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Victims of the System That Work Against Them

Sasha De La Cruz's picture

After reading "Prisoners of a hard life" I felt very uncomfortable for a very long period of time. Although I knew, or have heard of, many of these statistics it is still an issue that makes me extremely uncomfortable and unhappy. All of the stories of these incarcerated women include some type of abuse or neglect, even though I'm pretty sure there are some stories of women committing crimes without having such abusive background history. That is to show that there is more than just the crime; that something has happened to these women that made then make the decisions they did. A lot of them didn't even seem to have a choice. I noticed that in a couple of these narratives, there has been some type of systematic "aid" that instead of helping, they caused more damage - foster care for example.

As I mentioned in class, I believe that prisons and jails are simply a method of immediate response, an unfair one. I attended a workshop during the summer where we spoke a lot about these immediate response methods. The analysis they gave us about these immediate response: there is a river. You see a baby in it; you pick it up and hand it over to someone to take care of it. Then there is another baby, you also pick that baby up and hand it over to someone else to take care of it. Then there is another baby, etc. You take in all these babies and hand them over to someone to take care of them, but when do you stop to think about: Where in the world are these babies coming from to being with?!

Same with these women, they commit a crime – they are punished. The judicial system prefers spending thousands of dollars in keeping these women locked up, rather than spending hundreds of dollars trying to help these women internally. In my high school we practiced something called restorative justice (which Prof Barb mentioned and got me really excited). From what I understood, restorative justice is a different approach to restoring or achieving justice. It focuses on the victims/offenders needs and causes rather than simply punishing them without any dialogue. The way this practice took place in my school was when it came to suspending a student, mainly due to a fight. What we did was something that we called a healing circle, in these circles; the consent of both parties is the first step. Present would be the victim, the offender, sometimes their parents and a neutral person who would be the facilitator. During these circles, both parties had the same opportunity to speak and express themselves and to give explanations.

Even though I do think there must be some type of punishment when there is a fair trial, I do think this aspect of understanding both parties’ perspective and finding a way to deal with their issues is critical. The judicial system in this country is very unfair and bias; from racial profiling, to unfair unequal trials between people of color and White. Our judicial system does NOT work in favor of those of color. For example, the police are there to protect and serve, but I would add, to protect and serve those who seem to be “innocent”. Sadly and unfortunate enough this is nowhere near the case in communities that are predominantly of color.