Trauma-informed care works with the changing of mindset and questions. Instead of asking those in our care, in our class, in our police cruiser, in our prisons or schools “what is wrong with you?” we instead ask “what happened to you?” Imagine if this was part of the training our correctional staff received. How would it change the atmosphere currently circulating in our Vermont facilities? How could it improve the chances that folks would get out and stay out if they were seen in this light?
The Compassion Prison Project uses this approach in their workshops inside some of the nation’s largest, toughest facilities. They facilitate circles where adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are named, and given the compassion and understanding needed to move forward with healing and self respect. This project is just one example where trauma-informed care and mindset changes the atmosphere and the opportunities for understanding. Most importantly, it addresses some of the underlying reasons why folks who are incarcerated are depressed, angry, and unable to begin the process of healing. (more…)
Two of our October posts were concerning working in prison, and the pay that an incarcerated individual receives. What can people inside do with the money they earn? That is, besides save it for when they’re released, if they are able.
As an incarcerated person, the state provides you with three meals a day. You might feel that you need to supplement those meals. You might feel, like those of us on the outside do, that you’d like to treat yourself. That is where your pay, which is kept for you in a “bank account,” comes in. Let’s imagine that you earn $7 a week. In the commissary, you could purchase a single 5-oz Reese’s cup for $5.50. Or you could get two single servings of breakfast cereal for $3.50 each. A 3-oz package of ramen noodles, around 45¢ in the grocery store, is 73¢. A container of imitation sugar-free honey at $7.80 would be out of your reach. (more…)
Some people have asked me why I am so passionate about criminal justice reform. Here is why.
First of all, we have a system that is very expensive (in VT for example, it costs $60k per year to incarcerate one individual, and that is not including the police and court costs, etc.) but we have poor outcomes for our investment. By that I mean, what we do does not work—it does not lead to greater public safety or less crime. It does not rehabilitate folks. Research shows that, all things being equal, a prison sentence actually makes people more likely to re-offend. So does that mean I am saying let’s just close the prisons and let everyone free? No. But what I am saying is this: we need to think much harder about who we incarcerate, why, and for how long. A majority of those in prison can be supervised in the community more effectively, less expensively, and with better results for families and communities. In Europe for example, they don’t really have “life sentences.” The most someone might get would be 10-14 years for the most serious crimes. What is their re-offense rate like compared to ours? I think you can guess. So what amazes me is how happy we are to just keep punishing people to satisfy our anger, and to spend a lot of tax dollars to do so–tax dollars that could go to mental health services, housing, parenting programs or any number of initiatives that might help prevent criminal behavior in the first place. We do not insist on good outcomes from our justice system. Most of us don’t even know much about the system. It does not serve the greater good–or even the goal of public safety–to happily pouring money into a system just to get our pound of flesh. In many cases, we contribute to our own future victimization and/or tax burden. (more…)