This final blog post aims to reflect on everything that has been discussed in the previous six blog posts in relation to how my personal views have or have not been changed. This post will also reflect on particular elements that I’ve found specifically of interest in the Prison Nation class. I am choosing to discuss these topics because I feel it is paramount in understanding crucial components of the criminal justice system and prisoner health. Reflection is a critical element of learning that I feel allows for a more complete understanding of a particular topic. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power and I feel that reflection allows me to gain this knowledge.
The topics I feel most passionate about from these blog posts and the Prison Nation class includes: women’s health, mental illness, and legal representation. I have personally never been impacted by the criminal justice system, and as I woman I find it intriguing to see how my health would be if I were to be incarcerated. The elements that involve prison health are women’s health and mental illness. Women’s health is often overlooked since the majority of incarcerated individuals are male.
I find mental illness to be of interest because of new understandings of the topic over recent years. I believe mental illness is in fact a disease and that it can completely take over a person’s life if left untreated. I am also not personally affected by mental illness, which prompts me to want to learn more about the unfamiliarity of it.
Throughout the semester in the Prison Nation class, we have talked about various components of women’s health. These discussions prompted me to discuss women’s health in my fourth blog post titled “Health in European Prisons: Better or Worse than America”? As I reflect on what I learned while writing that post and actively participating in class, I’ve decided to focus on the topic of children in prison.
In America, with the exception of roughly eight prisons, children are not allowed to live with their incarcerated mothers in prison. In the roughly eight prisons that do allow this, the child can only stay until he or she is three years old, at which point the child is no longer allowed to stay with the mother. I personally could not imagine having a young child and not being able to see them every day because I was incarcerated. That would bear such a mental and physical burden on my health. I wonder if there are resources for those mothers who can’t see their children and are feeling mentally and physically defeated?
Mental illness has been the topic of a few of my blog posts throughout this semester. The reason for this is because I believe that resources and treatments for mental illness have come very far in the past 10 years, but still has a long way to go, particularly in prisons. Mental health and illness often “flies under the radar” in jails and prisons because there are usually no physical symptoms. You can’t physically see when someone has a mental illness and because of this, it’s frequently overlooked.
A way this can be changed is through education. Giving people the proper training in how to deal with an individual who has a mental illness can be highly beneficial to everyone involved. In our Prison Nation class, we had a guest lecturer named Meredith Piffley who is a community engagement specialist at Cardinal Innovations Healthcare in Burlington, North Carolina. Her lecture focused on mental health and how training and education would be great implementations for the general public. Being familiar with how to handle a crisis could prevent a situation from escalating, resulting in the mentally ill individual not being arrested and taken to jail.
This link provides insightful information regarding mental illnesses and education: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/education
As for legal representation, which has yet to be discussed on this blog, guest lecturer, Attorney Larry Brown, Jr., inspired reflection on this topic. While this does not directly involve health, it does greatly involve the criminal justice system. Mr. Brown is the Assistant District Attorney of Alamance County in North Carolina, who spoke to our Prison Nation class about various components of the criminal justice system.
I think what resonated the most with me is the fact that he believes every single person deserves to have legal representation. This was interesting to me because I had never considered whether or not someone being charged with child molestation, for example, should deserve representation. This made me evaluate my own morals and I concluded that I too believe everyone should have representation, because everyone is human. Regardless of race, class, religion, sexual orientation, or criminal status, we are all fundamentally the same; we are humans.
Mr. Brown inspired me to be more open minded to issues in the criminal justice system and encouraged our class to view everyone in the same light. I had not previously thought of this and I feel that by reflecting on this lecture, my views on crime, justice, and the prison industrial complex have changed greatly over the course of this semester. I am now much more aware that prisoners are people too. They have families, friends, & people who care about them. Reflecting on these topics throughout this blog post has really encompassed what I’ve learned thus far in our Prison Nation class.
This is a brief video of Larry Brown, who is a great public speaker, addressing the graduating class of North Carolina Central University’s School of Law at Commencement in 2012 about making a different in the world:
If you feel that you’ve learned anything important in this blog, or any other blog on this site, please leave a comment as I would love to hear from you!