Have you ever wondered what prison is like on Independence Day? Ironic, as prison is a place you earn your way to by choosing to give up your freedom. Independence what? The truth is that in the Federal Prison system– the BOP- Bureau of Prison’s- puts it’s best self forward as they do on all holidays. This means card tournaments, sports events, movies and special meals. All with prizes. Yep, prizes. Why? Because prison is supposed to be for paying your debt to society and rehabilitation. The fact is that most people in prison in the U.S. are coming home and most in less than 5 years. So, a little perk here and there does serve a purpose and make inmates feel more like people. People they will one day need to be as they re-enter society.
Of course, I was in a Federal Prison Camp– a la Martha Stewart, Steve Madden and Mike Milken, but the BOP strives to make all Federal Prisons more tolerable on holidays. As for State Prisons on holidays- they also try to lighten the mood. The problem here is that there is no consistency from State to State and Prison to Prison.
My hope is that by shining the light of awareness on our prison system we can make changes and punish those who will be lifers and rehabilitate those who are coming home. That is a tall order but a very doable one.
The fact is that most inmates appreciate these “perks” and holidays are hard. The Fourth of July and the celebration of freedom is a tough concept to deal with in prison. That’s why most choose not to think and reflect about their choices and the consequences. Those who end up in prison in the United States have made a choice in most cases. It’s that choice that is hard to accept and why they may need a few tries to “get it right.” The bottom line is that the sooner your own your choices, the sooner you can make peace and move forward in a positive direction. For others, remember we live in the land of the free and change is possible.
But, I urge all of us- even those who have FREEDOM, to sit back and show gratitude. We do live in the land of the FREE. Happy July 4!!
Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, insider and family legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared on shows from Today, CBS Early Show, Fox News, Judith Regan Show, WNYC and Nancy Grace. She is a weekly featured guest in the syndicated America Now radio program. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.