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Prison Reform

Has our state failed in protecting the public’s safety?
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By ADRIAN FRUTOS

This is a question I have asked myself since being released from prison after having served seven years. Before I go any further, I find it fair that I mention one thing: I am not a person with a soft-on-crime agenda, and I believe every criminal should be held accountable. But, I also believe that if a person has finished serving their sentence for a committed crime and upon their release the government sets policies to deter them from gaining access to basic necessities, such as housing and employment, then the government must take accountability for new crimes committed and new people victimized as a result of such oppressive policies.

You may be asking yourself how government policies set against a convicted felon have a direct bearing on your own safety? It is because they work in a way that would make it difficult for any person, convicted felon or not, to survive in society. Also, people who go to prison usually have a history of making their money illegally — it’s usually the main reason they end up in prison to begin with. They also tend to come from areas or backgrounds where criminal activity is prevalent. So, what is the end result when you release this type of person into society with a large sum of legal fees on his shoulders, coupled with policies that make it difficult for this person to obtain minimum wage jobs and qualify for housing?

The answer is simple; they will go back to prison unless they have strong community and family support (which most don’t). This is the main reason that the U.S. has the highest recidivism rate; with California taking the lead. This evidence can be found on the website for the Public Policy Institute of California, which is nonpartisan. It can also be found in many scholarly studies that focus on the problem of recidivism in U.S. Prisons.

However, these oppressive policies are not the only factors to blame for California’s high recidivism rate. The state has also failed in protecting public safety in how they handle inmates in their custody, through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Not only are prison conditions in California “appalling,” “inhumane,” and “unacceptable” — as former head of the corrections department in Texas mentioned in a 2011 Forbes article — the few alleged programs that do exist within the state prison walls have fallen under scrutiny. On Feb. 2, 2018, USA Today referred to prison programs in this way: “If medical standards were applied, many correctional practices and programs would be seen as quackery, worthy of malpractice lawsuits.”

Finally, the state’s ultimate failure can be seen in the fact that they do nothing about music being produced by groups who have direct ties to prison gangs, and who produce this music to launder money and motivate youth to live a criminal lifestyle that will eventually land them in prison. Instead, they choose to profit off the sales of this music, through their prison canteen catalogs. One example of this type of music can be seen if you search TriggaBoy Dee on iTunes, and listen to his new album titled, “Prison Bars,” which was recorded through the prison’s payphone system.

The question now remains: What do we do? The answer is simple. Use your voting rights to change the oppressive policies mentioned and turn the prison and court system into a rehabilitative industry, instead of a for-profit industry.

~ Adrian Frutos is a Truckee/Tahoe-born resident who spent most of his young adult life on probation, in and out of juvenile hall, and group home, and who recently finished serving an eight-year prison term. Although he acknowledges his accountability for the crimes he committed during the course of his formative years, he shares his experience of falling victim to a broken legal system, which is largely run and influenced by monetary profit as opposed to justice and rehabilitation. He is currently a student at Sierra College.

 
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The Opinion Page is your place to spout off. This section contains letters to the editor and longer My Shot pieces. Also, the Spout features two bimonthly perspectives — In the Past, delving into Tahoe Truckee history, and In the Moment, an artistic musing of a moment today.

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March 14, 2019