A Crisis in Corrections. As they now operate, the “corrections” systems in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia correct nothing. What they do is to dehumanize the more than 100,000 people in our region’s prisons and jails, traumatize their families and communities and harm us all by propping up economic inequality and pervasive racism. In Maryland and Virginia, respectively, 68% and 58% of those imprisoned are black – imprisoned at a rate five times that of whites.
Our states, acting in our names, spend over two billion dollars annually to inflict an arbitrary, racially-biased culture of punishment, not rehabilitation. Our incarcerated neighbors -- are deprived not just of their liberty but of the most basic human rights. They suffer from
- Deprivation of meaningful physical and emotional contact with family and friends for years on end,
- Grossly inadequate medical and mental health care for a population deeply in need of both,
- Arbitrary limits on freedom of expression, due process of law and the right to vote,
- Tolerance of violence from staff, attack dogs and other inmates, and
- Denial of any real prospect of being better prepared to live a fulfilling life after their release.
And for the tens of thousands in solitary confinement, this dire situation is compounded by living in a 10 by 8-foot prison-within-a-prison -- an experience that gives rise to anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and psychosis. Natasha White, an IAHR staff member who helped lead the successful campaign to end solitary in New York State, herself experienced solitary. She recently reflected that the whole system “needs to be dismantled but we gotta start [by] protecting [those in solitary] from being harmed more than they are already.”