Elections are coming up in less than 100 days and as usual politicians are out front with their solutions to our problems in the criminal justice system. These ideas run from the extreme-put everyone in jail, to rehab for everyone. Neither works. Especially putting more people in jail. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the WORLD. What we do not have is a cohesive system that has follow up. You cannot simply lock people up and then turn them loose with nothing in between and no follow up programs and accountability.
It’s true that most inmates do not want to do any follow up at all. They must. Ask anybody who has gone through the system in any way and they will tell you if they have been successful in their re entry, that it was the follow up and accountability that helped. In prison one must follow rules and people who have been there long enough often become what is called “institutionalized.” Meaning, they know how to follow all of the institutions rules and more. I am not suggestions accountability forever, but for a period of time.
The other thing that I know works is Community Service and involvement. I have said many times how this helps the offender regain self-esteem and helps the community where the service is performed. Judges should order it in all cases. In fact, everyone needs to reach out and touch somebody’s hand like Diana Ross sings- visit ivolunteer.org and get going.
In California, we have the largest inmate population and now have a chance for change with Kamala Harris running for Attorney General. She understands programs and re entry. We need others like her and Senator Jim Webb who truly get it. These politicians don’t just say what’s popular- they are addressing ideas that will work.
As we get closer to the election, I will share more ideas that voters can investigate and vote for. See, all kinds of change is possible with a little awareness. Actually now there are four key words, accountability, community service and awareness!