Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Going to Jail

This week at my internship, I went to jail. We had a six month follow up interview with one of our clients. The county we traveled to was about two hours away, in rural Southern Indiana. The town was just a dot on the map, off of a small state highway, away from any major metropolitan areas or interstate highways. Although I went to the federal penitentiary for a field trip my freshman year, this was my first time visiting a county jail. Jail is interesting; if you have never been, it’s worth experiencing from the outside of the bars. It’s easy to make the argument imprisonment is a good method of deterrence if you have never examined the environment of jail or prison. This particular jail fascinated me, due to its’ size and limited resources.

When I visited the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, not only was there more security, but there was also more opportunities for inmates to learn new skills, or better themselves. They could hold janitorial jobs, or work in the factory attached. There was an art room, a religious worship room, a psychiatric ward, and even a special Christian affiliated community corrections program. Compared to the federal penitentiary, the county jail had limited things to occupy an inmate’s sentence- it was a solitary, confined place. Sparse visitors and a once a week library cart appeared to be the only thing inmates could interact with. There were no major programs, job opportunities, or educational opportunities available. After our interview, and experiencing the environment of this particular jail, I had a lot to think about on the ride home.

In my Criminal Justice classes, I have learned a lot about the US prison system. The US has the highest prison population in the world, as well as an extremely high recidivism rate. (Recidivism, in the simplest terms, is re-offending and returning to prison after being released.) After visiting the county jail, our country’s high recidivism rate makes complete and total sense to me. The system confines inmates, giving them limited opportunities and resources to better themselves. It then releases them back into the world, without adequately preparing them to get jobs, seek education, build healthy relationships, or cope with addictions.

Visiting jail made me realize the importance of the grants and correctional programs I work on for my internship. It made me realize why community corrections exists; and why the people I intern with are so passionate about the work that they do. I’m really happy that I’m gaining the experience of this internship. Even if I don’t decide to pursue a career or course of study relating to community corrections, I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Posted by Anne

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