Chris Hedges Prisoners' Rights Video

The Chris Hedges Report: The Long Road Home (Part 1)

This episode is the first of a two-part series called "The Long Road Home," looking at the hurdles placed before those those who leave prison and struggle to reenter society.

The United States has 25 percent of the world’s prison population, some 2.3 million people, most of whom are poor, although it represents less than 5 percent of the global population. Its prisons are notorious for their violence, overcrowding and human rights abuses, including the widespread use of solitary confinement. But what is often not examined is what happens to those released from prisons into a society where they face legalized discrimination imposed by numerous laws, rules and policies that result in permanent marginalization, thrust into a criminal caste system. These former prisoners are often denied the right to vote, can lose their passports, are barred from receiving public assistance, including housing, and blocked from a variety of jobs. They must often repay exorbitant fines, abide by arbitrary rules imposed by probation officers, and avoid committing even minor criminal offenses if they go back to prison. The hurdles placed before them are momentous and help explain why within five years a staggering 76 percent return to prison. Today, in the first for a two-part series called The Long Road Home, we look at what happens to those in the United States who leave prison and struggle to reenter society through the eyes of five former prisoners, all of whom I taught in the college degree program offered by Rutgers University in the New Jersey prison system, who collectively spent 119 years in prison. 

7 comments

  1. This is just part 1 of Hedges’ report on the US prison situation, so he may cover the following later.

    Hedges describes the dire fate of perhaps the majority of inmates, but there is another injustice, also class related. White collar criminals are often routed to special prisons or sections where they meet a different fate – many privileges and comforts to be envied even by lawful hard-working citizens. Their crimes. although many are “nonviolent”, involve financial, political, or social losses to victims and to society. The crimes of lower class criminals often pale in comparison. Why just give these high rollers vacations, even protection from their victims, at public expense? When they leave prison, assets that are not confiscated and powerful connections, enable continued predation. It sets a bad example for less lucky inmates, that crime does indeed pay. Shouldn’t this aspect be addressed more forcefully by prison reformers?

    1. Agreed David! Honestly, though, in the today’s climate, do you ever think that will happen? In order to keep the process alive and well, they’ll always have scapegoats to distract from their hypocrisy. That has been the history of christianity, looking down on others and creating unbearable living conditions. Those in power convince their targets that they’re bad and use the bible to justify their treatment. Until this country has the balls to look at itself with honesty and admit its crimes against humanity, I’m afraid not much will change!

    2. Good point. In fact the rule is that white collar criminals only pay price that approximately fits given crime when they lied or hurt rich elites or prominent figures.

      The Madoff case and his life turned death sentence is exactly that as he lied to rich and influential Jews and Catholic Church officials who invested money with his exclusive and closed to public funds.

      The others are just scapegoats for failures of deliberate “get rich quick” or well known Ponzi schemes insiders knew that went bad.

      The famous London whale several billion loss scheme for JPM resulted with few traders delegated scapegoats with supposedly fat fingers getting jail to take the fall really guilty gamblers in executive chairs avoided, Only to quietly landing some cushy jobs upon release for good behavior.

      Poor people are bullied by police, courts and entire justice system, They are just a fodder not for law and justice but for system enforcement institutions that enforce class based rule.

  2. This is absolutely shameful for a so called Christian country. I’m helping two inmates while they are incarcerated. One gentleman is in Leavenworth and they’ve been on lockdown off and on for months. The types of cruelties are based on archaic Puritanical beliefs and these individuals are never seen as human beings…they are treated like animals! Yes, they may have committed a crime but the cruelties in their childhoods set the stage for their futures. No one ever asks “what happened to you?”. No one ever takes the time to help them explore where things may have gone wrong and that it is not their fault what happened during the time when they were robbed of their innocence! Their lives are completely ruined especially when they are ready to reenter a society that is steeped in hypocrisy.

    1. We are not a theocracy. We are a nation of many faiths, pagans, and other non-believers.

  3. Thanks to Chris Hedges for all his pioneering journalism especially in a time of McCarthy like censorious propaganda. He must get fed up at times. Thanks also for his work with these unfortunate inmates. Let us not forget the work of Ronald racist Reagan in helping to implement the 3 strikes rule effectively marginalising & criminalising generations of black men, many of whom are imprisoned for non violent drug possession & being poor & ghettoised. Finally like all exploits in America, prison is a for profit business & a source of scandalous, cheap, slave labour so we simply have to fill them with “deserving” convicts.

  4. I am sure it is a notable effort, but one likely to be stymied by prejudice, and the lack of ‘Christian’ brotherhood and the mere (and imagined –on their part) possibility of redemption. I wish you, and them, well.

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