After starting out pretty well with my blog endeavor, I have noticed I have been slipping. I will admit that after spending endless days blogging for others, my blog is not granted the priority it should deserve. After all, I don’t pay myself and, well, money is a scarce commodity lately. Compounding the problem is my perpetual writer’s block. I’m finding myself increasingly challenged by devising poetry topics for my current book which haven’t already been used in the previous five. And titles. With over 400 titled poems, I have to check back through previous books to see if I had already used one I have in mind. Being prolific is, indeed, rife with benefits; however, the flip side is that it is also fraught with shortcomings. And for those who know me, my default setting is pessimistic.
My other current literary endeavor is a scathing indictment of the American corrections system, particularly prison privatization and mandatory minimum sentencing policies. Having worked in a private prison for nearly three years (and studying, researching, and writing about the criminal justice system in its entirety for most of my adult life), I witnessed firsthand every reason privatization opponents assert: inmate abuse, poorly trained staff, inadequate staffing levels, an excessive focus on making a profit that overshadows the fundamental purpose of criminal punishment, myriad policy violations, unsafe conditions due to shoddy construction, insufficient rehabilitative programs administered by individuals unqualified to do so, and rampant corruption. Turning over a critical governmental function to private entities whose primary goal is making money turns human beings into commodities to be bought and sold with very little concern over correcting behavior and preparing them for reentry and reintegration as productive and law-abiding members of society.
I have talked to myriad people who believe that we should simply lock up offenders and throw away the key; however, these individuals fail to appreciate the fact that 90 percent of those incarcerated will eventually return to society and it is the correctional system’s fundamental goal to correct behavior (see what I did there?) Whereas courts punish, prisons are supposed to rehabilitate and reform. Instead, prison administrators—especially in private facilities— do everything in their power to ensure full capacity because that’s how they earn their $1.6 billion annual profits. They don’t care about rehabilitation, ethics, or their own accountability and this is, sadly, blatantly obvious and, ultimately, unacceptable. They would rather settle million dollar lawsuits or pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for noncompliance than actually do the job they were hired to do. From fudging accreditation reports to lying on inmate misconduct reports to harassing and creating a hostile work environment for those few employees who actually care and who are trying their damnedest to make a difference, prison privatization is the catalyst behind the failure of the contemporary American corrections system. When I was employed in corrections, I was frequently “accused” of being “too pro-inmate.” If helping rehabilitate offenders to further their education, obtain vocational skills so they can find post-incarceration employment, embrace pro-social skills, address mental health and addiction issues, and, ultimately, not recidivate, then I will wear that label proudly and direct my passion for reform into my words. That is, until I am able to do so again through my actions.