Putting the Correct back in Corrections

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to have jails and prisons at all? Nobody likes the “idea” of holding others in custody, unless you have been a victim of crime, in which case you want the offender punished and prevented from doing you harm again.

Most of us would probably agree that there has always been crime and there probably always will be. So what is the answer? Massachusetts has the lowest incarceration rate of all 50 states (which is great) but that’s not saying much, because the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world (not at all great). In this state, we don’t want to lock people up as a form of punishment, we want to use custody as an adult time-out because we are able to see the commission of crime as the symptom of something deeper that we need to fix. We want to use this time to give offenders the tools they need so that they come out of the process more whole than they go in; certainly not more broken. So what do we know offenders need? Appropriate and focused approaches to the key issue or issues that are at the heart of their anti-social behavior.  For many it’s mental health services, and the right medication or therapeutic approach. For those with substance abuse disorders, it’s targeted and relevant treatment, which for some needs to focus on alcohol. For others, the need is for opioid treatment, but there is no one magic solution for them, either; some need and want MAT, but others don’t choose to be on medication indefinitely, and they should be supported in that choice. People need the treatment that is right for them, and that they have some agency in choosing. And for others, they might need their high school equivalency, vocational training and job placement, or a chance at college. And there are some offenders who are going to need some combination of all of the above. Innovative and well-run facilities (and they do exist, just not in Hampshire County yet) start with the question: “What do you need in order to not come back here or any other facility?” and provide the appropriate services to help that person—and the family he will return to—heal. Every person in custody is someone’s son, brother, partner, or father. We must remember that, and ask ourselves: “Would this be good enough for my son?” If we don’t know the answer, or the answer is clearly no—then we need to do better, and we can. #KnowYourSheriff