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Minutes of John Santa and Marilyn Kendrix Meeting

John Santa and Rev. Marilyn Kendrix

9/29/16

There are approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S.  This costs the taxpayers about 52 thousand dollars per person per year; a cumulative cost of over one trillion dollars since the 1980s.

Most people incarcerated are non-violent drug offenders yet the ramifications of such high incarceration rates are staggering.  The costs associated with these prisoners severely and adversely affect state, town and municipal budgets taking away from other programs and projects that are often sorely needed.

These high rates of incarceration have resulted from an historic emphasis on so called law and order after years where lawlessness even at the highest levels of government was rampant.  And law and order translated into imprisoning offenders with no attention paid to lesser reform programs.

It is almost axiomatic that the so called law and order programs such as “stop and frisk” mostly targeted the poor.  These tended to create divisions between the poorer communities and the police and resulted in a large part of the prison population coming from the poor.

Incarceration itself makes for poorer people.  Those released from prisons are ineligible for such things as public housing, public assistance, food stamps, and student loans and in many instances any government license such as a driver’s license even though a driver’s license is necessary for many jobs. Consequently, the barriers to reintegration into normal society almost insure that a released prisoner will turn back to crime to survive, which starts the cycle all over again.

To stop this cycle and these costs the population needs to take a fresh view regarding prisons and inmates.  Many, if not most, prisoners suffer from addictions to drugs and alcohol and/or are mentally ill.  Yet, prisons do very little to treat addiction or mental illness. 

A book entitled “Justice Imperative” examines these issues and argues that additional rehabilitation programs are needed to break the recidivism cycle and reintegrate the non-violent criminals into productive society.  Our attitude and some laws need to be changed for the greater good.

Q&A

Q.  Are drug dealers considered non-violent?

A.  I would consider them non-violent if they haven’t hurt anyone, but non-violent is determined by definition, which may not have anything to do with actual injuries or damage.  Some crimes are considered inherently violent notwithstanding the facts.

Q.  Is the state program to hire ex-prisoners still in effect?

A.  I am not aware of any such program.

Q.  Are you familiar with the Pilot House program?

A.  I am and they do a lot of good work.

Q.  Does CT have any private prisons?

A.  We don’t have any private prisons and don’t want them as they have an interest in having more prisoners.

Q.  Do prisons here offer any job training or advice on how to get a job?

A.  Some, but very little and some of their training goes to jobs that ex-prisoners are ineligible to take.

Q.  What does Germany do differently?

A.  They don’t feel that prisoners need additional punishment beyond incarceration.  They live in dormitory style rooms, which they are free to decorate.  They are given jobs that train them for outside work and generally live in a manner that prepares them for their release.  This includes treatment for addictions and mental illness.

Q.  What bills do released prisoners get?

A.  Bills for their room and board along with various court fees and expenses.

Q.  Where does CT stand on legalizing drugs?

A.  I don’t know.

Q.  Can this be made a national issue?

A.  There is a prison/industrial complex and there has to be public pressure to change it.

Q.  What if we legalize drugs?

A.  That is a radical idea and there are lesser steps that can be taken such as providing treatment programs, but we may eventually legalize drugs.