There are over 2.1 million people in the US that are currently in prison. There are hundreds of people forced to join gangs of some sort and some level. Gangs now appear in many prisons as officials have done nothing to curb their deeds or make leaving a gang look attractive. Instead, the culture of prison is to ally with like races, follow a strict gang agenda, and remain passively assertive against the safety a gang may provide. The chances of an incarcerated person actually redeeming himself or herself by rehabilitation designed punishment only graces 2% of the population in prison with a life changing lesson. There are so many gangs that some prisons struggle to keep order of members, their ranking, and which gang one is controlling what portion of the outside recreational yard. Gangs often look attractive to inmates because it’s a helpful and deceitful at the same time. The idea of a gang having an inmate’s back is attractive because prison life is rough and hard. What is happening in most jails and prisons are gang related members learn how to be better criminals, are expected to continue with membership in the gang when released, and fall prey to the unrealistic brotherhood of a gang. The gang that helps is the gang that can hurt by issuing a hit on you or asking you to hit a friend because they did something to make someone else angry enough to “handle” the member. Gangster life is a vicious lie perpetuated in places that are desperate for some kind of belonging. Not only that, but gangs often tell the membership what they need to do to stay in and supplies an attractive pseudo-family to those people who the American Dream is a failure. Gangs prey on the weak, those that need structure in their lives, and those who have abandoned hope of being able to be and do something other than continue the cycle of poverty.
Gangs hurt people in prison more than the drudgery of being a captive there. Inmates are told when to sleep, when to eat, when to go to the bathroom, when to shower, and when to wake up. The prisoner is no longer in control of what happens to him or her. The gang adds that structure that they can control one thing while imprisoned. That one thing is the order in which gangs are formed and the order in which each member plays a part. The gang life is attractive but deceitful. It promotes control that is primordial needs for a tribe in a bad environment and a failure to control anything at all in their reality of prison. It’s hard for those people in prison to have faith that someday life will get better because the nature of our society keeps them unemployed and unemployable if they committed felony. Even those serving for misdemeanors are often turned away from jobs that might head their life in a different direction. The society we live in makes them pay for their crime for the rest of their natural lives unless given just one chance to get up and do for one’s self. The failure to get a job due to this cultural problem throws good people back into the system where they go back to the gang and commit more crimes, the lucrative nature of some criminal activities like selling drugs on the street proves to be temptation that they cannot resist, and the will to change is exchanged for the will to remain part of a tribe no matter how bad or terrible that tribe is.
Incarceration hurts people. It doesn’t allow them a better life or a reflection of misdeeds. It doesn’t help them to become something more than what they see and know is a somewhat easier yet dangerous way of life. It dispenses lies. The inmate with choices to go to school in prison, learn a trade, or even become chefs is an inmate that no longer falls prey to the predatory nature of gangs. My heart breaks for those people who continue their lives doing crime because that’s all they know, that’s all that’s profitable, and that they feel there is no chance for them to change and become something new, better and motivated. It’s hard to compete for any job in this current economy, but it’s twice as hard when you’re a felon, breaking off gangster life, and blooming into a hopeful person instead of a hopeless person. It’s not fair that someone is a felon and can’t restart a straight life out of prison because they are trapped by our culture in a web of judgement, prejudice and punishment that lasts longer than the time already served. The inmate is then entrenched in the cycles of the system, getting out and going back in. If someone has served their time and is released from prison, their debt to society has ended. They are not supposed to be punished anymore the crime they committed. It’s unfair to hold that crime above his or her head when they have served their time and want to become a valuable member of society. This culture’s idea that one’s bad choices follow them forever is contributing to the revolving door of prison for people, that they get all caught up by society on what they did and not what they became.
Felons do want jobs. They want an alternative to dangerous membership in gangs, self destructive behavior, and gang life. They are forever stamped with an unwanted label and expected to bear the bad mistakes for the rest of their lives. This is when incarceration hurts and doesn’t help. Sometimes, you have to forgive someone of their crime and help them make a new way for themselves so that 2.1 million people have a better chance for a happier tomorrow. Just one chance can break the cycle. Just one.