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Megan Comfort - the best 7 years i coulda had.docx

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Philip Goodman

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Megan Comfort: ‘The best seven years I could’a done’: the reconstruction of imprisonment
as rehabilitation
Unexpected theme emerges from interviewing men released from prison and their
o Rather than portraying the incarceration as a waste of time, they convert the mean
of a prison sentence from condemnation to redemption (framing it as a period of
self improvement and relationship strengthening)
Interview indicates low income people denied social welfare provisions engage in a
common theme of „imaginary rehabilitation‟
o “as if” the penitentiary was an acceptable and indeed effective social institution
for preparing people to re-enter society
Rehabilitation has become attached to the penitentiary
There is no evidence to support the argument that punishment is effective in reducing a
person‟s subsequent criminal behavior , but rather, evidence points in the direction that
such sanctions may increase the likelihood of recidivism
Former prisoners undergo a process of „imaginary rehabilitation‟ behind bars
o Social welfare state dwindles toward extinction while poor people, particularly
African-American men, are routinely diverted into the criminal justice system
whey they are in need of social assistance
o Tremendous amount of money is spent on incarcerating individuals, while none
goes towards rehabilitative programming (treatment for the conditions or
assistance with the circumstances that account for their arrest)
o With social-welfare provisions closed down former prisoners seek to give
meaning to the years they spent behind bars (they create a narrative of imaginary
rehabilitation by crediting the penitentiary for the transformation)
Tremendous rate of incarceration in U.S over last 30 years, rate 6-12 times higher than
West Europe
o Black men represent 13% of American population, and 41% of men locked up
o Socioeconomic and ethic disparities in incarceration result from lack of access to
housing, employment, education, substance abuse treatment and other factors that
affect a person‟s likelihood of turning to illegal means for survival
Analysis of interviews indicates that, as low-income people are denied social welfare
provisions and instead, are relegated to the penal arm of the state, they engage in
imaginary rehabilitation
o They act „as if‟ the penitentiary was acceptable and effective social institution for
preparing them to „re-enter‟ a society from which they have been consistently
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