Yes, prison is punishment
By Randall Austin Sherrard
There is a popular illusion that prisons are too easy and that being sent to prison isn't punishment enough. Well, consider my truth.
It is the small things in life that give existence its truly special moments whose memory is all that's real for me now. I remember the surprise on a child's face after hitting a baseball or eating that first homemade cookie. I go on to remembering how it was to admire the lawn after cutting it, the smell of fresh cut grass, swimming, making a simple call to a loved one, putting on a pair of pants that fit. I continue with memories of getting medical care when sick, and being able to leave the constant noise and ignorance, daily fare in prison. I'm now dreaming of food that tastes good, eating with real silverware, watching a TV show you can hear. I could go on and on, but these are the memories that sustain me.
Few marriages can stand the stress prison puts on a relationship. It's hard to hold a marriage together with a 5-minute phone call every three months and words in letters. My wife divorced me two years ago after waiting eight years. A very fine woman. Prison is punishment.
My grandmother and two aunts have died since my confinement. I was not allowed to attend their funerals. My only niece is nine years old, but I was not there when she was born. I have not attended any of her nine birthdays. Prison is punishment every day of the year.
Everything aforementioned had really nothing to do with prison officials or prison rules, which are by nature and design made to increase the punishment within prison. If just the act of being sent to prison is punishment, then can someone tell me why isn't time in prison used to address the problems that got that person into prison in the first place?
Allowing a prisoner to go to school to learn a trade is not being soft on crime. It's called addressing the problem. Sending a drug addict to prison is not an answer; it is only a reprieve. If we as a reasonable society could accept that simply being in a prison is punishment, then with education and other rehabilitation we can treat the root cause of the problem.
Locked away from family, friends, and loved ones is punishment enough, and many prisoners keep an uncommon faith in the power of renewal. We can only answer our critics with a simple request that you believe there is possibility of renewal, too. Hope can spring eternal for all of us who seek a just system of corrections.
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