Social Failures Trickle Down To Our Prisons

By Jerry Large  Image courtesy socksonanoctopus.com-

Reading a series of Seattle Times articles about “the empty promises of prison labor” made me think how hard it is to get something good from a system that is, at its core, all about failure on multiple levels — of individuals, of families, of government.

Reporters Michael J. Berens and Mike Baker investigated a prison-labor program that has cost Washington taxpayers millions, hurt small businesses, while helping larger ones, but produced little of what it promised. Their three part-series ran this week.

Washington’s prison system is among the nation’s more progressive systems, but it is still a prison system. I saw a TED talk by Dan Pacholke, the deputy secretary of operations for the state Department of Corrections, and he summed it up pretty well.

Pacholke, who followed his father into corrections work, said prison is the “bucket for failed social policy.”

He knows what he’s talking about. Jails and prisons too often are where we deal with mental illness, chemical dependency, poverty, homelessness. Lock up the person and forget about the problem.

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