Over the last couple of years I have heard a lot of talk on the subject of reentry. I had great hopes when the second chance act was passed. I have great hopes when re-entry staff positions were created at the Department of Corrections and regional offices. However, I see no progress where the rubber meets the road when I watch ex-offenders get out of prison.
What I do see is over burdened support staff getting saddled with additional requirements but not given the assets or resources to properly accomplish the most critical functions. What I see are statistics and numbers manipulated to justify the positions being created. What I don’t see is changes in the end result. The end result is that ex-offenders are released back into the same community they came from totally unprepared with the most basic skills to engage competently in life.
However, on the flip side of the prison equation are the laws of the state and draconian penalties that will do nothing but grow the prison population. The single biggest reason I can think of for this situation is that the criminal justice community could not tolerate a major cut in jobs.
I see no changes in the process of mixing mentally ill with general population. A system that only ends up with the extended use of psychotropic drugs to the general population in part because of the chaos they generate in the dorms and work places. The extent of which can be seen in the purchases of psychotropic drugs far above that of the general population at large. A system that surely warms the heart of the pharmaceutical industries and their stock holders which are our retirement plans.
I see no changes in the dysfunctional school systems that fail to educate. We are not talking of thousands but millions of men and women in or have passed through the jails and prisons of the nations. Kids that no one dares speak about. Tell me of state social services that loose track of hundreds of kids a day. Kids that have been traumatized beyond belief. Tell me of kids that are on the streets at 9, 10, 11 and so on. Let me tell you of the kids who started a life long pattern of addictions and crime in the family medicine cabinet. Let me tell you of kids that started a life long pattern of addictions and crime because they were medicated to make it easier at home and in the schools of our nation. Let me tell me of the armed deputies and police patrolling the middle and high schools of the nation because parents and educators are not equal to the leadership tasks that are a part of their responsibilities. Let me tell you of drug dealers that got their basic education in the high schools of our nation selling drugs other kids stole from the family medicine chest. Let me tell you of kids that got their start in prostitution in the high schools of the nation in exchange for drugs other kids stole from the family medicine chest. All of which goes on under the eyes of the armed deputies that patrol the halls of the middle and high schools of our nation. All of which no one speaks about because no one wants to own the problem.
The business community looks at those in the criminal justice community as a secure economic population that car loans and mortgages can be loaned. The close knit nature of the criminal justice community makes it a most powerful single issue voting block. If there is the slightest doubt then research the history and story line that surrounds the construction of Suwannee state prison. It was the business community that raised the $160,000 to purchase and donate land to the state for the prison. It was the political and bureaucratic offices that accelerated the codes and etc. Suwannee CI, a $105 million-plus project, will bring a total of about 600 jobs to the area.”We look forward to those jobs,” said Mayor Sonny Nobles. Not only will the prison become one of the largest employers in Suwannee County, it will also expand water and sewer service in that area.
This was an economic opportunity built on the backs of 3,000 men. To fill the prisons is one thing but to keep them full is quite another. In Florida there are 68 counties and at last count there were only 3 that did not have a major confinement facility. Now, think in terms of jobs focused on the pain and suffering that essentially comes out of the family medicine cabinet furthered by a dysfunctional education and social service bureaucracies. Reentry programs are functional because it is no one best interests to make them functional. Reentry programs are nothing more than feel-good exercise.
A trend I have seen emerging in Florida newspapers is the mentioning of what professional groups are supporting what candidates and my subjective guess is that the criminal justice community has moved from a non-entity 20 years ago to a player in the top five.
The tragedy in this entire equation is the babies that have yet to be born are sacrificed on the alter of the criminal justice community as a sacramental offering for job stability and economic security. Almost a throwback to slavery.
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