Those who are in prison for a decade or more have a higher chance of offending and it happens for ridiculous reasons.  While incarcerated most who have committed crimes that are felonies with long sentences are not given or afforded the training necessary to live a life beyond their sentence, they also are woefully unprepared for a life of freedom outside of prison.  In prison, the average long sentence of a decade or more does not prepare the newly released prisoner with the tools necessary to be responsible and productive members of society.  I say this because I’ve watched shows about lockup on MSNBC that clearly shows that prisoners being released after a decade or two in lockup can result in incarceration because they were not prepared for the stress of bill paying on a budget that is woefully hinged upon a felon actually finding a job on the outside that is going to make ends actually meet.  Not only that, but often spending that amount of time in prison forces inmates to become part of a gang on the inside and extends to the outside upon release.  It is also a reality of life behind bars that some of the worst offenders have mental illness that will go untreated on the outside of prison because drugs and counselling is often unavailable to the average inmate upon release.  A growing number of the people incarcerated are suffering from mental illnesses that, when untreated, land them back in prison or jail obviously the product of a destructive or self destructive cycle.  It is also a requirement that when you fill out an application for a job, you must answer the question “Have you been convicted of a crime” with yes and give some details about that.  That is what stops felons from getting a meaningful employment opportunity, the fact that no one in good paying jobs hires felons and also then contributes to the newly released re-offending.

The idea that somehow a felon, who had been a good inmate and stayed out of trouble while incarcerated, will not get a job that actually helps them with the pressure of meeting a bill’s due date.  They only employment that many find is inadequate and draws the felon into the trap of re-offending and being locked up yet again.  There are numerous ways that this can change for formally incarcerated.  Making health care available for the mentally ill could actually cut down the amount of people going in and out of prison.  The reality that mental illness is more common for those that cycle in and out of jail and prison needs to be spotlighted.  We also have a tendency to lock people away and forget about them, then release them into a hostile environment for a successful life without giving them training or other skills that they can use on the outside that would help success happen.  We “throw away” people who commit multiple crimes over and over in the prison system.  We have allowed our prisons to become a breeding ground for gang culture which only teaches them how to re-offend over and over again.  The crux of the problem may be that we need to invest in these people and train them for employment, stress of bill paying, and teach them what they need to do to live a productive and successful life without crime.  Sure, there will be those who cannot be helped or choose not to be helped.  What we fail to do is invest in them becoming productive and responsible.  We fail to invest in them because they are felons.  Instead, we are willing to pay for their decades in prison and are unwilling to give them the fighting chance they need on the outside.

Imagine that you have served the last 25 years in prison.  While you were incarcerated, computers are available to everyone, cellular phones became a necessity, smart phones are the personal data assistant, satellite powered television is in many homes, the internet was born, and dial up connections became extinct.  Imagine being released and not having the ability to get a decent job, handle the stress of responsible living, and having no trade to pedal for employers.  Imagine how hard it would be to get a job even in fast food restaurants.  Imagine if the only choice you had to succeed is to commit a criminal act so you don’t have to deal with the stressful reality of life.  Imagine that no one will give you a job because they just can’t trust a felon to do the right thing.  What would you be willing to endure in exchange for money that paid the rent?  What if you had no options?  In this day and age, we still throw people in a six feet by seven feet room and hope they learned their lesson.  When the released felon re-commits, we call him or her a lost cause because we are the ones that made that so.  We did nothing to help her or him to become something worth themselves.  Instead, we treat them like animals and pound that prison culture into their heads because we chose not to fill their head with some knowledge and a trade to fall back on instead of stealing cars, killing other gang rivals, selling drugs, armed robbery and other felonious crimes.  If we continue to invest just enough for their three hots and a cot, we get exactly what we give.

Nothing.

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