Like most people, I sometimes fall prey to “out of sight, out of mind” thinking. Being on the outside of prison walls, I generally don’t think about the day to day impact that antiquated laws have on the American prison population or what challenges inmates encounter when trying to reenter society. Let’s face it, people make mistakes. Just because someone made bad decisions 20 years ago, doesn’t mean they should be cast away for good.
Today, I came across a short, but stimulating write-up about the perceptions that long-term prison inmates have about the Internet — something that many have never really experienced.
Web & mobile technology have become ubiquitous for mainstream society, but the fact that our Federal laws prohibits prisoners from using the Internet seems to be creating an even larger gap between “us” and “them”. That probably doesn’t matter so much when you plan on spending the rest of your good life in the Hoosegow, but for those with a shot at rehabilitation and some sort of an attempt at reentering society it feels like the lack of exposure and knowledge about new technologies only serve as a set of permanent handcuffs. We can’t expect true reform without any access or understanding of the norms of daily life that they will experience.
Literacy is already a problem, but imagine being thrust into the real world with no practical understanding of how computers work today, what smartphones are capable of and how the rest of the world has evolved the way they communicate and generally function.
None of that mattered much before the 80’s, but now that our society is so dependent on the Internet, it seems like perhaps we should re-think this. Inmates get basic education, job training and other services that will help them acclimate, but without any understanding of the Web… it seems as if they never actually get to take the handcuffs off.