Running for his life — Rayshard Brooks and the dead prison system that couldn’t save him

rayshard brooks, prior to his death, being interviewed about his time in prison. posted by kambui on mental unrest.
Now-deceased Brooks was doomed to right after his exit from prison.

Why do we continue to spend money on prisons that cannot produce better results?

There’s so much to unpack, given the Atlanta cop arrests for the murder of Rayshard Brooks, additional book-selling drama by war pig John Bolton, so-called police reform, coronavirus shiggity by President Trump and friends …

And I’ll cover them all between now and tomorrow,  but I want to spend this moment reflecting on Brooks’ death, and how his personal challenges reflect the penal state’s transformation over the years that left him with limited tools and even fewer options to save his fragile second shot at a life of freedom.

The taxpayers paid thousands of dollars per year to keep me incarcerated. They didn’t get anything for their money. It was a waste.

Testimony from a former prisoner, included in New York State’s official report on the 1971 Attica rebellion

Not much has changed about many prisons since the days of the Attica rebellion.

Imagine giving your cousin money to purchase 50 items on your grocery list, but Cuz came back with nine items — and no change back.

Many of you would be ready to fight Cuz. But most of you are chill with accepting this kind of waste from your government.

And while most Americans have been surveyed to support prison reform, I’m sure they’re not thinking about the US Department of Justice’s report (pdf) that found 30 states collectively observed an 83 percent prison recidivism rate over a nine-year period.

At one point in history, America seemed to battle with itself over two penal strategies — strict confinement and control over every aspect of a prisoner’s life, and rehabilitation-focused incarceration. 

That battle appears long over today. Strict confinement has been on a decades-long winning streak, leaving the rehabilitation camp with no opportunity to counter.

Therefore, we see a revolving prison door to host repeat felons.

If you believe there should be an alternative to constantly spending money to jail someone who can’t stop stealing from grocery stores to fund a drug habit, isn’t it time to reimagine prisons?

Mass murderers like Dylann Roof should pay for their crimes. In prison. Forever. I don’t see rehabilitation as an option for people like him.

But we should also have an alternate track where we assess prisoners upfront to understand their challenges, and then — assuming the person isn’t a Charles Manson incarnate or someone with an equivalent propensity for violence — prescribe the proper way forward to provide necessary services, including mental health counseling, to help the prisoner adjust to society.

Other services can take the form of drug counseling, work skills development, education, or health and wellness.

Rehabilitation takes my thoughts back to Rayshard Brooks, who had recently completed a prison bid for unlawful imprisonment and credit card fraud. 

Brooks’ video testimonial tells us that he was ready to leave prison and join his family, but not ready to take on the world. 

Perhaps you’re so self-motivated where doing right, after doing wrong, is your natural instinct. 

I applaud you. Please share your tips with others.

But there are others, like Brooks, who are wired differently.

His challenges to finding employment likely contributed to his moments of depression, which can trigger drug and alcohol consumption.

Therefore, I’m not surprised that Atlanta police officers found Brooks intoxicated and asleep behind the wheel of his car in a Wendy’s drive-thru.

The odds for success were against Brooks that evening, who had no tools to help him navigate life while on parole.

And when faced with the reality of going back to prison, Brooks fought. He ran. And he died.

We need to rethink and implement ways in which we make people like Rayshard Brooks more successful — and keep them alive …

song currently stuck in my head: “the rhythm of life” – mike lundy

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