LETTER: Prison system does more harm than good

LETTER: Prison system does more harm than good

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Imagine you are living in a tiny room, and nothing in the room belongs to you. You have the bare minimum required for shelter, but not one single comfort from home.

Imagine the bright floodlights never turn off, day or night. Imagine that there are people screaming, pounding on walls, at all times. Imagine being stuck in a bare room, totally alone, for months, never seeing sunlight. Imagine trying not to go insane.

These are the conditions that many inmates in prisons face. Now imagine trying to change your life in those conditions.

The public thinks that prison is remedial, that people who go to prison come out better somehow, changed, ready to walk the straight and narrow. This isn’t the reality. No one can grow personally and make big changes in their life when they are in a constant state of fear and stress. In prison, you have no control over anything. You have no rights. You are at the mercy of others, and you are constantly on edge.

Some people may deserve to go to prison, perhaps violent criminals. However, the majority of the prison population are not violent offenders. Most inmates in the U.S. prison system have a diagnosed mental illness. People with bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, and schizophrenia.

The prison system is the number one provider of mental health services, yet most prisoners have no access to therapy. There is one “counselor” in most prisons, and this person contacts their families and manages affairs. They do not provide therapy to inmates.

We need to change our prison system. People with mental illness need access to services. The conditions of most prisons is appalling. Exposing human beings to bright lights and loud noises continuously is a form of psychological torture. Segregation of inmates for weeks and months is also torture. We need to end these archaic traditions and actually reform people, because inmates are people and they deserve humane treatment, and a genuine chance to change.

Laylie Turner, Mattoon


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