Rarely a day goes by that there isn’t some kind of article or news story on criminal justice reform. If you haven’t been paying attention to this very important subject then you need to.
As a 57 year old resident of Georgia, Fulton County specifically, I can assure you that this topic is something that affects each and every one of us who live and pay taxes in this country. It is our moral obligation to fully understand the impact that our ignorance is having on all of us.
With the transparency that social media creates we can’t hide the ugly truth about mass incarceration anymore. My face is the ‘new face’ of incarceration. My life is spent working tirelessly to bring light to the subjects that many families of the incarcerated are afraid to discuss. I spend almost every weekend behind ‘the razor wire’ visiting my 25-year-old son who has been locked up for almost 4 years and I know the truth that you can never understand unless you live it.
What I have learned during this difficult journey for my family is that it is impossible to expect anything but failure when an inmate is released from prison. It’s not only the way they are treated, or the lack of programs inside, but it’s also the fact that our Correction Officers are underpaid and have no real way of making any impact on the incarcerated. They are considered by many to be not worthy of a job as a gym teacher, yet they work inside prisons for 12 hour shifts – basically locked up like those they guard. Who would want that job for the petty $24,000 a year starting salary?
My son’s story is a classic example of our failures, and his story is just one of thousands that we have warehoused in prisons. Very few of them have the help they need in order to not go back. Consider how those incarcerated live every day. Housed with over 80 guys in an open dorm. Artificial lightening, noise 24/7 so loud it is deafening, no programs because if they have too much time, food barely fit for human consumption, limited and very insufficient dental and health care, constant fear, no treatment or rehabilitation, no educational opportunity, very little outdoor time, no access to current news or books, no understanding of the new world of technology, and the list goes on.
I speak openly about the fact The Georgia Department of Corrections has my son, it’s not their fault but it’s their problem. They didn’t arrest him, indict him or convict him. They just got him, and with no money or resources this is a recipe for disaster as we have proven for decades.
With Governor Deal’s focus on criminal justice reform Georgia is a leader in reform instead of recidivism. We need to continue to have open, honest communication in order to bring about the necessary changes.
Make no mistake, I am quite clear on those who we are afraid of that need incarceration, but in order to keep our communities safe every one of our returning citizens need to be able to come home as productive citizens with more than the shirt on their backs and the $25.00 the state gives them.
I challenge all of my elected officials to learn the truth about mass incarceration, and support any legislation that will put an end to the destruction of our communities. This election year is a good time to step forward and say you will support the 55,000+ families of the incarcerated, so that we can return the favor and vote for you.