Our Prison System Has Some Not-So-Secret Problems

Our Prison System Has Some Not-So-Secret Problems

How the prison system fails to protect citizens inside and outside of bars.

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On August 21st, inmates in prisons across the country commenced a strike which is quickly becoming one of the most prolific prison strikes of the modern era. The demonstrations, which are slated to run until the 9th of September, mark the one year anniversary of a bloody uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York, which left several inmates dead. Striking tactics during the demonstration period have included refusal to work, and in some cases refusal to eat, also known as a hunger strike.

One of the highest priorities of the inmates is the securing of a fair wage for their labor. Prison laborers are often underpaid for the work they do, which included prison chores, basic trades, and sometimes dangerous tasks. According to Vox, some California prisoners have been voluntarily recruited to help combat wildfires during the state's worst season in history. These firefighters are paid a minuscule wage of $1 per hour plus $2 per day, far below the pay grade of a civilian firefighter.

On one hand, I sympathize with many of these prisoners' aims, and if I were in their situation, I would certainly feel as if I was being treated unfairly. On the other hand, I recognize that these men have committed crimes against their counties, states, and even the federal government. The fact that their labor is compensated at all could be considered an undue kindness. As a whole, however, I believe that the US prison system is in dire need of reform. Generally, prisons should only serve the purpose of restraining individuals who pose an immediate danger to themselves, others, and society. Nonviolent offenders, even those convicted of federal crimes like counterfeiting and fraud, have no place within correctional facilities.

This is not to suggest that justice not to be served. In any functional society, individuals who break the law must be punished, and justice must be upheld. All I mean is that jail time is not an ideal punishment for individuals who pose no danger to average citizens. Not only does it fail to dissuade these offenders in any way, the cost of housing these prisoners is a drain on the American taxpayer and country as a whole. I am no legal expert, and certainly not creative enough to envision punishments suitable for various crimes-such a thing is for judges and lawmakers to decide.

Whatever the crime and following consequences, reformed prisoners should be able to live normally after they have paid their debts to society. Too often, ordinary citizens are turned into criminals by the prison system, which makes no distinction between people who have committed acts of horrendous violence and individuals who made mistakes, broken the rules, but wish to simply atone for their actions and move on. The dangerous prison conditions and lack of focus on rehabilitation lead many to dive deeper into a life of crime, often ending in extended sentences and repeat offenses.

We all know this to be true within our cities and communities. For years, It's been an unspoken truth that the US prison system currently harms far more people than it helps. I am unsure how effective these strikes may be in reforming such a rooted and gargantuan system in the short term, but I am confident that with continued determination on the part of inmates, activists, and rational citizens, the prison system will slowly make strides towards justice for people on both sides of the prison walls.

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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The Modern Republican Party Has Lost Its Morals

The party of morals and values seems to have forgotten both of them.

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For years, the Republican party has hidden behind a facade of being the party of morality. They tried to justify their opinions of women's rights, gay rights, abortion, marijuana laws, transgender rights, and so many others based on the sham that they were the party that stood for morality and traditional values.

Where are those morals and values now?

I thought that the end of the Republican party's title of moral and values would end after a vast majority switched to Team Trump, even after they had completely renounced most of his more extreme views and pre-candidate actions during the campaign. How could a party claim be moral leaders when they support a man who not only holds such extremist, poorly thought out policy ideas that also has a bevy of incredibly immoral behavior in his past?

The Republican party claims they base their views off the 10 Commandments, but Trump has spent his entire life breaking every single one. Even Ted Cruz, a man I respected for not officially endorsing Trump and telling Republicans to "vote their conscience" at the RNC, was making calls to voters in favor of Trump on election night. After the party almost uniformly switched to supporting Trump, I did not think that the party could get any lower than that.


The face of a man who just realized that he will sell his soul for tax-cuts and the repeal of Obamacare img.washingtonpost.com

Boy, was I wrong?

While the party switching to supporting Trump seemed like a moral valley that Republicans could not come out of, I was pleasantly surprised by how much resistance certain parts of the party were willing to create to Trump's agenda. His more controversial candidates for cabinet positions were placed under actual scrutiny and his plans for health-care reform, tax cuts, and other staple Republican talking points were defeated thanks to the backlash from key Republican defectors. As I witnessed this, I was hopeful that the Alt-Right wing of Republicans were the real ones that were the problem and that the majority of Republicans would find the moral courage that they have prided themselves on for so long.

Then, Brett Kavanaugh came to town.



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I won't go into length here about the accusations against Kavanaugh or the truth behind his victim's story. In fact, it does not really matter if he is truly guilty or not. What does matter is how he reacted and how Republicans reacted. Before Dr. Ford even set foot on Capitol Hill, Senators like Mitch McConnell were already giving speeches about how they will get Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Then, Brett Kavanaugh is given the opportunity to plead his side of the incident to the committee. Instead of showing the temperament and critical thinking of a judge worthy of serving on the highest court in the land, Kavanaugh acted like a drunken frat boy angry that a woman could dare accuse him of such an act. And yet, the Republican party yielded their morality and voted him in.

The Republican party's morals have dropped so low that they are willing to push through a candidate with ill-temperament and sexual assault allegations just so that they can have a conservative on the court. The Republicans could have easily united to deny Kavanaugh and then have a more conservative, less controversial judge be confirmed, yet they were scared that the Democrats would hold off the confirmation until after the midterm elections where Democrats are expected to gain enough seats to actually upset Senate votes.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan's pick for the Supreme Court Douglas Ginsburg withdrew his nomination because he had smoked marijuana in his teenage years. I suppose that this represents the moral abyss that Republicans have fallen into marijuana use is disqualifying from the Supreme Court, but sexual assault is not.

With the midterm elections coming up, it is incredibly important to make sure that you are registered to vote and that you go vote. This midterm election can finally be a wake-up call to the Republicans currently in power that we will stand for the moral bankruptcy no longer. No matter which way you vote, make sure to vote for your values. Whether you are supporting a Democrat, a dissenting Republican, or a third-party candidate, make sure to send the message loud and clear: the modern Republican party is no longer the party of morals and values.




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