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Capacity Crowd Considers Prison Situation

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Following up from Saturday’s Forum

Great turnout on Saturday, March 4, for the Movement for a Culture of Peace forum: INSIDE: Right and Wrong in Delaware Prisons.

Thanks for your participation. And thanks to Rep. James “J.J.” Johnson, Kathleen MacRae, Coley Harris, and John Flynn for serving on our panel. As requested, their contact information is as follows:

 J.J. Johnson
Kathleen MacRae

Coley Harris
John Flynn

We began the forum with a visioning exercise.

It’s important to preserve what was said in answer to our question: What do we want our Department of Corrections and Criminal Justice System to be contributing to our community? Your answers were positive and clear:

“restorative justice” / “true rehabilitation” / “focus on healing” / “encourage returning citizens to be activists” / “focus on youth (preventative work)” / “teach life skills” / “fairness in sentencing” / “embrace, don’t ostracize” / ”eliminate [federal] incentives to lock people up” / “eliminate post-incarceration punishments” / “jobs and education options”

What’s remarkable about this exercise?  None of your answers had to do with inflicting pain and punishment on those who violate our laws or societal norms—just helping them overcome whatever sent them to prison and rejoin us as productive members of the community. Does that tell you something about what’s wrong with the “correction” system? That it fails to correct anything?

Your Questions—Dept. of Corrections Take Note!

More than 25 questions were submitted for the panel, provoking a powerful discussion. Most were asked and discussed, but we thought it was important to list all of your questions here on the website. (They are listed here in no particular order.)

  • In your opinion, what can be done to make our corrections system more trauma-informed in order to avoid re-traumatizing men and women who both live and work in the prisons?
  • Economics of incarceration: What is the cost (in $) of the DE prison system? Would it be cheaper to do things differently, e.g. are “best practices” more cost effective?
  • What’s being done on fairness in sentencing and bail? When you bail is $500,000 cash, it’s not bail it’s ransom. People of color believe justice is for those who can afford to pay.
  • What would it take to get court-ordered federal oversight of our correctional system? Is it possible?
  • Can each of you speak to what changes need to be made to address more comprehensively the emotional and mental health of current prisoners—and what steps can be taken to put these in place?
  • Can I get the panels’ info? 300 prisoners and the hostage negotiator wants me to represent and I would like to share their complaints. I have petition in car.
  • Were there a lot of [prisoner] complaints against Lt. Floyd?
  • Can any of [you] address current issues? I talk to brothers last night with broken bones since Feb. 1 and stillno medical care.
  • Prison work programs exploit inmates for cheap labor. Are prison industries a concern in Delaware? Are prison work issues a violation of civil liberties as described by the ACLU?
  • John: Who gets to be in New Beginnings inside the prison? Please describe what the gentleman [meant] when he said, “Here at New Beginnings is the only place in prison where I’m free.”
  • Are the numbers of women in prison going up?
  • Where and how can the public and inmates find out about all the legal changes—as pertains to re-entry and their rights, i.e. voting, licensing, Medicaid, etc?
  • How can folks outside support incarcerated individuals via advocacy, understanding that there will likely be retaliation for those inside?
  • How can we advocate for increased programming for prisoners?
  • Who is available to work with the traumatizing effects of incarceration in the way of mental health issues?
  • What are some useful ways that people can help support in-prison programs and keep them from disappearing?
  • Why were effective, beneficial programs stopped? How do we get them started again?
  • Can I or Bro. George address that he was down 27 years? [Bro. Debro]
  • Was that a white inmate? Because two blacks I am working with are going blind. His brother brought me here.
  • If zipcodes determine your entire life and the person you’re going to be, how can we keep the children in these zipcodes from going to jail?
  • [For J.J.] Given the [state’s] financial situation, how can we redirect funds for diversion and rehabilitation to reduce the prison population?
  • I’d like to hear more about prison life at Vaughn.
  • What specific legislation would help make effective change?
  • Are there concerns in Delaware about privatizing the prison system?
  • What specific things can organizations or individuals do to make a differentce in your programs oand in the community?
  • [For Coley] Which in-prison programs most impacted your life? Are these programs at risk?
  • Why don’t they let you vote [if you commit] certain crimes?
  • Speaking of thanking folks, how can we support businesses like ShopRite that hire returning citizens?

Next Up

Movement for a Culture of Peace will hold its next public forum on Saturday, April 1, 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church. The topic will be: OUTSIDE: Returning Citizens and the Community.


1 Comment

  1. Ken Abraham says:

    Until legislators and prosecutors realize that the root cause of most prison problems is NO ACCOUNTABILITY, and ACT to change that, these serious problems will not abate! READ


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