A Prison Nation

by Vince

KT provides some interesting points for those willing to discuss America’s prison system:

In the twenty-seven nations of the European Union, whose combined population exceeds ours by nearly two hundred million, the total prison population for all crimes combined is around six hundred thousand.  In the US, we’ve got almost that number of people – five hundred thousand to be precise — in prison for drug related crimes alone.  And many of these crimes involve no violence whatsoever.

Even the racial aspects of incarceration are striking:

African Americans make up roughly twelve percent of our total population, but they make up over forty percent of the prison population.  Latinos make up thirteen percent of the population, but twenty percent of prison inmates.  The prison system is one of the epicenters of racial inequality in America.   If current trends continue, one-third of all black males and one-sixth of all Latino males will go to prison during their lives, as opposed to one in seventeen white males.

As easy as it is to say “fix the broken system!” it is harder than many can fathom. Just spending one day in an in-school suspension room at a middle school will give you a taste of what reformers are up against. We cannot talk to these detained students, yet (healthy) attention is most likely just what they need. We cannot really help them with their work and are to encourage them to figure it out on their own (because they ruined their chance in class to be taught), yet patient help is what they do need.

This may take me off of the original topic, but it has me questioning aspects of the public school system (which I have been for a few months). The system is very much assembly-line-esque with almost a one size fits all approach. The outlier pupils – most notably those who cannot sit still due to ADHD, anxiety, etc. – are disciplined. From my first hand experience, the students I had who exhibited ADHD or anxiety symptoms had issues stemming from their parents (or lack of parental presence). Some of these students became hyper-active due to these home issues and others reticent to the point that I unfortunately might not even notice them on a day to day basis.

I hope this all can emphasize a few things. One, family (supportive, loving, present, active) really does matter. Two, support systems (teachers, tutors, clubs, teams, religious institutions, et al) are strong supplemental systems that in some cases are even the primary support for our younger generation. Third and finally, having the first and second aforementioned points as positive presences in a students life are just what they (and we all) need to move along through the ups and downs in life (whether through discipline issues at school, a lost job, or a string of incarcerations).

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