United States’ prisons riddled with issue and in need of reform

Drawing+by+Seolin+Park

Drawing by Seolin Park

With the highest incarceration rates in the world, the United States needs to recognize the disturbing faults in the prison system. Other countries have a significantly lower crime rate. Baz Dresigher, an American journalist and activist who studied at Columbia University, traveled the world to compare the national prison systems to the United States’ systems. Baz said that “Norwegian crime rates are extremely low and the recidivism rate is a mere 20% because their prison system actually works.” Norway’s prison system focuses on rehabilitation through exercise, therapy, entertainment, the exploration of new hobbies, and connections to the outside world. The United States is the polar opposite as inmates who are innocent or non-violent offenders are simply in need of rehabilitation, and are instead brutally abused both physically and mentally.
Prison guards have dehumanized inmates by abusing the power they have to torment them by attempting to make their lives as miserable as they can. Whether an individual is incarcerated for a small drug crime or a murder, Elmore Correctional Facility states “groups of officers have been taking inmates into isolated areas of the prison where they are handcuffed and stripped naked and then severely beaten.” It has also been reported that both male and female inmates have been raped and sexually assaulted by the correctional staff.
The media has created a false facade that the mistreatment of prisoners is being controlled with movements such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act establihed in 2003 and inmates who have been assaulted are seeking the psychological help they need. However, this is simply not enough to keep those behind bars safe.
Rocrast Mack was incarcerated for a drug conviction in Clayton, Alabama. He was accused of looking at Officer Melissa Brown in a way that she felt was improper. In response, she beat twenty-four-year-old Mack repeatedly; inside sources stated “his arms were dangling, his neck appeared twisted, and his head bobbed uncontrollably.” After being beaten until unconscious, his hand was slammed in the cell door. His fellow inmates attempted a protest and tried to call for help, however, the guards disconnected all phones. Mack was brutally murdered for an accusation that there was no true evidence of. He was an innocent man with no blood on his hands and was attacked by one whose job is to keep him safe. With a short conviction, Mack was young and had a whole life ahead of him. He had time to make up for his wrongs and change himself as a person but this opportunity was stolen from him.
When not being abused physically, inmates are tormented psychologically. With one out of every five prisoners diagnosed with mental illness (The Marshall Project), these individuals are neglected the care they need to get better. New York’s correctional commissioner, Brian Fischer, discusses a prison as simply not “designed” to help the mentally ill and disabled. He states, “If he is hearing voices and along comes a guard and gives him an order, which voice does he listen to first? The one in his head, or the one on the other side of the bars?” In most of these scenarios, these men and women convict crimes in the first place because they are mentally unstable. Instead of receiving the help they need, they are isolated and neglected. Thus, they get projectively worse moving them further from the direction of recovery. Prison is supposed to be an environment that fosters rehabilitation. Instead, it tears apart the little stability inmates have. If society begins to take mental health more seriously in and outside of prison, it will significantly reduce crime rates as well as the torment inflicted upon the mentally ill and disabled.
A statistic from TIME magazine found that there are a total of two million people in jail in the United States and 25% percent of these people are low level and non violent offenders who would have no threat to society if they were released. In addition, the Innocence Project reported that 2-10% of the population that is incarcerated are wrongfully convicted. A large portion of society outside of prison is blinded and manipulated by what truly takes place behind bars. It is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately as far too many lives are being destroyed due to the ignorance of the prison system and government.