On Tuesday, April 2, Doctor Jerry Stahler came to speak to the class about drugs and incarceration. I’d already had some background on incarceration and drugs, but more in the sense of the Pennsylvania DOC and their policies concerning the ebooks and mailing procedures (and why they were put in place because of the “substance scare” that occurred in late August of 2018). 

He had a lot of statistics, all of which weren’t necessarily a surprise, but were jarring in how they were phrased. 1 in 38 adults are under correctional supervision. 1 in 99 Americans are incarcerated. 

There are 2.2 million incarcerated in the United States.

That number is just…. wild. But what’s even wilder is the next statistic that was mentioned: There are more black men in prison, parole, or on probation now than there were enslaved in 1850. 

Obviously, there could be a lot of articles written in a solutions journalism style about what needs to be changed within the United States prison system. 

At one point during the lecture, Dr. Stahler said, “We give the punishment that keeps on punishing.” The sentence rings true. While incarcerated, the majority of some people will experience trauma of some sort. There isn’t really preparation for those that have been incarcerated to leave prison. 

Even those that haven’t been incarcerated for decades on end still face barriers when they leave the system. 

When they get out, they might not have housing. Or they have a place to stay, but it’s in the same neighborhood where they’d been before. They’re around the same people that they were before, and it’s easy to continue on as they had before they were incarcerated because that could potentially be the only way to make money. It’s incredibly difficult to get a job, let alone when you have a felony on your record. 

Those barriers that people face attribute to the fact that two-thirds of previously incarcerated people are re-arrested within three years. A quarter of those people are re-incarcerated. 

I could rant a lot about this, but honestly, it’s just going to frustrate me even further. I would be curious to know what other countries have in terms of recidivism, and if the numbers change despite the fact that their sentences are not as long or as harsh as American sentences are. 

Regardless of the numbers, things need to change.