Jesse Jackson wrote an excellent editorial lamenting the marginalization of blacks by the criminal justice system. Clearly, the current criminal justice system stigmatizes and incarcerates a huge percentage of black males. Worse yet, many prisons engage in conduct best described as “reverse corrections.” They intensify the very problems they claim to remedy.

This post is an email sent to Jesse Jackson in response to his editorial, asking his help to implement a program of private inmate gardens in the low security federal prison in Forrest City, Arkansas. Few ideas have broader appeal than “requiring” inmates to grow their own food. The truth of the matter is that a large percentage of prison inmates would view the opportunity to garden as a very valuable privilege. Valuable privileges can be used to modify inmate behavior in a positive direction.

The people at this prison are mostly people that society is mad at, not people society is afraid of. But what happens if the federal government loses its ability to borrow money, and must release large numbers of inmates into a severely depressed economy? Desperate people do desperate things. It is the height of folly to deny prison inmates the opportunity to learn valuable skills and save money for their eventual release, by growing their own food.

If the political left, right and middle, and prison inmates themselves, all approve of inmates growing their own food, why is it denounced, prohibited, and suppressed by prison administrators? The hope is that this email and blog post will trigger co-operation across the political spectrum, in favor of allowing prisoners to grow food, to learn personal financial management, and to save substantial sums of money for their eventual release. Read the email letter here…

Email to Jesse Jackson-010111