Friday, April 13, 2012

Housing People of Imperfection

The Bay Guardian features an interesting insider look at correctional policy and realignment by Eugene Alexander Day, a three-striker in Soledad Prison. It's worth a read in its entirety. Here's a short excerpt:

It took some of the sting off my life sentence when the Supreme Court smashed the CDCR in 2011. Systemic mismanagement corrupted a generation of salvageable prisoners. As someone who lives, breathes, and sleeps the politics of justice, the Legislature didn't simply kick the can down the road – it pushed the state closer to the precipice. State leaders have set a poor example. By failing to follow the evidence in 2007, all 58 counties had Realignment shoved down their throats in 2011.

This lens through which I see the world is depicted as “synchronized drowning” by Attorney General Kamala Harris. For the last 13 years, I've struggled to keep my wits in this sea of despair. Deviants need structured treatment, not more of the same. Shifting the responsibility of tens of thousands of offenders away from CDCR is an idea of brilliant simplicity.

Local law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts are better suited to solve local problems. These offenders are members of your community. The next time the task force stomps through the ghetto snatching up people of color, they must think about how to house all of these people of imperfection. Good. Most need help, not a jackboot.

. . .

The counties might hate Realignment, but I hate the fact it took so long. Marking a happy day in this collaborator's miserable life, a whole class of offenders have been diverted away from the Monster Factory. Excellent. Realignment is not some hug-a-thug program. It's basic math. So used to being treated like shit, I will die before I advocate for mollycoddling prisoners. Using offenders as earmarks to maintain an unsustainable status quo is a feeling worse than death. Fix the problem.

My dreams are skewed. In my way of thinking, prisons should become factories that turn monsters into advocates for social justice. Offenders need to learn the difference between pro-social and antisocial behavior, not how to shove dope up their asses or participate in a riot.

I'm not sure whether Day will be pleased or disappointment with the results of the realignment experiment. The intent, to produce jails as instruments of rehabilitation, is laudable, but only if the jails really are up to the task. So far, some initiatives look promising, while others, such as jail building initiatives, absurd cost-rolling measures, and health care fiascos, do not. I guess time will tell.

1 comment:

Tom said...

My perspective might be skewed by the counties I've lived in and the jails they have (LA County and Alameda County), but those conditions wouldn't I think give a whole lot of reason for hope, even compared to CDCR. LA County has been overcrowded and dangerous for so long that I couldn't see it as much of an improvement over any state facility. Alameda at least today is under capacity and has one of the state's lowest recidivism rates.