In the last two weeks, each intern has been asked to bring in an outside article that we see as pertaining to our experiences in the SpeakOut workshops.
In the “Presence of Time and Implications for Literacy,” Muth et al. explain Barbara Adam’s theory of Timescapes as the ways “institutions (state, corporation, church, family, school, etc) use time as a commodity to achieve social relations and control” (5). This critique of clock-time as method of control interested me, because so much of human stress is related to time. In graduate school (and through most of my life), I am plagued with moments of lung-crushing anxiety that I just don’t have enough time. When in the jail, I sometimes idealize the space that these women are in: if I were locked up, I could finally get all of my reading done and all of my papers written (by hand, of course), and nothing would get in the way. However, I recognize that that is a privileged mindset (so much of my experience this year has revealed my ingrained privileged ideologies. The women I interact with at the LCDC have too much time. They want out.
Ryder’s article, “Beyond Critique: Global Activism and the Case of Malala Yousafazi,” made me aware of my Western ideology because, first, I rarely think about the right to an education, because I have one. Furthermore, it made me evaluate the ways that I might be trying to “speak for the subaltern” when I don’t realize it. In fact, even in the above paragraph, I speak for inmates who do not have the (wealthy, Western) privilege of blogging, at my own computer, at my own desk, in my own apartment. I said they “have too much time. They want out.” When I wrote that (give-or-take two minutes ago), I felt as though I was speaking to the unfairness of keeping them locked up. But two weeks ago, when discussing the notion of civility in workshop, one of the women talked about how the jail was home to her. She says it’s the place where she stays sober, the place where she is safe, and where she has a bed and a roof. This woman is not concerned with “time,” so much as she is concerned with “home.” And, though Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol for access to education, I wonder if even she speaks from a privileged point of view. She believes in the power of education, because she has one. As she says, her father taught her to read Arabic to study the Qur’an herself. But many of the women in the SpeakOut workshops are educated. Do they see education as they way out?
The two articles we read for this week both speak to the literal “ways out” in terms of inmate re-entry into society. The Bureau of Justice Assistance produced their Project Overview about Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies, which is a concise, easy-to-read government document that presents the idea of preparing prisoners for reentry as formulaic. We simply have to follow the flow chart and get the person into the right group. The intentions behind this document are honorable and their logic is sound; however, I felt that it took the humanity away from the process. The document cites that reentering inmates “report that a job is the key to avoiding criminal activity” (so perhaps our focus and Malala’s should be on jobs, not education), but it does not specifically articulate what the “Employment Program Components” are that are expected to get newly-released, very individual inmates to those jobs. As this is the Project Overview, I imagine a more in-depth document exists somewhere, though I would be interested to see if they discuss the human element in any greater way than simply separating people between the categories of more/less ready for “society” and high/low risk for future criminal activity.
In terms of criminal activity, I found Rose and Hardshaw’s article fascinating, as I would never have guessed that contraband technology existed in prisons to such an extent. It made me immediately wonder if any of the LCDC women were still on Facebook or Instagram. The notion of the “purpose” of prison interested me, because the article mentions that the purpose of the prison is to restrict an offender’s movement and keep them from causing further harm to the general population,” but I had always conceptualized the “purpose” of prison as “punishment.” In fact, I don’t know i I believe in the purpose as simply “preventing further farm.” And, if I think like a true, overbearing, probably republican (#sorrynotsorry) member of the criminal justice system, then these people should absolutely not have access to technology. But, if I think like a human being, it does seem like cruel and unusual activity to restrict their involvement with technology, especially in the case of long-term inmates who, if reentering, would literally be out-of-touch[screen] with the current reality. More so though, what this makes me think of is LCDC’s recent implementation of the video visit system. The article posits video visits as advantageous, because visits are not restricted to standard visiting times and they can receive video calls from out-of-state, but I can’t help but wonder whether the inmates are satisfied with only seeing their friends, family, and lovers in 2D.