I started out this recent Christmas holiday by traveling with my family to Southeast Missouri. We stayed at a Holiday Inn resort while I took time to visit a maximum-security prison here in the Midwest for the first time in my life: the Potosi Correctional Center.
At Potosi Correctional Center, actually located near Mineral Point, Missouri, I visited an inmate, whom my family has been corresponding with for over a decade. The man has been in prison for 26 years and is there because of Missouri's infamous 3-Strike laws (plus owing to his own crimes).
The prison-industrial complex has fed on such three-strikes legislation over the past 4 decades in states across the nation. We are hopeful that the man I visited (whom I knew vaguely as a child back in Wentzville, Missouri, when I was in grade school) may soon get out on parole as the state of Missouri is constantly considering and re-considering early release of some offenders in the state's over-crowded institutions--even those who had three strikes against them according to the state's own statutes.
Personally, as a lifelong educator, I have been concerned about our nation's school-to-prison pipeline system for decades, i.e. dating back to the early 1980s and 1990s--when I once lost a job for raising my voice on this issue in Great Bend, Kansas. Too many small towns across America depend on imprisoning peoples to offer wages and employment to their locals. One can see this in the case of many small prison communities, where there has been a recent increase in incarceration of even refugee and asylum immigrants across America.
The infamous town of Ferguson, Missouri, which helped bring attention to the extent of "offender-funded" criminal-justice services, is not too far from Potosi--less than an hour drive. That city of Ferguson "was relying on fees and court costs for 20 percent of its budget, effectively turning it into an occupied territory, with a 95-percent white police force supporting itself by forcibly preying on a nearly 70-percent black population."
The man whom I visited at the Potosi Corrections Institution in late December was diagnosed properly for the first time (and treated for the first time) for Intermittent Explosive Disorder about 5 years ago. Prior to his current life sentence, this same prisoner had been involved on-and-off in acts of misbehavior since the 1970s. Unlike many men of my generation in such prisons today, though, his family had financially tried to get him proper treatment for his unexplained disorders since he was a child in St. Charles County. Alas, until the past decade or so, neither the proper therapies nor the proper medication were offered in Missouri prisons.
The proper balance of long-term therapy and medication has enabled this particular man to get within-a-hair-of-a-chance of an early release. His next hearing before the parole board is this January 2018. We wish him the best.
His transition to a changing world after a quarter of a century will not be easy, but the man deserves a break--and community supports of all kinds.
Mary Price has noted that this man's problem is not rare in America of our century. She wrote, "One of the saddest byproducts of our nation's addiction to incarceration is the graying of our federal prison population, a development comprehensively documented in a scathing Justice Department report that shows caring for aging prisoners is fast becoming a fiscal nightmare."