Mass Incarceration

Commentary: Legislators can’t make effective laws for incarcerated people without seeing prisons | Columns

Illinois has inaugurated its 103rd Basic Meeting, with a number of recent legislators.

They may be a part of dozens of others who’ve served earlier than, all of whom will grapple with the problems that face our state. One of many greatest points Illinois — and albeit, the whole United States — is grappling with is the necessity for public security. For many years, mass incarceration has been society’s protection in response to any issues about crime.

However regardless of writing and passing legal guidelines that have an effect on the hundreds of individuals incarcerated in Illinois, only a few legislators ever go to a jail and expertise for themselves what situations are like inside.

Final month, I had the chance to go to Logan Correctional Middle, a jail for feminine offenders simply 30 miles northeast of Springfield.

Throughout my go to, I couldn’t assist however surprise what our legislators simply 30 miles away would suppose in the event that they noticed the situations of this 45-year-old facility. How would they really feel if their family members have been subjected to among the experiences the ladies of Logan shared with me?

I believed I used to be no stranger to prisons. My husband, Jeffery, spent nearly 12 years in jail, and I visited him numerous instances.

I believed I had an concept of what to anticipate from my experiences in a visiting room — I couldn’t even start to let you know the variety of visits I’ve had with my husband and my brother, who has additionally been incarcerated. However the visiting room of a jail will not be the image you get once you go from unit to unit inside the power.

After I noticed the services at Logan, on this 45-year-old constructing, I may solely take into consideration my family members residing like this present day in and day trip for many years.

That crushed me.

My husband handled comparable situations day in and day trip however at all times got here to the visitation room with a million-dollar smile. He by no means complained to me about it. Folks in jail need to have psychological fortitude to cope with the situations inside and placed on a face for his or her family members like these issues don’t exist.

Our legislators can’t probably know this actuality. They will’t have seen locations like this and never thought that the folks inside deserve a second probability, a possibility to get out of those situations and rejoin society.

After I talked to the ladies at Logan about what they wanted to enhance their lives, they requested for issues so simple as hooks to hold their garments on in order that they don’t sit on a moist ground after they bathe. I wouldn’t even need to undress in that bathe, not to mention use it. The showers have been disgusting.

Prisons needs to be designed for rehabilitating folks, not warehousing them. There’s a want for change, a necessity for different options. However our legislators can’t even start to consider this in the event that they’ve by no means seen it for themselves or spoken with folks residing inside these services.

Greater than 27,000 persons are incarcerated in our state. They’re constituents, too. Legislators who take the time to go to prisons will turn out to be efficient lawmakers as a result of they govern from a spot of empiricism.

Efficient insurance policies transcend rationalism. They’re derived from evidence-based analysis, objectivity and empiricism.

Efficient insurance policies are the results of lawmakers understanding there needs to be a humane part in coverage.

How can anybody write legal guidelines with out realizing the folks and locations they have an effect on? I encourage all Illinois lawmakers to take the time to go to a jail this yr. You possibly can’t know in the event you don’t go.

(Dr. Shaneva McReynolds is the Illinois state marketing consultant for FAMM, a nonprofit prison justice advocacy group. After her husband was launched from jail, she turned an advocate to assist different incarcerated folks.)

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