When I was 14, after watching me get thrown out again attempting to steal second base, my dad told me, “You run too long in one place.” This came as a shock to me as from my perspective I was moving fast. But I remember that his comment changed my perspective until I was 17 and ran the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds. Again my perspective changed as I had come to believe I was slow. The good news is that to this day, I still think of myself as fast; my perspective has not changed since that 100 yard dash. It probably never will–in my mind, anyway.
It’s true though that our perspectives can and often do change with time, thought, and other influences.
The most obvious example of that for me, as an inmate at Bastrop FSC, is my perspective of the Federal Prison System. Before I arrived, the prison system was hardly on my radar. My general thoughts were that criminals should be punished and non-violent criminals should be housed in minimum security facilities or camps. That’s about all I thought about that, when I ever did think about it. I only knew one white collar federal criminal who received a 6-year sentence at a federal camp. I had thought he would receive probation, but sadly, I did not give it much additional thought.
As I look around this place, my perspective has completely changed. I know maybe 2-3 inmates who need to be incarcerated. All others should be sent home so they could be productive. Certainly they should serve a period of probation, but it should be short and they should be home, not at some half way house many inmates can’t afford. The sad fact is that no meaningful education or rehabilitation takes place at camp, at least not at Bastrop. It’s a warehouse and a horrific waste of taxpayer dollars.
While the President and Congress are playing lip service to prison reform, there are several factors that will keep any meaningful reform from happening. Most politicians really don’t care, unless they have been a victim of the criminal justice system, and are afraid to appear soft on crime. Also, many good paying jobs in the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons are dependent on the status quo, not to mention a union that maintains a culture that requires a supply of inmates to protect its member’s jobs. All these factors make any significant change in the country’s perspective difficult.
How do we change perspective in America? Why, of course–we hire a lobbyist or two. That’s the ticket!
But alas, in the words of Romi in the movie classic “Romi and Michelle’s High School Reunion”, “Yeah, Ramone, that’ll happen.”