PAMPHLETS FOR A BETTER HUMANKIND Addressing The Micro- And Macro-Problems Facing Humankind, And Providing Achievable Solutions; Going Where The Politically Correct Dare Not. (While the SOLUTION offered herein may not be a panacea, and may be provocative, it is offered as a positive step to correct the problem presented.)
PRISONERS MUST BE SOCIALIZED BEFORE THEY CAN BE REHABILITATED
David Scott Harrison, (c) 2008
Bureaucrats, politicians, the media, victims' rights organizations, liberals, conservatives, humanitarians, and the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association ("CCPOA") have all weighed in on the issue: Is the ever-expanding prisoner population of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation the result of failing to rehabilitate prisoners? But not one of them has yet to addresses and debate the root problem. The problem is not only the politicians who have shamelessly advanced their careers by being ever-more hard on crime and in the process enacting thousands of superfluous criminal statutes that require ever-longer sentences; Governors who have held onto office with iron-fisted no-parole policies; the media that no longer digs deeps into corruption, injustice and social ills; judges who are nearly each and every one of them ex-prosecutors (if not in fact, than in ideology) sitting high on their benches doing the same as they did as prosecutors, massaging trials so that the guilty, as well as the innocent (with no regard for the distinction between the two), go swiftly to prison; the CCPOA members whose Priority #1 is increasing their power and influence, and are directly responsible for the majority of the violence and drug trafficking in all prisons. You will find fault with society, and the breakdown of the family, unquestionably serious problems giving rise to criminality. Nonetheless, those are not the focus of this writing. All that aside, the root problem is the prisoners themselves.
I have spent nineteen years in federal prisons throughout the United States, and State of California prisons, from bloodshedding penitentiaries such as Leavenworth and Calipatria, respectively, to Medium Level (Bureau of Prisons) and Level III (California) institutions. The one constant factor within all prisons is that the majority of all prisoners are defective; embodying little if any self-esteem, they are compulsive liars (to themselves, family and all others), schemers, gamblers, bullies, racists, lazy, have no empathy, sympathy or compassion for others, they are drug addicts, gang members, violent (for any reason or no reason at all), alcoholics, thieves, rude, at best ignorant, often illiterate. Of course, they were not born that way, but were marred throughout childhood with emotional and psychological dents and scratches that were exacerbated as they grew into teenagers and adults. The effect is generation after generation of damaged humans. Society's solution to the problem has been to "recall" those defective persons, i.e., send them to prison to be rehabilitated. But that is not a "recall" designed to repair such seriously damaged products.
There is no rehabilitation in prison. Education classes are a state sanctioned sham, a place for students to sleep, play games, and cheat on their class-work, if they bother to show up for class at all. Vocational courses are dated paths to nowhere, teaching skills that are no longer in demand from the current job market. It is not unusual for students to have more days off than they have attending class, because teachers and instructors have sweet contracts that allow excessive time off (there is no such thing as a substitute teacher/instructor in prison, so when one decides to take a month, or two, or more, off, the class is shut down and the students are free for the duration). Still, the matters offered above are just a few sore feet on a millipede. Even if worthwhile education/vocation existed it would make no difference, because the prisoners are severely damaged in deeper ways. Sending prisoners to these classes is merely the exercise of polishing apples that are rotten to the core, and an exercise strenuously resisted by prisoners.
At the core, the prisoners of whom I write, the majority of prisoners, are persons who never lived normal lives, and as a result were never in good social-condition; they have never been exposed to even rudimentary social skills. They are anti-social because they were never socialized in the first place. Their social environments growing up have always been saturated with crime, gangs, violence, illiteracy, prejudices, and addictions. Giving such people a bogus General Education Diploma (GED) or certificate in automobile tire repair does not teach, for example, how to eat in a civilized manner, to be fair and honest, or to feel compassion for others.
While incarcerated at Ironwood State Prison, Blythe, California, I was assigned for a while as a clerk for the Palo Verde College program, which provided prisoners with the opportunity to earn Associate and Bachelor Degrees in various areas of study. My duties required that I interact with the students to answer questions, resolve disagreements, and sort out confusion or other problems that would arise in matters of their studies. In nearly every instance, those college educated prisoners proved to me that they had learned no social skills in the years it took them to earn their degrees. Those prisoners still handled even the slightest adversity or challenge with raised voices, aggression, threats and physical violence. On the streets, such individuals will go to job interviews with their diploma in one pocket and a gun in the other. If fortunate enough to land a job, he is most likely to stab any coworker who dares to question his job performance. Socialization is the only way to repair these broken people, if they can be repaired at all.
THE SOLUTION is to require by law as a condition of release from prison that prisoners be taught, learn and demonstrate in their daily lives social skills suitable for living in a civilized manner in the free world. Until social skills (as well as real education and useful vocational training) are required by law as a condition of release from prison then California and the United States will continue to incarcerate more and more of her population. The reality underlying the failure of the CDC&R to rehabilitate prisoners is that there never has been, and never will be any rehabilitation without socialization.