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Modern Slavery

The Struggle of Felons in Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) is an entirely corrupt system. Inmates are treated in a way eerily reminiscent of the way slaves were treated not so long ago. The judicial system's main focus is punishment. Almost no emphasis is placed on rehabilitation. This is the reason that the average three year recidivism rate is 44.06 percent. While there are some rehabilitation programs, they are underfunded and not all inmates on the waiting list make it in. This is a huge problem and needs to be corrected.

Upon arrival, inmates are essentially stripped of their identity. What follows is a classification process at Malvern diagnostics unit, that will decide the inmate's "parent unit." This can take anywhere from one to six weeks depending upon the inmate. During this period of time inmates are given an adc number, and entered into the adc database. This process is where inmates lose sense of self and become just another number. It is a grueling process, but only the beginning for the inmates.

After diagnostics unit, inmates are assigned a parent unit. One of the first things inmates receive upon arrival at their parent unit is work boots. For the next 60 days (sometimes longer), inmates are expected to do hard labor. Rows of inmates are marched out to the fields every morning, weather permitting, and worked like dogs in what is known as the "hoe squad." Occasionally, they will be given a water break, but the hoe squad riders can brush this request off. Inmates are expected to work and are punished severely if they don't. The work done by inmates essentially creates a self-sustained, cost-free compound. Inmates grow and cook the food, do maintenance on the building, and many other jobs. The reason inmates are forced to do these jobs is to cut the actual cost of housing despite receiving a set amount from the government per inmate.

In Arkansas, nine times out of ten, inmates receive more paper time than prison time. The reason for this is pretty clear when you look at the unrealistic expectations placed upon parolees. As of 2016, police no longer need a search warrant to enter a parolee's house, or search any vehicle he/she is in. If a parolee is arrested, even if they are proven innocent, they return to prison for having a negative interaction with the police. Parolees are expected to pay fines every month and if they cannot afford these fines they pay in jail time. Given these facts, it should be no surprise that the recidivism rate is as high as it is. From the moment an individual enters the Arkansas judicial system they have one purpose only, to make the state money. It's a shame that such emphasis is placed on revenue and not rehabilitation. It is an issue that should be corrected.

There needs to be a change in the judicial system in Arkansas. This change needs to be drastic and it needs to happen soon. What if we used the hundreds of millions funneled into the department of corrections to fund therapeutic communities within prison? What if we took preemptive measures and opened more state funded rehabs? What if we looked at inmates as human beings instead of a source of income? I believe the time for what if's is over. Now is the time for change. Imagine how many lives could be changed if the proper steps were taken.

It's time for Arkansas to take a stand against the corrupt prison system. Despite the paths many inmates have chosen, they are still people and deserve to be treated as such. It's time we focused on helping them recover rather than punishing them for their actions.

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