A new book titled "The Unvarnished Truth about the Prison Family Journey" reveals that our nation's incarceration rate diminishes the quality of life in this country. Co-author Carolyn Esparza is a counselor who has worked with prisoners and their families for over thirty years. Co-author Phillip Yow is incarcerated in Texas.
Every year taxpayers spend over $75 billion dollars on incarceration. About ten percent of prisons are operated by private corporations and in 2010 alone they made over $3 billion dollars in profits. Prisons are so profitable that their investors spend $45 million dollars a year lobbying legislators to maintain excessive sentences for nonviolent crimes. One Wall Street group spent $9 million dollars to build a prison in New York, anticipating a hefty return on their investment. The United States has 5% of the world's population but it has 25% of the world's prisoners: Almost 300 million people in local jails and state and local prisons. Reports indicate that crime is on the decline and yet our prison population continues to grow. Creditable research indicates that there are tens of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners in the U.S..
Each prisoner leaves behind his or her family. Esparza and Yow paint a brutally honest picture of what prisoners' families should expect, and they guide them through an incomprehensible legal maze into the dark prison culture and out again into an unwelcoming and unforgiving society at the end of the prison sentence.
Children of prisoners are at a 70% risk for becoming prisoners themselves. It's tempting to jump to the conclusion that it's the result of having a poor role model but Esparza argues that the true culprit is that these children don't have a support system. They're orphans: When a child loses his or her parent to incarceration there isn't a reliable substitute such as reliable grandparents or reliable foster parents. Alone in the world, they join gangs to become a member of a family. Their emotional pain is so overwhelming that they use drugs to take a break from it. If they lack the communication skills to express their pain and to get what they need from others then they may have passive aggressive behaviors that get them into trouble or have violent outbreaks. And so they have a variety of problems that put them at risk for going to jail someday.
The media adds to the problem. According to Esparza, "(The media) generates widespread insensitivity to the anguish of those left behind. The typical citizen shudders at hearing the word 'prison' even when it refers to the prisoners' families."