The constant conversations surrounding the mass incarceration conundrum is getting the attention of all Americans. We hear it every day from every political platform. We have more incarcerated citizens than any other country and our prison system is in a state of crisis.
One area that we fail to discuss is the profound affect this has on families and loved ones of the incarcerated AND the families and loved ones of the officers and staff that work in corrections. There is little news on the subject of inhumane treatment of inmates, of the dangerous attacks on the officers and on the lack of ability of the Dept. of Corrections to hire, pay and train for these very important roles. Until we understand the full spectrum of consequences that the people who are in the trenches every day face, we will never be able to truly change.
It is obvious to each of us that we in no way intend to forgo the safety and security of our communities. We all understand the need to incarcerate individuals that are a danger. We also understand the need to incarcerate as a deterrent from future criminal behavior. This can only be done with all-hands on reform. Not just through politics and state funded programs, but through business leaders such as the Koch Industries that will not only fund programs, but change the way the business community thinks about how mass incarceration affects their bottom dollar.
As indicated in the article “The Factual Case for Criminal Justice Reform” by Mark Holden from Koch, ‘Congress can no longer ignore these problems, which have festered for more than three decades.’ I would add to this, business leaders can no longer ignore the collateral consequences it has on their companies.
Incarceration has a profound effect on how families behave. The pain that goes along with being dragged through the mire of the criminal justice system and the fear of the unknown world of incarceration directly impacts how we do business and who we do business with. It also impacts how we spend our money because much of our casual spending must go toward our loved one’s expenses.
We must always remember that when we decide we must incarcerate an individual, we also decide to impact a family, its children, its history, its future, its capacity for self-sufficiency, civic and economic contribution…FOREVER. Thus we must begin connecting the community, advocates, business and loved ones to break this costly cycle.
Kate Boccia is founder and CEO of the National Incarceration Association and has a son in a Georgia prison.