"Success is Closer Than We Think."
The anti-mass incarceration movement is not taking full advantage of technology, services, general resources and proven communication strategies.
For-profit and non-profit organizations worldwide are working together, maintaining a collaborative and informative presence in people's lives with unprecedented ease and effectiveness. Even kids in developing countries are successfully promoting their ideas, sharing their lifestyles and improving the lives of their families and communities by utilizing the growing variety of powerful tools available today. Yet, despite the near-universal embrace of trying to achieve the best results possible in any effort, which requires full employment of these tools, many in the anti-mass incarceration movement seem content with the status quo.
The "anti-mass incarceration movement" is a catch-all term for every person and group involved in addressing the negative consequences of mass incarceration -- everything from crime control and bail to incarceration and post-release issues. With such a large collection of participants and members, the failure of the movement to capitalize on current resources and strategies is both understandable and unacceptable.
We can aim higher than "it's better than nothing." We can do better than "helpful." We can speed up progress.
For example, imagine driving through the city and seeing a group of people helping someone move, their t-shirts reading: "People At Your Service (PAYS.com)." You later spot the t-shirts on individuals working in an urban garden, at clean-up sites, mowing lawns and painting buildings around town.
Looking up PAYS.com online, you find links to facebook, Pinterest and Instagram accounts, chronicling the positive work and achievements of PAYS' workers -- all currently and formerly incarcerated individuals in your area and nationwide. You see pictures, videos and stories of joyous families reuniting, children doing better in school socially, companies benefitting from the employment of those currently and formerly incarcerated. You see communities strengthened by previously incarcerated mentors and volunteers, returned citizens happy to be paying taxes and voting, many for the first time. You see joint efforts between the currently and formerly incarcerated, crime survivors, and corrections' staff.
Intrigued, you follow PAYS on Twitter and read posts addressing misconceptions about people with criminal histories, alongside encouraging tips for them and their loved ones. On the PAYS website, you find the most comprehensive up-to-date resource directory available with information for those reentering society on jobs, housing, health, programs, technology, leisure, personal development, volunteering and more.
Later that night, you see a TV ad for PAYS about their free services, or another featuring the negative effects of mass incarceration that PAYS is working to resolve.
Imagine how such an open-minded campaign would weaken the debilitating stigma of criminal convictions. It would clearly demonstrate the value of the currently and formerly incarcerated while replacing much of the societal fears and suspicions toward them with acceptance and goodwill. Though this would involve various internet, mobile and physical tools, it need not be overly complicated or expensive. Start at the state level and expand under the guidance of stakeholders with expertise in the type of coordination and the level of management needed.
A lack of resources and power is not the problem it used to be. These can be overcome, as they have been by others in similar or more forbidding circumstances. The problem now is a lack of cooperation, resource utilization and vision. There are far too many apps, services and know-how (often free) for leaders and influencers in the anti-mass incarceration movement to continue relying on traditional methods and networks, or new ones only partially -- especially because they seem confusing or a bit inconvenient.
Instead of distracting ourselves with what we don't have, let's set an example for the current and formerly incarcerated by focusing on the many things we know, possess and have access to. Success is a lot closer than we think.
Produced in partnership between Prison Lives and The Community. Prison Lives is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization established to educate and enable prisoners to be productive individuals while incarcerated for a positive existence both inside and outside of prison life. The Community is primarily a nonprofit news source for the anti-mass incarceration movement, esp. in Wisconsin (thecommunitywis.wix.com/home).