By Jori Hamilton
One function of prisons is to prevent inmates from committing further crimes through incarceration. However, society needs to remember the other functions prisons are intended to serve. Prison, at its core, is supposed to be a place for people to rehabilitate and reform; however, the prison system can be hard on many inmates. Whether or not someone has committed a crime, they are still people and deserve our support, even while in prison.
How Support Leads to Rehabilitation
Being incarcerated is a huge shift for anyone. Prisoners lose many of the freedoms that we take for granted, and it can cause severe mental health issues. This makes it more difficult to reintegrate into society after inmates serve their time. In supporting inmates, you will help them to be better able to adjust to their new surroundings.
Many activists support the outright end of mass incarceration. However, that goal is a long way off considering the current political climate in the United States. In the interim, as a society, we need to ensure that those who are incarcerated have support to successfully rehabilitate.
Long-term incarceration takes a massive toll on societal relationships. It can disrupt family and community dynamics for generations upon generations. Aside from the monetary cost of housing inmates for years, the cost to society as a whole is immeasurable. By offering up support to people in your life who are imprisoned, you are giving them a fighting chance at rehabilitation. Supporting inmates makes it clear that they are still a part of life outside of prison.
How You Can Help
The prison system in America is broken. There are more Black men incarcerated in the United States than there are imprisoned women around the globe. People who are imprisoned often have little recourse other than to simply wait out their sentences. Despite the issues with our prison system, rehabilitative incarceration is effective. This is especially true if prisoners are given the appropriate support.
You can help to make a significant difference in the lives of the incarcerated by supporting them during their time in prison. The support can come in a variety of ways, be it financial, legal, or social. Many inmates find themselves in need of financial assistance while in prison. This is often because their ability to generate income is severely hampered. You can significantly change their quality of life through financial support.
If you do not have the capital to help financially, offering up support can be done for next to nothing if you simply stay in contact. Writing letters, coming in for visits, or bringing their friends and family with you on visits can make all the difference to someone struggling in prison.
Should you not know anyone in prison personally who needs support, there are still ways that you can help inmates, even if you never meet them. For instance, dog ownership is excellent for mental health. While inmates are not allowed to keep pets, some alternatives can still net them the benefits. Programs like Puppies Behind Bars teach inmates how to train service dogs for military and police use sniffing out bombs. This is an all-around win as it helps to show inmates that they have value outside of their status as a prisoner. These types of programs also help them to connect with the dogs they train.
Countless programs help inmates to train their skills in preparation for their release back into society. You can show your support by either contacting your local prison to see if you can help bring these types of programs in. Even simply donating or volunteering your money and time can make a huge difference.
The prison system in America is not perfect, the simple fact remains that prisons are necessary to a functioning society. While prison is never going to be a walk in the park for the incarcerated, you can still affect positive change through the support of inmates in prison.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in topics related to politics, urban living, society, and health. If you’d like to learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.