Past, Present, and Future of Incarceration

Incarceration is a constant hot-button topic because there have been many violent incidents that have happened within jails and prisons, whether they are between inmates and guards or within the inmate community itself. There is always a constant discussion as to what is the right way to handle the prison system and the 2.3 million people that are currently incarcerated in the U.S. The question of what would make people change their ways is often debated. But before moving towards the future of incarceration, we must take a look back and see: how has the history of prisons shaped how we deal with incarceration to this day?

According to the Crime Museum, there was a philosopher named Jeremy Bentham who developed a prison system called the Panopticon that pushed inmates into good behavior by utilizing the concept of constant surveillance. He was against the death penalty and believed that this concept of a prison would significantly lower recidivism. Bentham also believed this layout would prove to be less costly because it would require fewer guards. This type of prison was never built though the idea of having a person held incarcerated for a long period of time soon followed.

My brother was sentenced to twelve years in prison for two counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.

He was eighteen years old when he was sentenced. He never even had a record before. One time my family and I traveled to Beaumont, Texas to see him. It was our first contact visit with him and we did not know that we were able to get him sodas and chips from the vending machines.

I saw one visitor leave, and when I saw her again she came back with a brown paper bag labeled Lays to give to the man she was visiting. I did not want to say anything at that moment, but I was thinking about how miserable it must feel to not be free enough to be allowed to even see the regular yellow bag of Lays chips that we’re all familiar with on the outside. I understood why the term “real world” was such a dominant theme inside of prisons because the inmates are living inside of an environment that does not seem to be feasible to them. The food that they eat is not nourishing but it is all that they have to make due unless they are blessed enough to have the opportunity to buy other foods from the prison commissary. Even the “grass” that they see outside the facility is plastic. It’s the type of stuff that you’d see on the ground of an indoor football field.

When the topic of incarceration comes up, the discussion is most likely focused on police putting blacks in prison. Therefore, we don’t pay much attention to what is happening inside of the prison. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there are more whites incarcerated than blacks, differing by more than 20%, within the population of the United States. This makes race not the most important issue; it’s rather the lack of progression jails have for individuals inside and after they get out. Prison systems claim to be a necessary disciplinary institution, but in that process, they strip the inmates of their freedom and turn them into animals.

They are not allowed to see things that are outside the parameters of the building. Depending on the individual this will prevent the person from succeeding in prison, feeling held hostage. Once a person gets out of prison, they have a record which disables them from going after as many opportunities.

The habits that prison reinstates prohibits an individual from keeping up with the world that is continuing around them. Improving the effectiveness of prisons by improving the well-being of prisoners during and after they are released is something that must happen.

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Ka'Ontinee Somersall

Ka'Ontinee Somersall is a graduate student at Sam Houston State University. She also works as a Assistant Service Manager who indulges in spiritual blogging and writing short poems. Simultaneously, building a business that focuses on empowering women and selling beauty products.

Ka'Ontinee Somersall

Ka'Ontinee Somersall is a graduate student at Sam Houston State University. She also works as a Assistant Service Manager who indulges in spiritual blogging and writing short poems. Simultaneously, building a business that focuses on empowering women and selling beauty products.