BY SAM NELSON
On August 28, the National Hurricane Center started tracking some movement off the western coast of Africa, movement that would eventually become Hurricane Florence.
One week earlier on August 21, prisoners around the country went on strike, with a list of demands that runs the gamut from demanding compensation for labor, to a restoration of voting rights.
These two events should be entirely irrelevant to one another – why should severe weather patterns in the Atlantic have any bearing on the rights of the incarcerated?
“By punishing inmates we end up making them tougher and more likely to return to gang life or their pre-prison life and that isn’t doing anyone any good,” said Jake Holt (‘20).
The South Carolina Department of Corrections brought the two together with their announcement on Sept. 10, when they announced that prisoners would not be evacuated from the Ridgeland Correctional Institution, despite its location in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone.
These elements together start to pose a question – what are our prisons for?
To some, we must use incarceration as a deterrent and a punishment for crimes committed. One would be hard pressed to find folks who argue that individuals who have carried out inhumane violent acts should be let off the hook.
We can look to the prosecution of Larry Nassar, the sexually abusive physician who worked for MSU for years. Without a doubt, Nassar is depraved, and has no place in our society. Looking back a bit further from our current news cycle, we could consider the crimes of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the men who carried out the Boston Bombing. While Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout after the incident, Dzhokhar lived to see his case brought through our justice system.
There is no doubt an obvious terrorist isn’t the prime candidate for rehabilitation. However, the high profile stories that capture our attention are not the typical cases of people who have been imprisoned.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 46.1% of current prisoners are incarcerated for drug offenses. Are people likely to be deterred from drug use, possession, and distribution with the threat of prison?
Some other students agree with this opinion. “Prisons should be used first and foremost to correct behaviors of prisoners so that they can reenter society. It should focus on rehabilitation,” said Asiel Clark (‘20).
If we are to base our justice system off of punishment, are we doing it effectively? The fact of the matter could be that if you commit the crime, you’re obligated to do the time, even in the severe conditions of a hurricane.
If you are for rehabilitation, what steps can be taken to align prisons with the demands of those on strike?