An infographic that lists the common rights protected beneath the Common Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Supply: Irish Occasions through Yahoo Photos Public Area

2017 Federal Investigation

Within the earlier weblog, we centered on how the jail system of Alabama has been beneath federal investigation practically 50 years in the past within the Nineteen Seventies. Sadly, the circumstances outlined in these reviews have been by no means totally addressed, and the problems that have been highlighted have solely been exacerbated through the years. In September 2017, the Division of Justice from the federal authorities toured one among Alabama’s prisons, Bibb County Correctional Facility, for his or her official investigation of jail circumstances within the Alabama penal system. What they uncovered was outlined later in a report printed in 2019, stating over 50 pages price of proof in opposition to Alabama, and the minimal expectations the federal authorities laid out for Alabama to attain, each short-term and long-term.

The report is prefaced by the truth that these issues have been underlined inside per week of their investigation. In response to the report from the observations made in 2017, the Alabama correctional services confronted a myriad of points, together with an overcrowded jail inhabitants, with dangerously low staffing, problems with contraband coming into the prisons, and a bunch of observations pertaining to violence inside the prisons, together with bodily, psychological, and sexual violence. As mentioned within the earlier weblog, these overcrowding points come from the assorted legislations that have been handed, growing the lengths of sentences, criminalizing drug abuse and psychological well being points (as an alternative of treating them as medical points requiring rehabilitation and remedy), and incorporating necessary sentencing minimums and three-strikes legal guidelines. Together with figuring out the issues acknowledged above, the report additionally deemed the penal system’s insufficient safety of its inmate inhabitants from hurt, violence, and dying, a failure. The report mentioned at size how, together with unsanitary dwelling circumstances, there are harmful weapons and medicines which are circulating inside the prisons, making them unsafe for each the incarcerated individuals, in addition to the officers who work there. This in flip is each attributable to and exacerbated by the problems of overcrowding and understaffing inside the jail partitions. With fewer officers to oversee the dormitory-style prisons in Alabama, incarcerated individuals are packed collectively to fend for themselves.

Whereas not all individuals locked up in jail are violent offenders, research have proven that desperation, (which is rampant in these prisons), can result in violence, mistrust, and elevated legal conduct inside the inhabitants. Whereas the examine referenced centered on populations exterior of prisons, it’s protected to imagine that these outcomes are solely amplified inside the jail system. The individuals inside are each determined and already present process punishment, which implies that even the specter of punishment is just not a deterrence from committing these violent acts. This additionally implies that with fewer officers to oversee the dorms and halls of the jail, the general violence inside the prisons is elevated, making it harmful for your entire jail inhabitants.

As defined in each the report by the federal investigation, in addition to the podcast by Mary Scott Hodgin, there have been no less than 11 males that died in 2019 alone as a result of enhance in violence inside the Alabama prisons. To make issues worse, the federal investigation additionally discovered that the Alabama jail system’s record-keeping on these incidents and others was inaccurate, discovering that there have been many incidents that went unreported, and even many deaths misclassified as attributable to pure causes or medical causes relatively than as a result of violence discovered inside the prisons. In case you depend the whole variety of deaths inside the inmate inhabitants in 2019 categorized as pure causes or in any other case, the quantity is as excessive as 119 deaths.

An infographic providing statistics around mental health in the prison system.
An infographic offering statistics on psychological well being within the jail system. Supply: Cabrini College through Yahoo Photos Public Area

Along with the misclassifications and incidents not being reported, Hodgin additionally particulars in her podcast the insufficient psychological well being care supplied to incarcerated people inside Alabama’s prisons. This will result in an escalation of violence, and abuse of medication, and place incarcerated people coping with psychological well being points in harmful conditions. With out the right medical consideration required to deal with these people with psychological well being diseases, prisons can turn into a charged setting that may exacerbate their circumstances, making them extra susceptible to each turning into victims of violence, in addition to the perpetrators of the violent acts. Sadly, as a result of individuals with psychological well being points are 4 instances extra prone to be imprisoned as an alternative of receiving remedy and care, many people in jail already enter the system with out realizing observe social norms. This will put them at risk of being abused by officers and different imprisoned people alike, and with out correct care, their circumstances can turn into worse, and at instances, can finish in dying, both at their very own fingers or by the hands of one other.

One other main subject of concern addressed within the report is that sexual abuse and sexual violence. Sexual violence is rampant in Alabama’s prisons, and this situation is exacerbated by the understaffing situation current inside these services. With fewer officers staffed to take care of growing numbers of imprisoned individuals, there may be much less monitoring and supervision happening, making a breeding floor for violence, each sexual and bodily. A lot of the sexual abuse both go unnoticed, or unreported by employees members, and whereas the victims can report these incidents too, many select to not for concern of retaliation or emotions of disgrace. Their concern is just not unsubstantiated, as many accounts have been offered by which sexual assaults occurred in retaliation to the sufferer’s reporting of a earlier sexual assault. Along with the low staffing numbers, lots of the services in Alabama are constructed in a dormitory model, which means that imprisoned people are grouped into an enormous corridor relatively than particular person cells. This may be difficult for clear visibility of every particular person contained in the jail and their whereabouts. At instances, just one or two officers could also be in command of your entire unit, and typically, the incarcerated individuals go unsupervised.

Many incidents of sexual assault happen because of “drug debt”, the place an incarcerated particular person owes one other incarcerated particular person cash for medicine or different contraband and doesn’t pay.  There have even been incidents the place relations of people who find themselves incarcerated have been extorted for cash, with the specter of sexual violence in opposition to their imprisoned member of the family. Many victims of sexual abuse inside the prisons additionally alleged that these situations occurred after the victims themselves have been drugged or held at knifepoint. Whereas a lot of this goes unnoticed by the jail employees, some reviews that do handle to doc these incidents have even labeled sexual assault as “gay acts” relatively than nonconsensual sexual abuse. People who find themselves incarcerated that belong to the LGBTQI+ neighborhood are much more susceptible to sexual violence merely for his or her id. Sadly, lots of the officers in command of making certain that the prisons adjust to the Jail Rape Elimination Act (PREA), will not be even conscious of who amongst their incarcerated inhabitants belongs to the LGBTQI+ neighborhood. The PREA flags the LGBTQI+ inhabitants as being most in danger for sexual crimes, and the PREA managers within the Alabama Division of Corrections will not be totally complying with the requirements set by the laws.

After figuring out and explaining the assorted points the Division of Justice discovered inside Alabama’s jail system, the report argued that these circumstances violate the constitutional rights of the incarcerated individuals, and as such, offered some bare-minimum measures that Alabama ought to take instantly to keep away from a federal takeover of the prisons. These cures included addressing the problems of overcrowding and understaffing, the rampant violence (each bodily and sexual), the entry to contraband, and the dwelling circumstances inside the services. Along with these short-term measures, the report additionally prompt some long-term measures to implement, together with – amongst a listing of different issues – higher incentives to enhance staffing points, improved programs to trace, report, and tackle problems with violence, and extra regulation over jail circumstances and remedy of the imprisoned inhabitants. Alabama closed down one jail after this report (Draper Correctional Middle) and closed a very dangerous “behavioral modification unit” or “sizzling bays”, (the place incarcerated people are held as punishment for violence and medicines inside the jail) at Bibb Correctional facility. Whereas these closures have been a great place to start out, they need to be by no means, the one options to the lengthy record of issues outlined by the report following the federal investigation. Sadly, Alabama, as expressed within the report itself, has been “intentionally detached” to those conditions, and in consequence, skilled yet one more investigation in 2020.

2020 Federal Investigation

An image of an overcrowded cell colored in red to symbolize prison violence
A picture of an overcrowded cell coloured in crimson symbolizes jail violence. Supply: ProPublica through Yahoo Photos Public Area

The 2020 report from the Division of Justice’s investigation into Alabama’s prisons discovered related issues echoed within the 2017 investigation they performed. As talked about within the 2017 report, the 2020 report additionally addressed problems with overcrowding of prisoners, stating that each one of Alabama’s 13 prisons held 1000’s of individuals over the capability they have been designed for, making Alabama’s prisons among the many most overcrowded prisons within the nation. This report additionally referred to the risks of not having sufficient employees members to take care of and run these overcrowded services, this time specializing in how these staffing and overcrowding points have led to a rise in officers utilizing extreme drive in opposition to the incarcerated people, additional aggravating the violence that exists inside the jail partitions. This situation of extreme drive is additional examined within the report, claiming it’s a violation of the Eighth Modification to the Structure of the USA which outlaws merciless and strange punishments in opposition to imprisoned individuals.

The 2020 report particulars the numerous explanation why officers use extreme drive in opposition to people who find themselves imprisoned. Sadly, many officers have been identified to make use of violence and extreme drive to “deal with” a state of affairs, even in instances when there isn’t any bodily risk to the officer, and even when the incarcerated individuals are complying with the given orders. This has the tendency to escalate the state of affairs, inserting each the incarcerated particular person and the officers at risk’s means. The report offers numerous examples of such incidents the place the imprisoned individuals are reported to be complacent with the officers’ directions, even handcuffed with out methods to battle again, however have nonetheless been overwhelmed, tortured, and abused inhumanely. These officers filed false incident reviews claiming that they didn’t interact in such actions, and even after investigations of the incidents, the officers didn’t face any authorized penalties or disciplinary actions for his or her conduct.

At instances, extreme drive is utilized by officers as a type of punishment or retribution for disrespecting the officers or reporting them. The 2020 report describes a number of incidents the place extreme drive was used in opposition to incarcerated individuals merely for not following the precise instructions laid out by the officers. One incident consists of an imprisoned particular person being bodily abused and compelled to eat all of the leftover rooster for merely wanting some further meals. Different incidents define the usage of chemical sprays to punish incarcerated individuals or as a type of retribution for not following verbal orders. Chemical substances sprays are used even in instances when the imprisoned individuals don’t pose any bodily threats to the officers. Lastly, many officers additionally use drive to easily assert dominance and inflict ache on their expenses, one thing that not solely endangers the individuals concerned (each officer and incarcerated people) but additionally causes the incarcerated people to mistrust the officers in cost, escalating the tensions between the 2 teams.

All these incidents are violations of the eighth modification, and whereas lots of the investigations that these incidents resulted in agreed that there was no justification for the usage of extreme drive in any of those outlined incidents, the officers confronted little to no disciplinary actions for his or her conduct. The Division of Justice additionally included this situation of their report, arguing that unsurprisingly, officers both fail to report or inaccurately report incidents the place extreme drive is used. Many instances, extreme use of drive is investigated internally and advisable for an I & I investigation (Investigations and Intelligence unit of the Alabama Division of Corrections in command of investigating misconduct by jail employees). Sadly, the report declares that of all of the incidents advisable to the I&I unit, solely 40% of them are literally reviewed. To make issues worse, lots of the circumstances which are investigated by the I&I unit, the place extreme drive has been confirmed, are seldom referred to be criminally prosecuted. Which means that lots of the officers abusing their authority and misbehaving with incarcerated people go unpunished for his or her conduct. Many extra of the incidents the place extreme drive is used go unreported, with solely the sufferer’s bruises to bear witness to the incident. For concern of retaliation, many imprisoned individuals go with out reporting the abuse they face by the hands of officers. If the sufferer doesn’t cooperate within the investigation, the incident is deemed “unsubstantiated”, and the investigation is closed.

Following their investigation, the federal authorities proposed a listing of measures that Alabama’s Division of Corrections must take in an effort to totally adjust to federal laws for correctional establishments. These rapid measures included the necessity for extra I&I investigators, a greater system for victims of abuse from officers utilizing extreme drive to report their incidents anonymously and impartial of the jail’s authorities, clear procedures for accountability for officers, and higher documentation and investigations of incidents the place extreme drive is used.

COVID-19 and Its Impression on the Jail Inhabitants

A cartoon depicting a prisoner digging with a shovel, with a caption underneath reading: "I'm not escaping. I'm just trying to get tested for Covid-19." While this image was referencing the protocols followed by Mississippi prisons, this was essentially the same in Alabama's prisons as well.
A cartoon depicting a prisoner digging with a shovel, with a caption beneath studying: “I’m not escaping. I’m simply making an attempt to get examined for Covid-19.” Whereas this picture was referencing the protocols adopted by Mississippi prisons, this was primarily the identical in Alabama’s prisons as effectively. Supply: Mississippi At present through Yahoo Photos Public Area

Along with these inhumane circumstances the imprisoned inhabitants expertise that violate the essential human rights of incarcerated individuals, the outbreak of Covid-19 significantly amplified this situation, and shortly, the prisons turned a contagious and lethal setting for each the jail employees and their expenses. With little to no entry to sufficient healthcare and deteriorating psychological well being attributable to the circumstances of their setting, people who find themselves incarcerated are particularly susceptible to illness outbreaks. On the nationwide stage, in response to a examine performed in 2020 by the American Medical Affiliation, individuals incarcerated have been 5 instances extra possible than individuals dwelling exterior the jail system to be contaminated by the virus, and the dying charges amongst jail populations have been larger than the nationwide common on the time. Making issues worse, attributable to circumstances of overcrowding contained in the prisons, the outbreak was particularly harmful, as incarcerated individuals have been unable to adequately quarantine and unable to take care of protected social distance between one another. There was additionally the chance of jail employees bringing the virus into the prisons from the surface world, and likewise recirculating the contagion inside the prisons again into the bigger society. A UAB publication by the Faculty of Public Well being declared the prisons a “petri dish for COVID-19”.

So as to add to this downside, the prisons have been notoriously unsanitary, which means that preventative measures similar to sustaining clear areas and washing fingers with anti-bacterial soaps, have been inconceivable to take care of. Moreover, understaffing points difficult this case, as those that have been contaminated have been both uncared for till circumstances have been too unhealthy to disregard, or they have been supplied with insufficient healthcare measures. In Alabama, a novel state of affairs additional difficult the destructive penalties of the pandemic. A big portion of Alabama’s jail inhabitants belongs to the older age teams as a result of strict and lengthy sentencing legal guidelines of the state, and the truth that the pandemic was thought of to be much more harmful for aged individuals additional put individuals incarcerated inside Alabama’s prisons in jeopardy. Entry to healthcare inside the jail system makes this situation life-threatening, and regardless of the urgency from the American Medical Affiliation to incorporate the jail inhabitants within the susceptible communities record for vaccinations, the Equal Justice Initiative reported that Alabama’s prisons denied its incarcerated individuals vaccinations. Whereas some jail employees obtained vaccines, they weren’t required by the state to be vaccinated to work within the prisons, persevering with to position the lives of incarcerated people in peril. On account of insufficient protecting gear (similar to masks), and negligent conduct on a part of the state and the jail employees, the prisons in Alabama encountered a lot of Covid-19 deaths.

Alabama Jail Strikes

A group of people protesting prison conditions and calling for the protection of the rights of incarcerated people.
A gaggle of individuals protesting jail circumstances and calling for the safety of the rights of incarcerated individuals. Supply: Occupy Oakland through Yahoo Photos Public Area

After dwelling by the grave circumstances of the pandemic, and witnessing the unchanging setting inside the prisons, the incarcerated people determined it was time to take issues into their very own fingers. In September of 2022, incarcerated individuals from all the 13 prisons in Alabama started hanging in opposition to the jail circumstances they endured. They argued that the jail system was violating their fundamental human rights, offered insufficient healthcare, and didn’t in any means show to be a spot of rehabilitation for the imprisoned inhabitants. As a substitute, they initiated a strike, refusing to work their jail jobs (similar to within the laundry division and the upkeep division) that they didn’t obtain compensation for, referred to as for enhancements in jail circumstances, and demanded reforms to the cruel sentencing legal guidelines presently in impact within the state of Alabama.

Whereas imprisoned individuals are demanding to be handled pretty in jail, the governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, insisted that the calls for of the jail inhabitants have been “simply unreasonable,” sustaining that the brand new development of the 2 mega prisons in Alabama would clear up all these problems with understaffing and overcrowding. These mega prisons, constructed with the usage of funds designated to the state for pandemic aid, (inflicting public debate on this controversial topic), are supposed to offer extra space for the overcrowded prisons in Alabama, and reviews have surfaced about the opportunity of hiring extra officers for the newer mega prisons. This mission will obtain a complete of over $1.2 billion in funding, of which $400 million comes from the pandemic aid funds.

What is important to incorporate right here is that whereas these two new prisons will present extra space to deal with incarcerated people, (as much as 4,000 in every), these prisons are changing present prisons with newer applied sciences and services. Whereas this will likely seem to be an enchancment in some jail circumstances, (similar to extra safety and cleaner, sanitary models), it doesn’t clear up problems with overcrowding or staffing points. The huge funds awarded to this mission, as an alternative of going towards constructing two mega prisons, may have been used extra properly to deal with the core problems with society that enhance crime and criminality inside its neighborhood. As well as, sure laws and reforms may have been handed to overturn the cruel sentencing legal guidelines that exist in Alabama at this time. This may have solved each the problems of overcrowding and understaffing, as with fewer individuals being incarcerated and extra individuals qualifying for parole, the whole quantity of individuals inside the system would lower, which might additionally result in a lower within the variety of incarcerated individuals the jail employees is liable for. A lower within the jail inhabitants would additionally result in a lower in violence and extra space for every particular person inside the jail partitions.

Current Sources

An infographic depicting the difference between education versus incarceration.
An infographic depicting the distinction between schooling and incarceration. Supply: Yahoo Photos through

There are a lot of organizations which have tried to deal with each the assorted points that incarcerated individuals face inside the jail system and people face as they re-enter society after finishing their sentences. These organizations embrace Alabama Appleseed, Offender Alumni Affiliation, Shepherds Fold, One Roof, and Support to Inmate Moms. Alabama Appleseed, which belongs to the nationwide Appleseed Community, is a Middle for Regulation and Justice that focuses on fairness and justice, and analysis round jail reforms in Alabama’s penal system. The Offender Alumni Affiliation, recognizing the significance of human connection, focuses on offering assist and engagement inside the jail partitions, and neighborhood and stronger familial relationships exterior, all whereas aiming to finish the stigma round imprisonment. This group is a assist system for incarcerated individuals run by individuals who have been previously incarcerated and have interaction in neighborhood efforts similar to their Heroes within the Hood program to assist encourage significant targets inside the youthful generations of high-risk communities to channel their power towards neighborhood restoration. Shepherds Fold, as a transition residence, offers related providers from a faith-based strategy, instilling Christian values inside their taking part members. One Roof, a corporation whose mission is to finish homelessness in Alabama, is yet one more useful resource for individuals re-entering society after being incarcerated. Via their observe of Coordinated Entry, or an in-depth wants evaluation, One Roof is ready to safe housing for these in want and level them to extra sources they might require based mostly on their evaluation. This may be very useful for a lot of, particularly those that have been incarcerated for many years lengthy, and who will not be conscious of what sources exist locally, or go about securing them. Lastly, Support to Inmate Moms (AIM) is a corporation that gives help to moms who’re incarcerated, each throughout their incarceration, in addition to their transition interval into society after their sentences have been served. AIM offers transportation to kids for visitations with their moms in jail and offers incarcerated moms alternatives to report bedtime tales for his or her kids. Their reentry applications intention to reconnect moms with their kids, present a couple of necessities for these leaving jail, present lessons on life expertise, job preparedness, parenting, and different matters for individuals who have an interest, and even present transition housing for a 12 months, although it comes with a couple of eligibility necessities, together with rental charges charged weekly.

There are additionally academic alternatives which are offered for incarcerated individuals in Alabama’s prisons. The Alabama Jail Arts and Schooling Venture led by Auburn College, and the Donaldson Lecture Collection led by the College of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) are solely two such applications. The Alabama Jail Arts and Schooling Venture offers incarcerated people an opportunity to earn school credit whereas serving time. These programs are supplied within the discipline of arts and sciences, and for individuals who can sustain with the requirements of Auburn’s educational applications, this can be a nice alternative for incarcerated people to pursue larger schooling, and in consequence, be higher outfitted to deal with the skilled world upon their launch. Equally, UAB additionally provides lecture collection at Donaldson Jail. Whereas not as in depth or academically progressive as Auburn’s program, the Donaldson Lecture Collection focuses on academic talks given to incarcerated people inside the jail each different Tuesday for tutorial enrichment functions.

Shifting the Mindset Round Crime and Punishment

An image of solidarity in favor of Prisoner Rights
A picture of solidarity in favor of Prisoner Rights; Supply: Yahoo Photos Public Area through

These sources are well-intentioned and have helped save so many lives thus far. But, this isn’t sufficient; there’s a much-needed shift within the societal mindset round crime and punishment. The difficulty of the jail system is rooted within the racist founding of this nation, and as such, has systemic implications on numerous areas of an individual’s life. Reforms can solely go thus far, as they’re nonetheless items of laws that attempt to make modifications to the prevailing legal guidelines, however they nonetheless function beneath those self same legal guidelines. There must be a shift in the best way incarcerated individuals are seen inside the bigger society, and there must be a reexamination of the legal guidelines on the books since many of the establishments in America are rooted in beliefs of supremacy. Some issues that may assist us rethink the best way we strategy matters that contain imprisoned individuals are prompt under.

As defined earlier, altering the language round how individuals in jail are talked about can humanize the inhabitants and foster compassion in direction of the group. Consult with them as imprisoned individuals or individuals in jail relatively than branding them the title of “prisoner” or “inmate”. This helps shift the narrative. “Prisoner” or “Inmate” appears to suggest that these people are criminals on the core, and types them as “others” within the eyes of society. As a substitute, referring to them as “imprisoned individuals” implies they’re human, with pure rights, and solely dwelling in a situation of imprisonment relatively than being outlined by their circumstances.

Lastly, I depart you with a problem: rethink how crime and punishment are framed in our society. Who’s held accountable? Who isn’t? What acts are thought of legal and what aren’t? Who decides which acts to outline as legal and which of them don’t? Who advantages from the present legal “justice” system? Does committing against the law make you a nasty particular person, a “legal” for the remainder of your life, or must you be given one other probability to reform? Ought to individuals be branded innately “legal” or are their actions influenced by the circumstances of the society they dwell in and depending on the context and motivations behind the crime dedicated? Is it truthful to punish somebody based mostly on actions (errors sure, however nonetheless actions) dedicated as younger individuals for the remainder of their lives? Why is it that our society locations the label “criminals” on individuals who commit crimes, however refuses to see them as the rest? Individuals could be “criminals” and nonetheless be artists, musicians, poets, writers, activists, steel staff, and so on. Why does our society insist on inserting a singular label on this inhabitants? May it’s to simply neglect their existence, to take away humanity from their essence? All these are vital inquiries to ask ourselves to grasp our personal biases in direction of imprisoned individuals and started to rethink our personal actions that may have long-lasting penalties on the lives of so many. In spite of everything, this jail disaster is going on in our personal yard, and if we don’t communicate out in opposition to these atrocities, we’re simply as responsible as these committing them.




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