BEYOND BARS: A Broken and Shattered System

By Chris Freeman
New Boston, TX

Most criminals grew up in circumstances of dire poverty, in families where one or both parents were abusive, and without the benefits of a proper education or away from home at a young age. We were forced to drift to the poor and slum areas of big cities and took up crime as a way of earning a living to survive. The vast majority in prison are the poor, the unfortunate, the young and neglected, to a great extent. They are the victims of unfavorable circumstances and environments.

The penal system recruits its victims from among those who are constantly fighting an unequal fight in the struggle for existence. Nothing could be less capable of serving the purpose of refinement, reformation and rehabilitation than the penal system in this country. Prison officials treat all of us alike regardless of our age or the severity of our crimes, incarcerating youthful delinquents with hardened criminals and predators. This heightens rapes, assaults, and attacks on those most vulnerable and unable to defend themselves.

Conditions inside most prisons are squalid, degrading, vicious and not fit to confine humans. Overcrowding is a rule, food is not nutritious and inadequate for consumption, exercise is an option instead of a right, and noise is the norm.

Most of us spend our time, not by choice, in enforced idleness or in purposeless work. Prison officials maintain order and discipline with cruelty, brutality and sadism. There is little possibility that anyone can emerge from prison better than they were before. We have to understand that criminal behavior is less a consequence of free will, and more a matter of education, upbringing, and environment.

The death penalty was born out of hatred towards the criminal. It had no purpose except revenge. There is no evidence to show us that capital punishment is a deterrent to murder in this country, especially with exonerations at an all-time high. Since the taking of a life is considered an act of violence that corroded sentiments of society, the death penalty cheapened and devalued all human life, and it is more an inducement to murder than a deterrent. The penal system in this racist and imperialistic country is broken and shattered, and only degrade us instead of upgrade our development as people. ■