“15 Years In Environment Of Constant Fear Somehow Fails To Rehabilitate Prisoner,” proclaims the headline. The subsequent article tells the story of Terry Raney, a recent parolee who has been reincarerated for assault and battery.
Albert Gunderson, warden of the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, seems baffled by Raney’s return to prison. “It just doesn’t seem possible that an inmate could live for a decade and a half in a completely dehumanizing environment in which violent felons were constantly on the verge of attacking or even killing him and not emerge an emotionally stable, productive member of society,” he says.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the article referenced above is satire, appearing on the fake news site theonion.com. If you were fooled, don’t be too embarrassed – China’s official news agency has on a number of occasions posted articles from The Onion as factual (see here, here, and here for examples).
In order for satire to be effective, there has to be a kernel of truth at the center of the joke – something that would make you hesitate, even for a moment, to stop and consider that what you are reading might actually be true. And in the case of this joke, the truth is a painful acknowledgement of the failure of the existing corrections system to rehabilitate inmates and to reduce skyrocketing recidivism rates.
It would be funny, if it weren’t so true.
In the United States, more than 650,000 prisoners are released into society every year. An estimated 70 percent of those former inmates will be re-arrested within two years. This continual cycling in and out of prison results in unstable communities, prisons packed beyond capacity at a huge cost for taxpayers, and the opportunity cost lost when so many able-bodied men and women are unable to contribute to the local and national economies. Most tragically, there is the failure to treat these individuals as human beings of infinite worth, as the system too often opts to lock them up and quarantine them from society, rather than working for their transformation.
Prison Fellowship is working to help change the prison system, those who are stuck in a cycle of crime, and their families. Through in-prison evangelistic events, mentoring, and reentry programs, Prison Fellowship seeks to transform the lives of those behind bars. Justice Fellowship, the policy advocacy arm of Prison Fellowship, is working to bring common sense reforms to the corrections system, making it both more effective and more efficient. And through Angel Tree, Prison Fellowship seeks to restore and strengthen families affected by crime by ministering to the children and caretakers of inmates.
Transformation is possible, but it doesn’t happen without the help and support of individuals committed to seeing lives change inside and outside of prison. To find out how you can be involved, visit www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved.