After a conversation with a friend last night I got to thinking about the difference in what we, as prisoners, feel essential to our lives and that felt by those power to make important things a reality to us. Lawmakers have satisfied the voters wishes (and their own personal wealth issues) by ensuring that when people commit crimes, they get fat sentences and long tails of supervised release. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this- what loving, caring, sensitive community member wants some violent offender, or addict, or sexual predator, or thief living among them? The problem lies in the care and rehabilitation these offenders are supposed to be receiving while serving their sentences before release- because release should be a reality in most cases. And those releases should be expected to be merit-based, should they not? What tax-paying member of society should expect that criminals are just locked up punitively for years only to get worse and worse before a release date that will come whether that offender is ready to go or not?
The truth is that offenders are not beholden to change, and they will not usually do this on their own- unless a major impetus is present. There are exceptions. But they are few. The truth is that prison is easy to adjust to. Thicken the skin a little and camouflage all the emotions and weaknesses behind a growing reality that says you'll fight rather than be put down and, suddenly, you are ready for a long sentence until that sentence ends- and you'll enjoy some good times without the constant reminder of what was lost. This is the product that usually gets released.
Congress doesn't want to let us go. Understandably. But the money situation is such that, to not let us go means a loss of money. Now they want to let the least offensive go- but that doesn't change the essential problem. That problem lies as much with the offenders as with the beautiful families who just want to see their offender loved ones released. My mom, my friends, and this beautiful chick who helps with this blog want me to be released because they deeply feel that so many years was unfair- especially for drugs, while violent sexual offenders often get less time. The fact is that there is no difference in the overall effect of crime on society- crime is crime and it breeds a lack of trust within the community- whether there are many victims (withdrug dealing and fraud) or a single victim (with violence and sexual crimes). What makes the difference is that people change while they are in- and if and when they do make these essential changes, they need to be judged for this as well and released to their communities.