"Chance"? 

A criminal is going to jail – what does that mean to you? To most of society, it is great news because the ‘dangerous’ are kept off the streets. Yet, let us really think about this one: When it is someone’s first time going jail they are introduced to a whole other world that most of us cannot comprehend. There is another set of rules in prison that does not apply to the outside world. From stories, reading books and watching documentaries, I know you have to comply not only with the guards but also the gangs within the jail, or else you are in hot water. Gangs inside the walls of prison have essentially become the control centers for street gangs. Police thought of breaking up gangs by jailing gang members and their leaders; however, this only united them and made them stronger. Now, rather than having hundreds of different gangs, prisons have been a place where ethnic groups band together. Here, they share their experiences and learn from one another on the workings of gang life on the streets.

Now, let’s go back to our friend that is about to have his first visit to the “big house”. I have heard many different ways of coping with hearing that a juvenile is going to adult prison for the first time: ‘It’s better that they are going to be kept off and away from the dangers of the streets’, ‘At least they are kept away from their friends who influence them in a negative way’, ‘This way, he/she will learn the hard way of their actions producing negative consequences’ and ‘My baby is too young for adult jail’. All in all, it is very hard to hear a parent of an 18-year-old whose child is going to adult jail for the first time; and, as a counselor [Miss Smith, not myself] what do you say to the parents? “Sorry to tell you, but your child will come back knowing more and more influenced than they were on the outs”…? What purpose does jail do for a juvenile? Does it save them from harm; act as a safe house? Does it school them in the newest tricks of the streets, a schoolhouse? Or does it “do its job” and jail them keeping them away from society, jailhouse?

As Hagedorn states in his book:

Rather than prison being a place to send gang members in an attempt to break up the gang, gangs have adapted and have used prison to advance their interests.

With institutionalization, gangs adapt to such change as losing their leader to being imprisoned rather than breaking apart.

Our criminal system needs a makeover! I’m not blaming Law Enforcement at all, but I believe we really need to think of and start talking about rehabilitation rather than just throwing everyone is jail that breaks a law. To finish, back to the first question, when we send another young adult to prison for the first time for a crime, what say you? All we know, they might be learning another way of thinking, a more dangerous set of ideals to follow… Maybe not, maybe that is exactly what they deserve… who really knows?

[[Mercc]]

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