Prison is not the solution

By Ruiqi Wei

“Dear fellas: I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. Watch it, old-timer! Want to get killed? I saw an automobile once when I was a kid… …but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. The parole board got me into this halfway house… …called “The Brewer”… …and a job… …bagging groceries at the Food-Way. It’s hard work and I try to keep up… – Brooks Hatlen

“There’s a harsh truth to face. No way I’m going to make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole… …so maybe they’d send me back. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well.” – The Shawshank Redemption

I have never understood what has been really being portrayed in The Shawshank Redemption until many years later when the darkness of the prison cell that devoured my conscience deprived my hope, although temporarily.

Words are never enough to describe how I really felt in the cell while I stared at the spooky paintings around the walls that conveyed nothing but a sense of hopelessness interweaved with fatigue, picturing before me the several more inmates that were trapped in the cell as I was in that moment lying in the bed, thinking about how their life like this will not end.

They all know it too well. How repetitious the monotonous life in prison is.

And the terror of not knowing when the state of hopelessness would go away that disturbed me to an unfamiliar degree.

While it still shone brightly in the outside as if everything was still going well as it ought to, there was nothing but only eternal darkness left in the tiny cell.

The days in prison are so long. They don’t end.

For me, the prison field visit only lasted for several hours, whereas for the prisoners incarcerated the desperate life may last from years to the entire lifetime.

Several days after my visit to the prison, I still cannot help myself from reminiscing about the hours spent in prison. There are only darkness and hopelessness that I have been turning over in my mind ever since.

Prison is not the solution.

It is said that life is made up of a series of choices, and different choices lead to different life paths. Different life choices make people end up in different places. Prisoners are in a nutshell, merely the people who have made choices that might be wrong leading them to a place called prisons. They are just the people who stumbled in cinematic ways. But why do stumble? And why do they make these choices that will make them end up in prisons?

It can be traumas. It can be the need to life. It can be poverty. It can be hatred. It can be lack of education. It can be anything. There are so many dynamics that make people stumble and end up in prisons.

Prisons fail to address the root causes of crimes. On the contrary, prison through the deprival of both love by its exclusion of prisoners from the outside and hope are reinforcing the traumas which are embedded in the childhoods of the prisoners. It does not solve the problem from its critical roots. In this sense, let it be said that prisons are only constraining rather than healing. Prisons fail to address the fundamental problem of how to prevent people from stumbling. Prisons only exclude the people that are seen as disturbing from society. And prisons fail to train those who are excluded to be includable again for them to get back to society.

What prisons are really doing still remain superficial after all these years of development although outside the prison in the era defined by rapid technology innovations things even never stay the same for a minute.

The prison is merely a place for prisoners to escape from reality rather than to face the reality and solve the real problem.