Social Commentary

Prisoner’s Dilemma

“Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.” This old saying offers much to think about when the subject comes to the carceral state. Applying this quote to a modern context states that prisons can be mental as well as physical constructs. The line between a physical and mental prison are hard to discern at times. The physical prison sentence has a time limit, the mental sentence does not.

Society brands those who have went to prison with a scarlet letter long after they paid their debt to society. We tell them to become a productive member of society which means getting a job. Nowadays it is not uncommon to hear about college graduates being able to find good jobs, then it stands to reason that someone with a criminal record would have a much harder time finding a decent job. Not being able to live up to societal expectations can create a psychological effect that can be a life sentence. Another thing that stands to reason that any job skills taught in prison are probably not white collar/high paying skills.

People tend to want prisons to be instruments of retribution and not rehabilitation. It is rare to hear a politician express empathy for the plight of the prisoner. Depending on the crime and how it is viewed, the ghost of incarceration can haunt one to the grave and beyond due to legacy. Having the punishment fit the crime is an absurd statement because white collar crime is seen quite differently than street crime. White collar criminals can destroy more lives than a mugger, but we see the mugger as being more dangerous.

The difference between a physical prison and an mental one can be hard to tell. Serving time puts one in a major debt to society which will really hurt their societal credit score which will be hard to improve. Leaving people behind this way will destroy the credit worthiness of a society that claims to believe in second chances.