Prison and prisons

We have got to do this better.

We know that solitary confinement is torture, that it does nothing but push broken people to their breaking points–and how does that make society or any of us safer?  We know this and yet we keep doing it, even if President Obama recently banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prison (though I’m unsure of what this means for young people in state prisons or local detention).  Not only do we keep doing it, but when we run out of space we don’t look for alternatives, we simply double up people (including people with a history of violence or known to have a mental illness) in the same small, confined space we already know to cause healthy people to lose their minds.

Not to mention that “the three largest inpatient psychiatric facilities in the country are jails: Los Angeles County Jail, Rikers Island Jail in New York City and Cook County Jail in Illinois“–institutions that at best are ill equipped for mental health treatment, and at worst can be fatal.  These are preventable deaths.  We moved towards deinstitutionalization for a reason, and for very good ones, but we still haven’t quite figured out what to do instead, and how.

Even those who come out don’t come out unscathed.  Kids learn to become criminals, and I’m not sure what we expect people with criminal records to do if they can’t get or keep a job after they get out.

Not that there isn’t a need or a place for corrections, but when we fail to remember that the purpose is supposed to be making it safer for all of us, when we fail to take the long view…  We asked for a cheap (at first), quick bandage and that’s what we got.  I don’t know what the answers are but we better do something differently because this is death by a thousand cuts, times a thousand, times a thousand…