Let's Help Those Who Need Help

Today I am in my social activist mode. Did you see Sunday’s Parade Magazine about the mess we have in with our prisons system? There is a serious need for major change in what we are doing for those from damaged childhoods and those with mental illness in our society. This correction system is very denigrating to the basic mental health of human beings. Did you know that most people in prisons came from abusive childhoods? Many have been physically, mentally and sexually abused and badly need help. Many have diagnosed mental illness. Societies answer has been to close hospitals that treat them and lock them up in prison instead.

Where is the compassionate care that they need? Does sending them off to prison resolve their emotional problems or make them worse? Has the idea of rehabilitation totally been tossed out because of terribly misguided policies? Is it ok to lock up people who don’t know how to live a healthy life because they have never had any real chance to change?

I am asking lots of questions. I have spent many years of my life working with those who have addiction problems. I have met very few who didn’t come from abusive or addictive families. The cycle continues unless we break it and prisons just keep the cycle going.

Here is what I recommend:
• Decriminalizing drug abuse would be a positive first step. The courts and jails are full of people who need help with their addictions not jail time.
• Provide counseling to everyone who goes to prison. Help them break the cycle of abuse and become productive members of out nation.
• End prison time for white collar crime, instead put them to work and make them give what they earn to those they have taken from or hurt from their actions.
• Have those with a history of 2 or more DUI’s get fully involved in long-term treatment or permanently give up their right to drive and own a car.
• Bring AA, NA, other recovery programs and mindfulness practices into prisons in a way that involves as many people as possible.
• Give those in prison opportunities to get vocational training so they can join our workforce and become productive members of their communities.
• Develop healthy programs that encourage those coming from prison to get the help and support they need to change their lives.
• Close down all prisons for youth and instead come up with innovative programs to help turn the lives of young people around.

Be aware that the prison industry is a major lobbying force especially in California so there will be forces that will not want change to happen. The youth prisons in California and elsewhere are a disgrace to humanity. Where have our hearts gone when it comes to helping those in need? Call or write your elected officials and ask them to support Senator Jim Webb in his call for massive reform of the way we treat those who need help.