Prisons and ‘setting access’

This NY Times article entitled ‘Alabama’s White Elephant’ describes several likely problematic consequences of a new federal prison for women being built in Alabama (US). Many of these problems can be framed and understood in an SRV/PASSING context. It would also be possible to draw out even more likely negative consequences which are not mentioned in the article, but also to draw up potentially valid steps aimed at reducing the impacts of social and societal devaluation and wounding. This would make a good exercise for an SRV study/discussion group and/or university classroom.

I will point out just one issue identified in the article: “for many of the prisoners, the rural isolation of this expensive facility will hurt their chances of returning permanently to their families and communities after doing their time.” We might consider this issue against the particular backdrop of the PASSING tool–for example, the rating R2111 Setting Access–Recipients and Families (p. 291 in the 2007 edition)–and ask ourselves: what are the likely negative consequences on the competencies of the women prisoners as a result of such dislocation? How about the likely negative consequences on any valued social roles which the women had prior to incarceration–how likely are the women to be able to sustain and/or return to these valued roles after they are released? What steps might help to shore up any valued roles? What steps might help to minimize the negative consequences of the wounds of distantiation, segregation and congregation? And so on.

Also note the powerful non-programmatic issue raised by the author of the newspaper article: “Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama pushed hard for Aliceville, promoting the prison as a boon to economic development and a source of jobs for a needy part of the state. For a generation, that rationale has helped justify expanding America’s prison system.

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 11:28 am by MTumeinski · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Written by John Armstrong
    on July 18, 2012 at 12:53 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Thanks so much for this Marc. What stands in “isolated dislocation” often has disastrous effects upon competencies and quite often image(s) as well, especially so when people are highly vulnerable to image degradation as these women are.
    Historically too, when gold ran out in many townships in Australia in 1800’s, many asylums, large hospitals and jails were built to provide work for towns now lacking an economic base. We have only just closed some of them! Its a stark reminder of how devalued people pay a price for the benefit of other parties, and in ways that is made to appear completely justifiable. It may even win someone office!

  2. Written by Janet Klees
    on July 18, 2012 at 9:00 am
    Reply · Permalink

    The most hopeful sentence in this article is “Now, however, some states, faced with crushing costs, are moving to scale back incarceration.”

    Such prisons, of course have never had anything to do with what the women or society really needs, but are truly about the women being fodder for an economic mill.

    Ironically, it will not be efforts to do the right thing, the thing that will make a difference, but once again the economic machinery that may end up being the saving grace for a more humane and helpful approach. Apparently someone has taken a look at the money it costs to use the incarceration approach and has begun to wonder about doing something local, small and direct….hmmm where have we heard of the power of such radical ideas before!

  3. Written by Rachel Kleinfelter
    on October 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I find the idea that these incarcerated women will most likely never be able to regain their social status or valued roles in society terrible. Just because of the location, they lack the ability to be able to gain back what they once had. The incarceration of these women have nothing but negative consequences even after they are released back in to society.

    Something needs to change in order for these women to be able to return to their lives before incarceration. If not, the image will be devalued and they will be expected to fulfill certain devalued roles because of their past.

  4. Written by Kelcie
    on November 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Reading through the article, it seems that the goal is simply to get these women as far away from society as possible rather than trying to improve their lives. This type of thinking is flawed in so many ways. It is immoral and unfair to the women and their families. The sad reality is this system is creating a destructive cycle for these women. Without help, they will be in and out of prisons and other facilities.

    If only the money spent on this prison could be put into programs to help these women gain job skills and mental stability.

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