Programs Offered to Inmates are Beneficial to the Community?

“State and local spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of funding for public education for preschool through grade P-12 education in the last three decades,” however, a good portion of the funds have been going towards programs that provide inmates with the opportunity to improve their lives, as well as their communities, once freed. With the amount of overpopulation in prisons within the past couple of decades increasing, it has easily turned into one of the most debatable issues within the country. People have always had strong opinions over different aspects of prisons, one of the most well-known, money. It is no secret that tax payers have a very big contribution to the funding involved in the maintenance and overall function of prisons. Which, again, many people have different opinions of. However, recently there has been more talk about the different programs that are offered for inmates. Although these programs are very costly, they have been known to develop life skills and beneficial characteristics, in which most inmates seen to lack.

The first article that I came across that speaks about the benefits in offering programs to incarcerated individuals emphasizes the manner in which education is crucial for inmates to be successful once they are freed. The article published by The New York Times, titled, “How Educating Inmates Benefits All,” discusses how many of the individuals that are imprisoned come from low income neighborhoods, and are mostly people of color. Little to no funding tends to be invested in low income neighborhoods, which seems to be how people get themselves in trouble with the law. However, Dominica Kimberley Moe, an instructor that leads DePaul University classes in Stateville Correctional Center and Cook County Department of Correction is a witness to how education can turn someone’s life around completely. Moe claims enlightening inmates through the use of education is not only beneficial for them, but also for the community, “Communities can and do benefit from re-entering community members whose unrealized abilities have been nurtured. Stanley Richards, a former prisoner, explains the immense benefits education programs like such have given him. Without expecting much from his first college course, he realized this program installed hope and a second chance at life. From there he gained self-confidence and continued his education, now he is executive vice president of a very successful re-entry program, the Fortune Society. He explains where he stands as far as funding and thoughts on education programs for incarcerated individuals, my education kept me out of prison and saved the state millions of dollars in incarceration costs… I am a taxpayer and I want my tax money to be part of the solution”.

The second article that was also found on The New York Times, titled, “Let Prisoners Learn While They serve,” provides more evidence based on statistics. The statistics gathered and used in this article cover research the past thirty years of education programs in prison. This article discusses how money invested into prisons education is beneficial towards the overall community because it decreases violence, gang activity, and gives prisoners a motive in life once they are freed. Which in turn, lessens their chances of returning behind bars in the future. This article also mentions the different mindsets, such as republican vs. democratic, and how their perspective inflicts on the community and prisoners. One of the statistics that most interested me was one done by “RAND Corporation” study that claims, “every dollar spent on prison education translated into savings of $4 to $5 on imprisonment costs down the line”. I also found it intriguing that this article went more into depth about how what we do with our prisoners turns into a pattern and will affect future generations.

The final article is also found in The New York Times and is titled, “The Incarcerated Women Who Fight California’s Wildfires,” and speaks more about how labor teaches discipline and responsibility to inmates. These methods go back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, where inmates were forced to work and it has been proven to improve their character in more than one way. Although both men and women are both involved in this program, this article focuses on the benefits woman gain. Through this program, they are paid $2 an hour to put out wildfires, alongside civilian firefighters. This program gives women certain jobs and tasks that involve group/partner work with other inmates to get them accustomed to sharing responsibility and protecting one another, all while doing a good deed for the community. This program, however, is more of a risky one, that is built for go getters that wish to improve their physical, as well as their mental strength. Before being admitted to this program, inmates have to be accepted into fire camps, in which they receive the proper training to fight fires. The challenge is getting into those camps, because apart from it being a dangerous and risky job, “they have to pass a fitness test before they can quality for fire camps”. I also really appreciate the article including two different perspectives of women involved in these programs, and how they view it. The goals and tasks provide the inmates with ultimately build a hardworking and perseverance character that they will find useful once they are freed.

Three articles I found that all discuss a common perspective in offering incarcerated individuals these programs. All of them are pretty recent, written no later than August of the year 2017, which I also found was very interesting. On “The New York Times” website, the most recent articles written on this topic were all supporting the programs that are offered, which in a way shows how mainstream media views this issue. These three articles relate to each other because they all focus on the improvement of incarcerated individuals and how their character development will help them, as well as their community. However, I also feel like these three articles are slightly different with the methods in which they wish to change (for the better) the prisoner. For example, the third article concentrates more on how the labor teaches responsibility and discipline. While the first two articles focus more on the education aspect, and how they would grant them structure and something to fall back on once they are freed. The mainstream media is really selling this idea, mainly targeting tax payers because they are the ones who provide the majority of the funding for these programs to exist. One thing that all three articles have in common is that they all provide an abundance of evidence, such as interviews with prisoners, as well as statistics to support the improvement within inmates (once they are freed) and their communities.

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