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Transcript: The Future of Prisons
Host Jim Peck asked, "What do you hope the prison of the future looks like?" Our panelists have surprisingly optimistic answers.
These are selections from the whole transcript. Some comments will also occur on other themed pages because they cover more than one topic.
I was going to ask you what will the prison of the future look like and it occurs to me that maybe this is actually two questions. One what will the prison of the future look like and number two what do you hope the prison of the future looks like?
Well I hope the prison of the future in our state is much smaller that we're using prison for the most dangerous, violent offenders and we're taking the majority of the prisoners that we have now that are substance abuse related and providing them a therapeutic community either within the prison system or more hopefully in the community and providing them with the support systems that they need to be successful.
Dr. Theresa Martinez:
And I hope the prisons of the future take into account, well the prison of the future like she says it's a smaller entity it's not housing thousands and thousands of people two million people in the United States and that the community alternatives are really utilized, using racial and ethnic communities, using women's groups, understanding that there's a lot of diversity within prisons and that there's a lot of community resources that can be used and also partnering with businesses and with grantsmanship. We shouldn't be housing two million people in the United States.
I'd like to see more community involvement, community boards that sit you know with the board of pardons reviewing those decisions. Community review board with the department of correction and working with them so that the community becomes involved with all the different decisions that are being made and by all means having in these therapeutic communities and aftercare, having the peer group, those that have been there and done that very involved because I think that helps there further treatment and they really know what its like.
On the start up side of it and agree that there is a percentage of very hard core criminals that are dangerous and have to be segregated because they are violent and they threaten all of us, but as an attorney I would like the prison of the future to be this. That when I go into court I've got all of these community based programs that I can offer the judge and say my client doesn't need to go to prison because we have this.
I would like the prison of the future, when people leave the prison that they have a vision of hope, they have a pathway towards success, that their only alternative is not to get off the bus and recommit the crime, but that they can seek employment, they can find housing, they can become a part of a family, they can become a part of a fellowship, and they can lead a life like the rest of us have an opportunity to.
I guess I would like to see the prison or the correctional system of the future being a system as opposed to just an institution isolating people and treating them and providing a level of opportunities has already been discussed for that judge to provide for that individual and opportunity to assist themselves in bettering themselves and perhaps becoming more productive in the community. Today as far as for our system I concur with Assembly Woman Leslie I'd like to see our population reduced. I'd like to see more people in the community and I would like to see us address some of those issues as substance abuse, as mental health, and as with women with children in the community as in lieu of going into a hard bed in a prison.
Dorothy Nash Holmes:
To answer your other part of your question I'm afraid as the pendulum swings and it does as we get tighter for money and more conservative leaders and then it swings back the other way I'm afraid of losing what gains we've made. Dr. Latessa can tell us we know what works its science based now its evidence based, we've tested it, we know assessment, we know risk, we know what works so don't just go back to a philosophy of lock the door and slam it and lock 'em up again because that used to work. We've got to keep moving forward and not lose the gains that we've made that's my biggest fear.
I have to disagree, the penitentiary system I don't think ever worked.
Dorothy Nash Holmes:
I agree with that.
We locked 'em up, we warehoused them, they came out, they re-offended and we went through the whole system again. I think we learned that, I think over the last decade we're seeing a tremendous, tremendous change and in Idaho we're trying to isolate those who are not treatable, put them away and put our money and put our money where the treatable people are and try to lower that recidivism rate. I think that's a great step forward I just think we have to keep going and not going back. There are a number of people we incarcerate that could be treated very successfully outside at a lower cost to the taxpayer and I think the judges in the judicial system would love to have that opportunity. I think we have to look toward that.
Dr. Ed Latessa:
You know I agree I don't think the penitentiary system ever worked, but we locked a lot fewer people up and I think it's not just the prison; it's the sentencing structures we have a lot of mandatory minimums and we incarcerate a lot of people today that probably well we know could be handled in the community safely and I'd like to see much smaller prisons and since I visit them a lot I'd like to see better food too, that would be helpful as well.
And when we know those community based programs aren't available and they do come to prison as authorities in prison and as professionals we need to understand that we need to develop programs that are evidence based and that spend the money the wisest and for those that don't benefit from treatment we still need to understand that we have a charge you know no different then a medical professional to do no harm.
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