|More Jails, not the priority|
|Monday, 23 October 2006 11:45|
“Sixty-two million for new jail…” was part of a headline in a recent edition of the Miami Herald newspaper. That headline assailed the few last good nerves that we thought we had left. We are simply past sick, tired and frustrated to hear, or read of plans to build new jails, not only in
Jails, we will always contend, are a “Band-Aid” for crime. Just like the little strip of a bandage temporarily stops the bleeding, without getting to the source, so it is that jails may temporarily halt crime, but they don’t cure the root causes.
We admit that jails are unfortunate, but necessary, institutions in any society because there are, and always will be, evil people in a society who will remain resistant to any attempt to change their anti-social behavior. At the same time there are thousands of individuals who are not evil, who are in jail because society has not paid sufficient attention to their social or psychological needs, which are often interrelated. We are not making this statement as just an unfounded theory, but rather one based on observed facts realized through two separate experiences, which brought to our attention that criminal activities are the result of social weaknesses.
The first experience was while working in a Miami-Dade program that sought to bring benefits to the children (and their mothers) of men in the custody of Miami-Dade jails.
Here, we had several opportunities to interact verbally with many of these custodial dads. It was often bourn out that many of these men get involved in crime, not because they wanted to, but because it became the alternative to hopelessness. Many felt ignored by both their families and society. One young man summed up the situation aptly, when he told us, “There are just no opportunities for us in the community. jost of us have no skills, but there is no one to teach us, or no system we can use to learn these skills. So, we can’t get any jobs, plus we have ghetto addresses and that makes it worst. But man, we have kids who must eat and wear clothes, and we have no money. We go out and hustle to make a dollar, make mistakes, and we end up here (in jail).”
The second experience was our involvement in a national program with the objective of rehabilitating juvenile delinquents. We found that several of the young people across
What the society needs are well-planned, social intervention programs which teach family skills and will allow the youth access in order to confidentially address personal and family problems, especially in the absence of family support. Programs are needed, particularly in the inner cities, where centers are established that teach job skills, provide further education, offer lifestyle counseling, and provide job search and placement services for residents.
It is no coincidence that our jails are jostly populated by individuals from underprivileged communities, where there are fewer opportunities for living a contented family life, or making a viable, honest income, compared to those living in more privileged communities. There are social problems that must be addressed in these communities, and building more jails is not the answer.
If money can be found to build jails, then money can be found to create, develop and implement the social programs to deter the growth of crime and the need for more jails. A real attempt was made to implement such social programs during the latter years of the
|Last Updated on Monday, 23 October 2006 11:46|