What I Changes I Would Like To Make At Herlong Prison Camp and The Oakland Halfway House

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been thinking about what would make prison camp more productive for the inmates. I thought carefully about all of my experiences when I was in prison at Herlong Prison Camp and when I stay at the Oakland Halfway House. 

If these suggestions are possible, it would better prepare inmates for society and make their sentences fruitful and productive.  Below is a list of some things that I’d like to change about prison camp and halfway houses.


Prison Guidelines

  1. Shorter Sentences
    There should be lower sentencing guidelines for all inmates. Most of the inmates that I have met had very long sentences. Long sentences took away their fight to want better as they became comfortable in prison. They knew that they didn’t want to return to jail after their sentence, but knew they would most likely become a repeat offender. If sentences were shorter then inmates would have a higher level of optimism. This would increase their chances when they are ready to reestablish themselves in their communities.
  2. First Offense
    Going to prison is an extensive cost for society as a whole. If someone is a first time offender sending them first to a halfway house with an ankle monitor and the responsibility to find a job or work community service would be cheaper than the taxpayers paying prison fees. When I was in a halfway house, I worked at a restaurant. The halfway house required 25% of my income, I had to pay for food and for lodging. The halfway house made about $250 to $600 per month off of me living there since I made $1000 to $2400 a month. This form of discipline is still punishment but offenders wouldn’t have to restart their lives.
  3. Second Offense
    If there was a second offense, we could send them to a low-security prison. I think the camps should be used for inmates who need to transition from the higher institutions before going to a halfway house. Lastly, I think inmates should pay restitution or jail time, but not both. Paying both is obsessive.


Prison Services

  1. Multiple 3 Day Furloughs
    I think inmates at the camp level should be allowed to have several three-day furloughs to allow them to obtain ID’s, take driving tests or gather any other information needed before they go to the halfway house. If this isn’t possible, then a service should be set up where the inmates could get these services.
  2. Improved Access to a Psychologist
    The camp didn’t do much to help inmates psychological mindset. The jail provided a psychologist, but from what I was told by other inmates, she only came when someone requested her. We never saw her in her office and she never gave out information on her available office hours for those of us that wanted or needed to be a walk in.
  3. Better Classes
    Most prisons offer classes so that inmates can better themselves, but I don’t think they really think about how hard the transition will be for former inmates. These classes below would have been extremely helpful to inmates I know and even to myself.

    1. Technology Classes
      For most inmates it’s extremely hard to assimilate back into society, but think how hard it is for someone that was locked up for 20 years. If the prisons offered technology classes for inmates that taught them new technology and other tech trends, newly released inmates wouldn’t have such a hard time in society. The classes could be conducted by the CO’s and they could also lock down the tech. This type of class would teach confidence in technology and software to help rehabilitate offenders for society.
    2. Business Classes
      Prisons should also offer classes to help inmates become entrepreneurs and businessmen. As mentioned before, it’s difficult for inmates to get back into the flow of society especially when looking for a job. However, the with courses like these, transition from prison to society would be a lot easier and this could help reduce unemployment rates among newly released inmates.


Other Changes Needed

Legalize Drugs
In an effort to focus on helping those addicted to drugs, I’d like to see all drugs legalized instead of throwing them in jail. I believe as a society, we should offer better solutions for those addicted and for those stuck in the cycle of selling drugs to pay bills.  Legalizing drugs would free about two-thirds of the prison population. Most of the drug offenders are non-violent. I don’t believe that legalizing drugs would cause our streets to be full of druggies as some politicians believe. If people had good living wages, decent living conditions, and access to great education, it would decrease the need for selling drugs in the first place.

I’d like to see a return to parole instead of supervised release. When a felon finishes his sentence, I don’t think he should have to deal with anymore scrutiny, especially from the government. Also, felons shouldn’t have to check in with their PO’s (parole officers) after they’re finished serving their time.

Halfway Houses
I think all halfway houses should be non-profit or government-owned. I think corporations focus too much on saving money and not enough on the actual needs of the residents in the house. Halfway homes should also be no further than 30 miles away from every major city in each state. During my time in a halfway house, I was too far away from family because the nearest house to Sacramento was Oakland, California. I believe if there was a house in Sacramento, then inmates like myself wouldn’t have such a hard time getting back on their feet.

The bureau claims it values keeping families together, however, they only a small number of visitors. The government should allow more family to visit during jail time and also help inmates reconnect with their families when released. During an inmates stay in prison, services like video chatting or group messaging through companies like Skype or Google Hangouts should be allowed. Some inmates have family members that live long distances from the prison. This would also allow inmates to receive visits from family who are unable to travel.

Community Partnerships
My last suggestion has nothing to do with the prison system but rather the communities and businesses surrounding them. I believe we need those in authority and leadership to step up and create jobs that would prevent the need for drug dealers. If they can create jobs that pay at least $20 per hour and were available for people with high school degrees, then the need to sell drugs would decrease.