Updated: May 24, 2021
Prison… From the Inside Out
By Jimmy Maxwell
When I was asked to write an article about “time” my first thought was to remind people of what “time” really is. Because, it seems that people in this country, lawmakers in particular, have forgotten the true value of time as they pass out years upon years based more in fear of what people might do if they ever get back out on the streets, rather than the actual crime that was committed. They forget that even criminals are human beings who most often have families, feelings and dreams of a future. People make mistakes. In the world today most individuals are not raised correctly in the first place and must learn, sometimes, by trial and error what is right and what is wrong. People’s lives matter whether they are felons or not. As unpopular as that concept is, it is still none-the-less true. It is a fact that 95% of people in prison will someday be freed. Like it or not, they will have to live somewhere and it is quite possible they will end up someday being your neighbor. It is also a fact that the longer someone is separated from society the harder it is to reintegrate them productively back into it, and the more likely it is that they will re-offend. When people are treated as if their lives don’t have any worth left to them, for whatever reason, the division of empathy between the offenders and the everyday law-abiding citizens is made greater and becomes harder to bridge. So, lengthier sentences are not necessarily the answer and could even be considered part of the problem.
I’m not saying that there are not evil people in this world, or that behaviors like robbery, rape or murder should go unpunished. But, more often than not the average criminals are petty thieves, addicted to drugs and alcohol, victims of a weak upbringing, low morals and poor judgment. The world is a very selfish place these days. From the very rich and powerful to the very poor. These things are a product of
our society, and should be addressed as such, as something to be fixed not swept under the rug and thrown away. President Obama said it clearly, when you commit a crime such as possession of drugs, yes, you should absolutely have to pay for that crime “but not with 20 years of your life!” In our country the punishments no longer fit the crimes. We as a society have become scared and prefer to try and lock away anyone with a known potential for crime and especially violence – before – they can commit a violation. I’m not a fan of crime, or violence. I want my mother, daughter and grandchildren to be safe. But, at some point the ideology of fearfully throwing every threat behind a locked door for as long as we possibly can in lieu of fixing the problem, is sure to overwhelm our society. It will undoubtedly bankrupt and backfire on itself, then the very citizenry will find themselves sitting in a poverty-worn police state, in the middle of a once rich and free country.
A year, or less in the court system is considered a misdemeanor (minor crime). From there, the numbers of years handed out by the courts, shoot up drastically. It used to be that if a man had to pull a solid five year bit, you and he both, felt like he’d paid a heavy price for what ever he had done. It was a long time. When someone had to be jugged for 8–10 you knew he’d done something serious because he had to forfeit such a significant amount of his life for his actions. The 15 and 20 year hauls were truly breath taking and life changing, and were reserved for the severely violent. They were just a step under the heinous life and death sentences, which were only handed out to the truly deserving murderous predators of our society.
However, somewhere along the way, lawmakers and citizens in general have convinced themselves that once a lawbreaker always a lawbreaker, and heaven forbid that an individual with a rebellious spirit has several scrapes with the law. That man, should now be considered a career criminal and not allowed the opportunity to re-offend – or consequentially – the opportunity to change and make something productive out of the remainder of his life. Now, it is common place and even considered soft on crime, to give out no less than a 20 year sentence and will often range all the way up to ‘LIFE’ – sometimes without even the possibility of parole – for non-violent, victimless crimes. Tell me… how does that happen in a country that is supposed to be a beacon to the rest of the world for fairness, equality, and human value?
What is a year, what is a decade – two decades? Let’s look at that. According to the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy for a male in the United States is 76 years. Generally speaking 18 of those years are spent reaching adulthood. A man usually doesn’t start seeing the inside of a prison until he’s nearing twenty. Counting from the legal age of 18 on, there are only 58 years left. We can shave another ten off because after the age of 65 a person’s propensity for crime or violence almost becomes nonexistent. Leaving the average man 48 healthy years to make good on life. In a society where each and every life is supposed to be considered equally important, the significance of losing decades at a time can’t be just ignored.
If compassion doesn’t spur you too think deeply about this article, what of the cost? When people get so scared and angry at criminals that they give up trying to reintegrate them into society as productive members of it and hold them, out of fear, until they are old enough to no longer pose any kind of threat, then not only will the general public be flipping the bill for maintaining the individuals incarceration for decades at a time, but by the time he, or she, no longer poses a “threat” they, then would also be to old to pose any kind of positive productive contribution to the community either, and will need to be cared for in that capacity as well.
What I’ve written about so far, only scratches the surface and doesn’t include the family aspect of losing a parent to prison. Or what the wife, children and family dynamic go through while waiting for a spouse to complete a lengthy prison term. Not-to-mention the cost passed on to the public for having to financially aid such families through the hardships of single-parent, single-income households.
We will explore this and more when we continue the discussion in part 2 of TIME.
To be continued:
Word from the Admin.
My name is Justin Case, senior editor/admin, for Prison From the Inside–Out. A lot of people ask me if Jimmymaxwell.net is only about selling Jimmy’s books, well, yes and no. Of course we want to sell his books, which will help Jimmy and his family find their productive and legitimate place in the world. However, we would also like to use the platform to enlighten, encourage and educate those that don’t understand what prison is about. Especially keying in on how extended incarceration effects a prisoner and his family. What hope, and sometimes, lack thereof, does to them mentally, physically and spiritually. We intend to cover topics from what if feels like to be locked down 24/7 for years at a time — to expectant hope for release and what an inmate will face upon his discharge. Occasionally we will have articles from Jimmy Maxwell himself writing on the mentality of TIME from within, he is an extremely knowledgeable resource on the subject. His wife has already provided us with several very compelling pieces. Keep up with these articles, and more, by subscribing to this website.