Given the current debates about whether or not to expand the Maine Correctional Center in Windham or how solitary confinement is utilized, I thought it was time to point out the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. The fact is that prisons and correctional facilities do not work. Period. They never have and they never will, and we all know it.

They do not make us safer. They do not act as a deterrent. They do not rehabilitate. Jails were first created to hold people for court before they were punished corporally. Then jail morphed into being the punishment itself.

We made jails and prisons horrible places in order to punish criminals and to deter criminal behavior. When that didn’t work, we decided that prisons should be where bad people go to keep everyone else safe and while they are there we can rehabilitate them and release them back into society as productive members.

When that didn’t work, we turned our faces from the whole thing and chose to ignore it.

We need a paradigm change. Our system is the worst in the world. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Even if it worked, it would be a grossly expensive, inhumane, immoral process that should be done away with. But it is all of those things and it doesn’t even work.

So, why do we continue? Next time you are in church, stand up and ask that. Or at a school meeting. Or on the floor of the Legislature. Try to explain to a 10-year-old that we spend billions of tax dollars each year to imprison millions of Americans for something that doesn’t work. Brilliant.

We continue with this system because we just don’t care. And you know it. Think about it.

Anthony Winslow


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