Mass Incarceration Solutions

Recently there was an attempted assault of a counselor at Aug*sta Correctional Facility where one prisoner allegedly exposed himself and attempted to assault a female but another prisoner saw what was happening and he intervened thereby stopping the attack. The news has reported that this is linked to understaffing and overcrowding which undoubtedly places a strain upon security. Delegate Emmett Hanger has stated for the record that ", but what about the overcrowding? The truth is that the overcrowding has been an issue for years in the system, and as the prisons have become more overcrowded the officers have become more overworked and underpaid. This has resulted in many officers quitting their jobs. Overcrowding has resulted in the lack of security, but this is not the only thing in a long line of conditions that stem from mass incarceration. No there are no boy scouts here, but everyone behind these walls are not animals either. What about the prisoner who put his life on the line to save the staff (Counselor)? He has to now live around some that believe that he should not have intervened, but the majority of the men that I have talked with don't condone that type of conduct toward any woman. The truth is that there are some real stand up guys in prison who could be the next leaders of the free world if only given a chance. Of course there are some true incorrigibles, but there are just as many or more upright men who deserve a second chance and there needs to be a method by which we can identify who's who. Parole, pardon, or some type of early release plan is the answer to the cruel and unusual punishment that is being endured by both prisoner and officer alike. Prisoners endure various types of cruel and unusual conditions which stem from mass incarceration such as water restrictions, excessive lockdowns, sub par food, inadequate medical, dental, and mental health care, and most important of all... security. Without security it makes an already cruel and unusual environment just that much more hazardous as prisoners are constantly exposed to an unreasonable risk of irreparable harm. Employing more officers is not the answer, and if you want to be truthful Virginia has never been able to properly staff overcrowded facilities where the ratio of prisoners to officers is sometimes 33 to 1. I noticed the overcrowding/under understaffing problem months ago and filed a grievance on the issue due to the fact that over 1350 prisoners are in a facility built to hold approximately 800. Ultimately my grievance was UNFOUNDED by the Warden and the Regional Administrator, but wouldn't you know it, about two (2) weeks later Aug*sta began drafting officers from other facilities due to the understaffing problem. I guess it wasn't so unfounded after all. We have to do something about this social cancer known as mass incarceration. I am a Mentor in a Pre-reentry Self-Governing Community here at Aug*sta where residents volunteer to participate in incentive based workshops that are created by and facilitated by model prisoners/mentors. Residents sign on to govern themselves in an effort to prepare themselves for release and ready themselves for an actual Reentry site at a lower level facility. They attend 12 week workshops such as "L.A.B." (Life and Business) where residents learn how to equate life to a business and how that can bring structure to their lives. They learn how to start a business and write a business and more. That is coupled with the "I.F.L.E. (Investments for Life Economics) Tower" workshop where Residents learn about the Stock Market and how to Day Trade and Invest their money. They are also offered "Clase de Espanol" where they can learn conversational Spanish, and there is a workshop called "Communication" where they learn how to interact with others in a respectable, considerate manner, and how to express themselves intelligently. There are many more Mentor created and facilitated workshops, but they all work to bring about a change in the mind of the Residents which pales in comparison to how they were before their stay in the community. We do this with no funding and our own talents and after completion of the program Residents represent what it means to be reformed. What we are showing is that if we are successful at reform through a conscious choice to govern ourselves, we are ready for society. There is no community like this in a prison in America anywhere, but it doesn't have to be. In fact this type of program could be used in a conviction intervention facility where we combat the criminal mentality with those who have succeeded in destroying it. We are talking about solutions here and a cost efficient one at that. Instead of pumping billions of dollars into warehousing prisoners let the taxpayers money go towards something that will actually solve the problem of mass incarceration rather than pay more officers to work more hours, in overcrowded facilities, with no resources to take care of those that they are there to secure. Give men like me a chance and you will see that it is the best investment that you could have ever made. We want to make a difference and we know that we can. Hassan Shabazz, VAPOC

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