Opinion: Are Non Violent Prisoners Receiving Extensive Sentences?

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It has been estimated that the US prison system has cost our country, and tax payers, over $80 BILLION dollars per year. Not to mention additional costs by families who want to support their loved ones, stay connected, and add hope to overcome their isolation. That cost can roughly be another $2.9 Billion dollars in paid phone connections, commissary items, and restitution costs.

Just recently the state of California alone has proposed a release of 8000 prisoners who have 180 days left or less on their record due to covid-19 issues. This follows a previous release of over 3500. These are non violent offenders. One problem I see with this is some prisoners could have been non violent at the time of arrest but prison life has created a violent offense. Therefore they are no longer eligible. Did it take the corona virus to have them released sooner? Or might we think their sentences were too long to begin with?

Many non violent offenses are drug related. Since drug addiction is an illness, it seems that the tax payers funds, and family funds, should be better used for court mandated intervention and drug rehabilitation. As long as there are no violent offenses, why not opt for rehab instead of incarceration? Isn’t the idea of the arrest and discipline to teach, inform, and rehabilitate offenders so they can be active contributing people in our society?

What about anger management, drug diversion, technical schooling opportunities and other programs that might actually rehabilitate instead of ruining lives? Our lock them into prison and throw away the key mentality has caused more of a burden on society than to offer mandatory rehabilitation and create active, useful, members of society who actually could have a chance at a good life.

Don’t get me wrong here. There are those who deserve to be in prison because of the horrible things they have done while on the outside. Yet, there are also those who fall through the cracks of the justice system, feeling they have no other choices and end up in violent situations after incarceration that ultimately lengthens their sentences.

Just looking at how many prisoners recently released in the state of California alone tells us that there are those who obviously have received sentences that have been too long. Don’t we think that creating re-entry programs is a better choice than lock them up and release them into a world they are no longer used to? Life is about learning. Rehab for a drug addict should never be a choice in court, but mandatory. Programs where court reporting for drug rehab have been shown to actually work with juvenile offenders when held accountable. Accountability and mentor programs can go a long way in helping potential offenders develop character and skills to lead upstanding lives alongside their families.

For those who are not sex offenders, not violent citizens, do not do harm to anyone but themselves, don’t we think that maybe giving them a mandated chance for change, rather than incarceration could be a better answer? It seems that channeling our energy and tax dollars into mandatory rehabilitation centers would be a smarter idea than over crowded prison systems that do nothing but cause more anger, depression, feelings of separation and loss than rehabilitation. This does not even cover prison inflicted illness that can be life altering and life taking.

We have a country filled with talented drug counselors, anger management coaches, life coaches, and clergy that would make great candidates for employment in centers that help human beings become active members of our societies instead of training more prison guards  to monitor humans who really just needed a better chance in society. Many incarcerated human beings come from one parent families, usually with an absent father. Are we compassionate enough to give them the things they missed out on in this country? It’s not just about dollars and cents, its about what makes sense.

Loving you from here,

Dr Jenine Marie Howry, PhD

**References

The Marshall Project

 

“First Do No Harm” and Modern Medicine

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When I was growing up, my family had this person in our lives we called “the family physician.” We all went to him and he knew us all by name. I was not always keen on our family physician’s bedside manner, as he could almost sound a bit insulting. He knew his stuff though. I remember my father calling him brilliant one Christmas holiday he saved my grandmother’s life. She went on to live many many years longer, even with heart issues, and well after our doctor’s retirement. He treated my chicken pox, strep throat, allergies, severe reactions to antibiotics, and diagnosed my first pregnancy. I saw him into my early 20’s from when I was a child. Everything that could have been known about me medically, he knew. He treated everything, including some of my tears.

Now, we have a “primary care physician.” We are very fortunate when we get a good one. I know there are a lot of good ones out there. Although, what happens now, our insurance company pretty much determines who that will be or who is “in network”. Then, if we need something else besides taking our blood pressure, we are referred to a specialist who basically knows nothing about us. That person is also determined by our medical insurance company and has to be “in network”. If medications are prescribed, the insurance company tells us when we can have our refill, even when our physician has prescribed it and has already said it is alright. The pharmacy tells us, “You can’t have this medication for a couple more days.” SERIOUSLY? What do we do in the mean time? What if we are going away for the weekend and need mediations we normally take?

I’m not sure I even want to get on the subject of medications themselves. Have you ever read some of the side effects of the newer medications? I don’t doubt that many can be very helpful, but “high risk of causing cancer” or “death” are not on the top of my list of things I really want to handle with a medication that is supposed to help me. Don’t get me wrong here. I do know that some medications have been life savers for me and for others. Yet, there are others that I have to question. These medications were not even around when my family had our family physician. Some of the women in my family lines have lived into their 100’s. (A pretty good track record if you ask me). It does not mean living was always easy, but when would that ever happen?

I sat pondering a medication bottle this morning after reading the possible side effects again. “High risk for causing lymphatic cancer” is a scary thing to ponder. I put the bottle back in my drawer. I’m not sure managing a little inflammation in my body is worth that risk. Especially the death part. We all get there eventually, but I really don’t want to speed up the process. Some of our advances in curing cancer have been remarkable, so please don’t take this as a reason to be fearful of medical treatments or even specialty doctors.

I think my point here is to be wise in choices. It is YOUR body. The insurance companies, the drug companies, and doctors who don’t take the time to know our feelings about them are not the main focus of our own healthcare. In my case, if at all possible, I would rather reach for what holistically helps me and use other drastic measures as a last resort. Medical care is important, especially preventative care. Take care of your body, mind, and spiritual life and the result will be a reward. Be smart about what is good for you and eliminate what is not. If you are not sure, do some research and find out!

A good place to start is meditate for the mind, eat right for the body, connect spiritually to inspire, bring wisdom, and for guidance. When medical issues do arise, and they will, be wise in decisions. Your medical provider is hopefully a well trained physician, but still is not a god and does not have the final say in the decisions regarding your body. Listen carefully to advice and heed it when it is needed. There are many miraculous breakthroughs in many aspects of modern medicine. We have come a long way. Just be wise. Consider very deeply if the benefits of something will outweigh the risks. I know our family physical took somewhat of a risk to help my grandmother that Christmas season she struggled with a heart issue. The benefits extended her life. My hope and prayer is that we find ourselves with more physicians that are like that and less of those who would risk our life span just to provide something for the sake of simply being a provider. “First do no harm.”  (Hippocratic oath)

Loving you from here,

Dr Jenine Marie Howry, PhD