For the past year and a half, we’ve been sending surveys to incarcerated people at various facilities in the state and collecting the results. The following list synthesizes the wants, needs, hard truths and hopeful questions present in the responses we received. While it is by no means comprehensive, this list sheds light on how to move from where we stand to where we need to be in order to best serve those to whom we are most accountable. Have an idea, recommendation or question? Share it in the comments!
1) The costs in prison are burdensome, from visits, to canteen costs, to the prohibitive price of phone calls to loved ones. Families are using money they don't have to stay connected and provide support.
GAPS IN ‘REENTRY’
2) If someone is serving a long sentence, they are usually not eligible for the few rehabilitative programs currently available, which means they can't really prepare for parole or clemency.
3) Generally, only people who are going to be released soon are eligible for reentry.
4) The Certified Treatment and Reentry Programs (CTRP) are not really "treatment" programs. No one ever asks questions about our well-being, our families, or how we have changed. [Find out what we consider to be the true Principles of Reentry.]
5) There were questions about the enforcement of Act 150, which requires the sheriff to provide a comprehensive report of the Offender Reentry Support Pilot Program within 24 months of implementation.
6) From people convicted of a sex offense:
a) Reentry is extremely challenging, finding housing and jobs is nearly impossible.
b) They can't go to shelters. There are some shelters that allow it, but if the shelter isn't approved by LA Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections (LADPSC), they can't go.
c) Fees to pay for sex offender registration once released is a burden to reentry.
d) If those convicted of a sex offense could be in the work release program, not only would they pay the exorbitant fees required to participate, but LADPSC would also be able to better monitor them (i.e. LADPSC would benefit).
7) Many asked if there are any efforts to remove certain crimes off the "crimes of violence" list.
8) Many letter writers asked VOTE and other allied organizations to send them more information about the current criminal justice reform happening.
9) People asked about statewide or national correspondence support programs, such as one that sets people up to be pen pals with inmates.
10) Many incarcerated people spoke about the lack of mental health programs in prisons because there are not enough medical staff. This leaves them feeling like they have no one to speak with about mental health.
Though this list paints the grim reality of the current state of mass incarceration, it also gives us the blueprint for our work. VOTE is one of a few organizations worldwide that was founded by and continues to take marching orders from those directly impacted by this dehumanizing system. As we gear up for a busy legislative session set to address many of the issues addressed here, we need all hands on deck. Will you join us for Lobby Day on March 27?