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"75 percent [of the prisoners] were reading somewhere between the fourth-
and sixth-grade levels. 90 percent never had a legal job. 90 percent were
self-identified addicts. 80 percent were self-identified victims of sexual
or physical violence as a child. 65 percent had been placed in a
special-education class at some point. 75 percent were high school
dropouts."

In today's excerpt - veteran prison counselor Sunny Schwartz embarks on the
task of bringing a highly innovative program called 'restorative justice' to
the San Francisco County Prison system. Like most prisons, these prisons -
which house prisoners with records fairly typical of jails throughout the
country - are commonly referred to by guards and others associated with them
as "monster factories." The United States has the world's highest
incarceration rate:

"I had to make good on the promise of [introducing] constructive programs,
and my first big push went to getting a school in the jail. I discovered
that our neighbor to the north, just behind the razor-wire fence and a stand
of trees, was Skyline Community College. I gave them the hard sell, told
them our population needed their classes more than anyone else, and they'd
said they would try. One of the first things the college did was help us
perform a survey of our population's needs so I would know what kind of
programs I should start: 

"75 percent [of the prisoners] were reading somewhere between the fourth-
and sixth-grade levels. 90 percent never had a legal job. 90 percent were
self-identified addicts. 80 percent were self-identified victims of sexual
or physical violence as a child. 65 percent had been placed in a
special-education class at some point. 75 percent were high school dropouts.


"It was dismal. If there was ever a set of numbers that spoke more plainly
to the need for some alternative to warehousing people, I hadn't seen it.
Even I was surprised that 80 percent said they had been abused in the past,
and I was stunned that 90 percent had never had a legal job. These were
incredible obstacles. ...

"[I learned of a program called] Restorative Justice. The name alone piqued
my interest. Nothing I'd seen in the criminal justice system had ever been
in the business of "restoring" anything. I'd seen crimes committed, I'd seen
people punished, lives and families ruined, but never restoration. ... The
three principles of restorative justice are offender accountability, victim
restoration and community involvement to heal the harm caused by crime. ...
The goal of restorative justice was to heal the victims, for perpetrators to
take responsibility for their actions and make meaningful restitution and
for governments and communities to be part of the process. ...

"Most people, I think, believe that prison or jail should be a horrible
experience. People don't think of it as a deterrent so much as just deserts.
'They' hurt 'us,' therefore 'we' should hurt 'them.' For years, politicians
have won elections by promising to take away cable television and weight
rooms and anything seen to make prison cushy. We have a culture where jokes
about prison rape are made out in the open. The prevailing wisdom is that
prisoners deserve to be treated like animals; they should fear prison and
suffer while they are there. Anyone who has spent time working with
prisoners knows this has largely come to pass. What most people don't
realize is the consequences of making prisons a living nightmare. Most of
the inmates I'd worked with, particularly when I was a law intern, felt
punished, but not many of them took responsibility for their crimes, or felt
any remorse. 

"Martin Aguerro, the pedophile, the first client I had when I started in
1980, was a case in point. He complained about the squalid treatment and
living conditions in jail, he felt wronged, but I never got the sense that
he thought about his crimes. In fact, everything about the system of
prosecution and defense is set up so that criminals get into a habit of
denying their responsibility. Every step of the way between the arrest and
the trial, people accused of crimes deny everything, or keep silent. It's
what their defense attorneys tell them to do. After their trial, if they're
convicted, many don't change their mind-set. Why should they? To truly
confront what they've done requires confronting the shame and fear and the
reality of their situation. Few people choose to do this, because it's
difficult. After all, it's hard for noncriminals to take responsibility for
doing the wrong thing, much less someone sitting in a prison cell. So
criminals blame someone or something else - the cop who caught them, or
their lousy upbringing - for their circumstances and spend their time
growing angrier and angrier about being treated like an animal. They are
usually full of rage when they are released, and less prepared to function
as citizens; the predictable products of the monster factory."

Sunny Schwartz and David Boodell , Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale
of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All,
Scribner, Copyright 2009 by Sunny Schwartz and David Boodell , pp. 93-94,
126-127. 

  _____  

"Prison is crime's finishing school."


Source:  http://www.delanceyplace.com/

 

 

 

Dan Kern

AD21, Reading

East Central College

1964 Prairie Dell Road

Union, MO  63084-4344

Phone:  (636) 583-5195

Extension:  2426

Fax:  (636) 584-0513

Email:  [log in to unmask]

 

Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put

yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and

the way he understands it. (Kierkegaard)

 

 

 

 

Dan Kern

AD21, Reading

East Central College

1964 Prairie Dell Road

Union, MO  63084-4344

Phone:  (636) 583-5195

Extension:  2426

Fax:  (636) 584-0513

Email:  [log in to unmask]

 

Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put

yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and

the way he understands it. (Kierkegaard)

 

To freely bloom - that is my definition of success. -Gerry Spence, lawyer
(b. 1929)    [Benjamin would be proud, I think.]

 


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