It’s time to call out everyone in Florida with the power to change our terrible state prison system.
GateHouse Florida newspapers have been running a series of articles that illustrate the shockingly bad prison conditions in our state.
Too many prisoners are released with little chance of going straight. In fact, prison often makes them more violent and less able to cope after release.
Prisoners are being deprived of even the chance of rehabilitation.
We have some questions for all the decision makers.
To those who believe in saving money, what’s your excuse for a system that simply doesn’t work?
To those who believe in fighting crime, why allow prisoners to leave jail more toughened than when they went in?
What’s your excuse for throwing good tax money after bad every year?
How do you explain that conservative leaders like Newt Gingrich and Charles Koch believe that the public can be protected and money can be saved with a smart justice approach?
How blind can you be to the fact that other tough-on-crime states like Texas and Georgia are keeping the crime rate low while at the same time reducing the prison population and closing prisons?
Why is Florida taking so long to get on the smart justice bandwagon?
When state prison wardens said that salaries are too low, shifts are too long, working conditions are poor and prison violence is increasing, were you listening? That dynamic contributes to rising levels of inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff violence, the wardens said. Are you planning to act?
Are you proud that Florida has been on a prison-building boom while state support to universities has been slashed?
Is the fact that prisons don’t provide much schooling or real vocational training intentional or just a sign of malign neglect?
Is your real goal simply to forget all possibilities of rehabilitation?
Is mental health and substance abuse care in prisons so poor because you’re willing to put up with cruelty?
Do you think that keeping prisoners in cells without air conditioning makes them less aggressive?
Do you think the prisons are someone else’s job? Would you rather ignore these issues, especially when a prison is not in your district?
Why do you make it so difficult for ex-offenders to get on their feet after release? Do you want them committing more crimes and returning to prison?
Why don’t you provide more funds to proven job training programs that help prisoners become contributing members of society?
Why don’t you appoint an oversight group to reveal issues and offer solutions?
Have you ever visited Florida’s prisons and seen the terrible conditions?
Have you visited the faith-based programs that have been shown to reduce recidivism? Why aren’t there more of them?
When you see prisoners, do you see them as fellow humans with a chance at redemption or do you see them as lost causes?
If you’re a Christian, do you see Christ in your fellow human beings, following Matthew (25:36), “I was in prison and you came to Me?” Or have you rewritten it as, “I was in prison and you abandoned Me?”
This editorial originally appeared in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.