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Matt Bor‘s statement is just terrific and pointed.

I’ve had a few conversation on my travels with people about the Occupy movement. For it to really drive the national agenda and to mold presidential candidates who will not be able to ignore the 99% the cause will need to unite workers, unions, students but most importantly the poverty-stricken.

The poor lose the most in a society where a select few control the majority of wealth.

I suspect poor folk might be more concerned with holding things together in their own neighbourhoods than having the time and incentives to join open-ended demonstrations in the downtown precincts of American cities.

But for a truly important Occupy movement the voices of the most disenfranchised are essential.

I’m left to wonder what the 2.3 million Americans behind bars (who obviously can’t pitch a tent or picket a capitol building) might think of the involvement of the people from their (usually the economically ravaged) communities. In fact I’m wondering what the incarcerated masses think of the Occupy movement generally.*

Despite the figure of incarcerated folk being actually about .7% of all Americans, we should note that 1 in 100 American adults are in prison or jail, and that 7 million American (approx 2% of the total population) are in custody, on parole or under other forms of supervision.

Matt Bor does a great job in confusing our presumptions about ‘freedom of assembly.’

I, for one, would appreciate seeing actual protest signs with this mantra at Occupy gatherings.

Check out Matt Bor’s blog and buy a copy of the cartoon here.

*Anecdotally, many prisoners I’ve worked with as an educator sympathise most with Republican notions of “freedom” and are suspicious of government “meddling”.

If an individual and the law don’t agree to the point the individual is imprisoned, one hopes lawful imprisonment changes the individual, right? For the better, right?

Unfortunately, American prisons have proved the opposite of rehabilitative or hopeful of positive change. Recidivism rates in America are between 60% and 68% (depending on the source).

"Prison has changed you, Mom" © 2009 Marshall for the New Yorker

"Prison has changed you, Mom" © 2009 Marshall for the New Yorker

Spurred possibly by the fiscal-driven prisoner releases across the nation, Marshall penciled this pearl.

Some of the best comedy is simultaneously tragedy. The truth is America’s prison archipelago has bruised the lives of the current 2.2 million prison population, the lives of family members AND our lives and communities. Inmates returning to society haven’t been suitably prepared or shown new paths. Change has been for the worse in majority of cases.

I was astonished to read this AlertNet article. It excavates the background to Lovelle Mixon’s massacre in Oakland that killed four people.

I cannot agree with the article’s logic 100%. It would be a sad day if I ever presumed the individual totally powerless and unable to act upon non-violent decisions, but as the author writes:

“Though Mixon’s killing spree is a horrible aberration, his plight as an unemployed ex-felon isn’t. There are tens of thousands like him on America’s streets. In 2007, the National Institute of Justice found that 60 percent of ex-felon offenders remain unemployed a year after their release.”

It is not easy to resist the urge to think of mass-murderous crimes as the singular actions of an individual.

I appreciate Earl Ofari Hutchinson‘s article because it brings together the many invisible and minor trials in life that collectively make daily stress unbearable. I finished the article amazed that there are fewer desperate crimes akin to Mixon’s. An uncomfortable thought.

Again, Hutchinson reminds us that the problems of incarceration, recidivism, education, unemployment and crime are inseparable:

Washington, D.C. is a near textbook example of that. Nearly 3,000 former prisoners are released and return to the district each year. Most fit the standard ex-felon profile. They are poor, with limited education and job skills, and come from broken or dysfunctional homes. Researchers again found that the single biggest factor that pushed them back to the streets, crime, violence and, inevitably, repeat incarceration was their failure to find work.

Q. Why do we warehouse people, break them, and then return them to society in a poorer position to cope?

A. Punitive and immovable laws, collective arrogance & utter denial.

With an estimated 600,000 prisoners either released or due for release in 2009, it’s about time we make a small change in our accomodations – especially given the size of change we expect of former prisoners.


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