The Psychological Torture We're Imparting On Prisoners Is Only Making The Country More Dangerous

The Psychological Torture We're Imparting On Prisoners Is Only Making The Country More Dangerous

The lie we've been sold to feel better about torturing people to death is crumbling right before us.

Prison is the closest institution I can think of that exemplifies the term "necessary evil." Few people would argue for the complete abolition of prisons. They serve a need that our society, and every society, has had since the beginning of time. But there has got to be a better way to do it than what we're doing now.

What we're doing now can be summarized in one heartbreaking sentence: the U.S. prison system is harvesting a group of mentally ill individuals solely prepared to reenter the system somewhere down the line.

The current framework for prisons in the United States relies on psyche-breaking strategies that inevitably cause long-term psychological damage, not only ruining the life of the imprisoned individual but also ruining the chance of that individual’s successful reentry into life beyond prison walls.

Often times, when I start this conversation with those around me, they say something along the lines of, "Who cares? They're just prisoners," or, "If you don't want to be there, don't break the law." This sentiment that prison shouldn't be a nice place and its frightening environment is a deterrent for crime is messed up in a lot of ways - but the one of greatest interest to people who believe this might be that the current state of prisons is not successful at reducing crime.

Success within the legal system can be defined by the rates of recidivism within it—the rates at which former prisoners relapse into criminal behavior. In the United States in 2005, 76.7 percent of released prisoners were rearrested within five years of their release.

Does that sound like success?

Maybe this is what it's about. Maybe even if you don't care about the treatment of inmates behind prison walls, you care whether or not that treatment is doing what we've been conditioned to believe is the goal: keeping our country safe.

Because of the evidence that psychologically traumatic conditions lead to negative behavior, it's not a jump to say that the psychological effects of living inside a United States prison, including development/exacerbation of mental illness, contribute to the increasingly high rates of recidivism inside the U.S. legal system.

Statisticians from the Bureau of Justice (BJS) led a study in 2004 on inmates in state and federal correctional facilities. The results revealed that 56 percent of prisoners had a mental health problem based on criteria specified in the DSM-IV. These numbers are even more concerning when compared to the average prevalence of mental illness in the general United States population—18.2 percent. This research points to the idea that mental illness is not only something that leads to imprisonment but something that comes as a result of imprisonment.

A final sentiment on the fatality of mental illness inside prisons is the fact that in 2011, suicides accounted for 5.5 percent of deaths in United States prisons—that year, the BJS reported that 185 inmates took their own lives. This research clearly points to the fact that the United States prison system is not doing an efficient job at preventing, identifying or treating mental illness, and the consequences are fatal.

While these statistics are clearly ethically disturbing, a greater truth remains: not only is the prison system harvesting mental illness and the unethical treatment of individuals, but it is also perpetuating an ineffective system for reducing crime rates. This is best illustrated by the rates of recidivism in this country. In the United States, the average recidivism rate for released prisoners is 43.3 percent. However, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 68 percent of 405,000 prisoners released in 2005 were rearrested for a new crime within three years of their release, and 77 percent were rearrested within five years.

We're human. We make mistakes. Yeah, some people make really, really big ones. And some of us are luckier than others. But I can't—and I wonder if you can—defend a system that unfairly penalizes people who have made the same mistakes I have to the point of being driven to death.

I believe a system that is both ethically and pragmatically sound is a possibility when the focus moves from punishment to rehabilitation.

In my mind, this looks like an end to solitary confinement and mandatory minimums, less severe sentencing for lower-level drug offenses, treatment for addiction as opposed to imprisonment in cases of drug offenses, and greater concern for the rehabilitation of inmates as opposed to their punishment, specifically aimed at greater psychological care.

With new information concerning the disturbing psychological effects of the nation’s prisons and the inefficiency—legally, financially, and morally—of the system, it is irresponsible to overlook what is happening inside prisons and inside prisoners. If United States’ prisons continue to source and pursue psychological effects in its inmates, including severe mental illness, the 68 percent recidivism rate will continue—and possibly increase.

Does that sound like success to anyone?

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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5 Thoughts You've Probably Had About The Government Shutdown If You, Like Cardi B, Are Paying Attention

I'm not sure if Trump thinks he's playing a real-life game of "The Sims," but I can assure you that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in.


2019 — what a time to be alive, am I right? Normally I would use that phrase sarcastically, but each day I am more and more confused, transfixed, and curious (with just a dash of anticipation) about our current state as a society and the direction we're going. Even though most of the time the world seems like sh*t, you've got to admit that out of all the times in history, the current one we're in has a lot of cool perks. I mean, 70 years ago, who would've guessed that there'd be computers and a world wide web filled with endless information and apps that allow 125 million people to see cute pictures of Kim Kardashian's baby. And compared to life in the 1600s, an airplane seems just as extraordinary as the second coming of Jesus.

We're making a lot of wonderful and exciting progress, like our advancements in medicine, but for some reason, we've hit an impasse in terms of social improvement. Not even three years ago would I have guessed that the U.S. would elect an unqualified, most likely racist, reality TV star as president, but alas, here we are, which brings me to his latest antics.

The government shutdown.

Despite how bleak the future seems, a little part of me is just a tad grateful that I'm alive to see this all go down. Like everyone else, however, I've had quite a few thoughts about it all over the past few weeks...

1. So we're screwed, right?

We briefly had a government shutdown in 2013, but for some reason, I have absolutely no recollection of it (my 14-year-old self was probably too preoccupied with who was posted on my high school's Instagram "thot page." Spoiler alert: I was), so this is like my first experience dealing with one. There have been more than a dozen in U.S. history, but the current shutdown is the longest out of the list. My first thought when hearing about the news was "what the hell does THIS mean?" I immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were in a total state of anarchy, but of course, that isn't even partially true. According to The Balance, a government shutdown is "when non-essential discretionary federal programs close." The shutdown doesn't affect state social services, like the Department of Public Safety, and thankfully for us broke college students, funding for financial aid was approved last September, meaning there's no current effect on student financial aid programs.

However, federal services and agencies like the IRS (don't get too excited... you still have to pay taxes), Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Institute of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration are completely shut down while the budget process is in limbo. With no current end in sight, this is bound to get very bad, very soon.

Already, hundreds of thousands of government employees have been sent home without pay and will continue to not be paid as long as the shutdown is in effect. People living in low-income housing may be evicted as HUD freezes funds for programs. Without funding, all of these services very well may close. Not only that, but the shut down is costing us money: approximately $1.2 billion every week. I wouldn't normally be worried, but Trump is the exact type of immature and petty to where he'll keep this going until he gets his way (or he's impeached, whichever comes first). His attitude firmly suggests that he's not backing down, and if services do close, there will be terrible effects on affected departments and citizen well-being.

Should we just drink the kool-aid now?

2. All of this over... a wall?

Out of all of the things that a president could request funding for, the one we currently have wants $5 billion for a damn steel wall? I'm not sure if he thinks he's playing a real-life game of The Sims, but I can assure you that real humans are much more crafty than we give each other credit for and that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in. Trump has said that the wall is the "only solution for a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the border," yet common sense and many politicians/organizations can tell you that that's complete and utter bullsh*t. Not only that, but Trump's whole presidency has revolved around quelling illegal immigration, but no one has stopped to ask why he's only focusing on the border.

How would a wall decrease the number of people who overstay their visas? How would it decrease the number of illegal immigrants who aren't even crossing the border?!

While I am not well-versed in how much of a threat illegal immigration presents to the U.S. people and government, I still am convinced that there are way more important issues that the president should be concerned with. F*** global warming and renewable energy, let's build a wall, right?!?

Trump's obsession with his wall is a pathetic attempt to flex his self-professed prowess and a way to appease his hate-filled fanatics who only voted for him because he promised he could get it done.

What happened to Mexico paying for it? Oh right, that was just more bullsh*t.

3. People actually donated to this sh*t?

I just... People's stupidity and callousness never cease to amaze me. Before GoFundMe rightfully shut this fundraiser down, over 345,000 people actually donated $20 million dollars for a (wait for it) steel wall. Why is this the thing that people feel their money is worthy of being spent on? Imagine if we all banded together to raise $20 million dollars to help end homelessness or food insecurity. Or better yet, pay the federal employees who are getting screwed over by this whole ordeal.

4. How do Trump supporters feel about all of this?

I know that die-hard fans can take a lot of sh"t from their idols, but I think that after a while it's only natural for them to get fed up. Out of the 62 million people who voted for Trump, there's probably a good portion of them who are significantly affected by the shutdown. The ones who are government employees are feeling the brunt of it now, but if this continues on for months or even years like Trump is threatening, then we're all going to feel it and I can't think of any good excuses that someone could come up with in order to justify such a foolish and reckless decision made by the president. To a federally-employed Trump supporter, I can't imagine how it feels to go 26 days without a paycheck because the president you voted for is desperately trying to propose funding for a wall that you want to be built. It's got to be a catch-22, but hell, I feel like almost all Trump supporters are delusional anyway, so they're probably thinking they're undergoing some grand act of martyrdom.

5. Even Cardi B is worried... Now you know we're screwed.

Cardi B took to Instagram recently to post a video of her addressing her worries about the government shutdown. While not eloquently put, the rap princess is really only just voicing the thoughts and opinions of a lot of us out here. If Cardi B is taking the time out of her day to stop popping off at her haters and fantasizing about Offset's peen, then you know that this issue is a pretty big deal. The self-proclaimed gang member and boss bit** has admitted that she's scared. I think that warrants us to all be.

Well, there you have it, folks. Five of my most pressing thoughts about the government shutdown. As it continues, I'm sure they'll be thousands more that pop into all of our heads. But hey, let's look on the bright side -- we've made history; now's the only time we can say the government has been shut down all year.

Hopefully, we won't be able to say it for much longer.

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