Prison Reform & Protecting Those Who Are Incarcerated In The USA
People across the United States had been expecting it and Derrick Chauvin was indeed found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd. Some folks were satisfied with the results hoping to bring in a new era of police accountability. Police will need to be more strategic when they apprehend suspects of any color avoiding deadly confrontation. Unfortunately, it’s the shock of a police officer being attacked that has a tragic result. At the same time, no one can ever judge what police have to go through on a daily basis and individual citizens need to always show support to the men in blue.
Even with the progress being made to protect races of all types in the United States there is still the elephant in the room which is still yet to be resolved, and that is prison reform. According to Statista, as of May 2020 the incarceration rate in the United States was 655 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents. That’s nearly one out of every hundred people in the United States who are in prison which is a quite shocking statistic. According to a chart published by The Federal Bureau of Prisons, just 38.2% of incarcerations are due to violent offenses (violent offenses include homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, national security, robbery, sex offenses, weapons, explosives, and arson). It’s quite clear that we have got a problem in the United States and it’s the prisoners, their families, and taxpayers that are paying for it.
What Are The Prison Conditions Like In The United States?
There are many organizations like the ACLU and Human Right Watch that have a narrative that will not be used as a resource to judge the general state of prisons in the USA. Just to put things into perspective, Newsweek published an article showing the contrasts between prisons in countries around the world. The conditions in a prison in the United States is like a holiday camp in comparison with prisons in Thailand and Russia. With that being said we will now go into the challenges that prisoners in correctional facilities face in the United States.
Alabama’s State Prisons
On April 2, 2019, the United States Justice Department of Civil Rights Division filed an investigation deeming the living conditions for inmates unconstitutional. In addition, the investigation made claims of an excessive amount of violence, sexual abuse, and prisoner deaths occuring on a regular basis. The Justice Department had become aware of the unsanitary conditions after cell phones were smuggled into some of the correctional facilities and photos and videos were taken of horrible living conditions. Running dirty water, rats running passed sleeping inmates, and other appalling living conditions were documented. What is even worse are the cases of death and sucide that occurred there.
Billy Thorton was an inmate at one of Alabama’s State prisons and was just six months away from completing his sentence for statutory rape. The problem was that Billy was mentally ill and it had been reported from inmates that he had constantly called for help and would be ignored. In the end, Billy committed suicide by hangining himself in his prison cell. This devastated his mother who is now advocating for prisoner reform in his memory and on behalf of other menatlyy ill prisoners.
Anamosa State Penitentiary
It’s not just the prisoners that are in danger but it’s the prison guards as well. The Anamosa State Penitentiary is a maximum security prison in Anamosa, Iowa, and houses approximately 950 offenders. On March 23, 2021, registered nurse Lorena Schulte and Correctional Officer Robert McFarland were killed by inmates, Thomas Woodard, and Michael Dutcher in a failed prison escape. Democratic officials accused the Iowa Department of Corrections of running over 10% of prisoner capacity with 9% of staff positions vacant putting those who were working in the facility at risk.
Anyone who is working at any correctional facility needs to be protected from any harm. People often think of prison reform as protecting the rights of those who are incarcerated but there are many brave men and women working there that deserve to be protected as well. Many of these workers are a part of unions that fight for their safeguard but still more needs to be done to avoid unfortunate tragedies like those of Lorena Schulte and Robert McFarland.
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
FMC Carswell located in Fort Worth, Texas, houses female inmates with special medical and mental health needs. Tragedy struck on April 12, 2021, when Martha Evanoff, 62, died from the lack of medical care for an intestinal blockage. It was not known at the time what exactly her health condition was, but she was in pain and it was not addressed by the medical staff. Other prisoners at FMC Carswell had reported hearing Martha cry for medical care, but she never received the help she needed.
There are many prisoners in the United States who are dealing with chronic health conditions that are not given the proper medical attention. It is not up for debate as to whether or not they deserve to be in that environment based on their offense. Once the state has incarcerated them it’s their obligation to provide them with proper medical care. If inmates are dying of a medical condition in prison something has to be done to protect their rights.
United States Does Care For Its Prisoners
Every death in a United States correctional facility is truly a tragedy and should be avoided at all costs. However, the government does go far and beyond to make the conditions safe for everyone who works and is housed at a correctional facility in the United States. We may only see the stories in the news bashing the prison system but there is a vast rule book in place when operating both private and state run facilities.
Daily Meals In US Prisons Are Healthy & Nutritious
The Federal Bureau of Prisons publishes meals it serves in prisons on it’s website that are healthy and nutritious. In addition, inmates have access to commissary accounts where family can send them money to be used to purchase items in prison like additional phone call credits, meat, fish, soda beverages, snacks, and other personal items that give them a bit of normalcy in a confined state. The United States makes an effort to see that those who are incarcerated are cared for and can live a somewhat normal life while in prison. Though we house more prisoners per capita than any other country in the world, we do make an effort to see that they are safe and cared for.
Allocating Funds For Medically Ill & Violent Offenders
It’s frustrating to families to see their loved ones incarcerated for a non violent offense which does not pose any danger to society. At the same time, there needs to be oversight that these individuals’ wrong doings do not go unpunished in order that there should be civility in the United States. People need to abide by the law and we need to have a functioning society. However, if someone fails to follow the law and does not pose a physical threat to the people around him we should not be wasting tax dollars on imprisoning them.
Before any item gets into a prison it must be examined making sure that it cannot be used as a weapon against any inmates or correctional officers. For example, floor interlocking tiles can only be used in watch towers and communication rooms and not in the prisoner areas. Those in charge of the facilities are afraid that the rubber floor tiles will be used for weapons and therefore cannot use them for flooring in rooms where the inmates are present. Any item or material that comes into a prison must pass a thorough inspection by the facility administration to be allowed in the prisoner area. However, the locking floor tiles are a highly durable option for correctional facilities outside the prisoner area.
Correctional facilities should house only individuals who pose a threat to society. Those individuals should be separated into groups of threes; those who are dangerous and physically fit, dangerous and in need of medical care, the dangerous and mentaly ill. All others who have committed nonviolent offenses should be incorporated into a separate justice system that sees that these offenders are responsible for their crimes. Take for example, someone who evades taxes must pay back the government through a monthly stipend rather than being thrown behind bars. The government should oversee individual banking until the taxes are paid up. Only then can the offenders go ahead with the life of a private citizen with 100% full rights of privacy.
Prison reform is complex but the current conditions of prisons needs to be addressed on both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans need to find common ground and realize that they are elected by the people and have to stop playing partisan politics. People in the United States need to find common ground and stop the fighting. We all have one thing in common as Americans and that is that we want to live in a safe society that looks out for the protection of all individuals, even those who are unfortunately in prison.