For hundreds of years, society has been taught to follow the rules written by lawmakers. We abide by those laws for fear of being incarcerated if we break those laws. Although our justice system is set up to punish people who break the law, the punishments given out are not always designed to help the offender rehabilitate. Our justice system is displayed to society as a rehabilitation program designed to help offenders learn tools while incarcerated that assist them in finding legal ways to contribute to society positively once released. America currently has over 3,000 prison outreach programs designed to help inmates after incarceration, but many organizations oppose those groups from helping people who have committed a crime. ACLU of Colorado and the CHARG Resource Center are two organizations in Colorado that offer resources for inmates who are released in Colorado. What makes the difference between people who want to help inmates vs people who do not? What gives people the motives they have behind helping one another?
America’s justice system fits the definition given of an egoism motive behind our penal system’s purpose. Egoism is defined as “the motivation to help others that has the improvement of the helper’s circumstances as its main goal”(Poepsel & Schroeder, (2020). The prison policy initiative program reported that in the year 2020, America has over 2.3 million people incarcerated, and the revocation rate in America is 55%. The prison policy initiative reports that Colorado has an incarceration rate of 635 per 100,000. GEO prison incorporations made profits of 2.49 billion dollars from locking people up in 2019 (Alvarado, Monsy, et al.,2019). This makes it look like our justice system only pretends to help criminals to earn a profit. Those facts prove that our justice system does not “help” inmates for the inmates’ benefit of rehabilitation, but instead for profits.
My father, Thomas Eugene Landreth, Oklahoma inmate number 146687, received a 20yr sentence for marijuana in 2009. When his trial was over, I started a #FreeThomasLandreth campaign to get our community behind, helping me get a sentence commutation from the Oklahoma Governor, so my father could come home. I live in Colorado, so I went to every dispensary I could in Denver to get people to sign my petition as well. It took me 11yrs to get my dad that sentence commutation. It was a huge struggle to get people behind me to help my dad. One reason people may not help a person like my dad is because of the “Diffusion of responsibility” (Poepsel & Schroeder, (2020). A lot of people did not want to be associated with helping a prison inmate. Most of the people I reached out to ask for help from assumed that I would eventually find someone else to do so, so it wasn’t worth them getting involved. A lot of people I tried to get behind my campaign did not want to be associated with a marijuana prisoner.
My journey to find people to help my dad became long and lonely until I began to meet a cannabis community that felt compelled to help me get my father free. This type of helpful motivation is “Other-oriented empathy”(Poepsel & Schroeder, (2020). I found people with a strong sense of social responsibility, empathize with, and feel emotionally tied to people like my dad and me. They understood the problems my family was experiencing and felt a moral obligation to help me get my dad free. Colorado residents contributed over 2,000 signatures and turned into Oklahoma’s governor to help get my dad free. One of my volunteers had a father incarcerated for marijuana as well. He sadly died while incarcerated. There were many others like her and her dad and many families like mine; Kristen Flor and her dad’s story is what started the fire in my heart to get my dad free.
Author Miguel Miggy wrote an article describing my dad’s situation in Vegas cannabis magazine. Miguel gave society a different perspective that gave people compassion towards my dad’s 20yr prison sentence. Miguel stated in the article,” Thomas Landreth is an example of why there is a drug war, to keep lower income, and the least educated under control, the epitome of cheap labor for the prison system. Just another number in a privatized system. He’s dying slowly in a system not meant to make the person better but to put the loud kids in a corner, so the rest don’t have to hear them”(Miggy, 2017). Those words evoked prosocial behavior in my dad’s life. Miguel Miggy displayed Bystander intervention and skyrocketed the movement to free my dad. He is a true freedom fighter. My movement collaborated with organizations that went on to help me get my dad free. It should not have taken me 11yrs to get my dad free from a victimless crime. Many times in life, we will be faced with the decision to help someone or not. Although negative consequences could come from helping another, often, the help you give is needed and appreciated. Prisoners in America need our help.
We, the people, can stand up and help our incarcerated population. There are many ways to help, sign a petition you happen to scroll past on Facebook asking to free a non-violent offender. Donate to local prison outreach programs like FreedomGrowForever.org. Do not look the other way when it comes to America’s mass incarceration epidemic. Be the one to help. History has shown us that when our government implements policies like privatized prisons or mandatory minimums, we, the people, should investigate all motives behind the proposed help for our society’s well-being. Governmental policies should represent positive results for all Americans, not just a select few. All motives behind an act of “helping” must be examined when our legislators come up for elections. It is the American people’s responsibility to decide to be active in choosing government leaders with the right motives behind their proposals to help our society.
Photo Credit: Canna Prisoner Thomas (TOM KAT) Landreth #146687 Oklahoma current Inmate
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References: Poepsel, D. L. & Schroeder, D. A. (2020). Helping and prosocial behavior. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. Retrieved from http://noba.to/tbuw7afg
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Hall, Mindi, and Salem-News. “Serving Time With Your Child: One Mom’s Prison Journey.” Salem, 2019, www.salem-news.com/articles/february122020/a-mothers-prison-journey-mh.php.http://www.salem-news.com/articles/february122020/a-mothers-prison-journey-mh.php?fbclid=IwAR3S1LJLAfBnGObgXO8Dxp8dZBAgsxw_fu67CmOc3IVo5snE2rN6-WJjLuc
Green, Johnny, and Miggy Miguel. Weed News, 2 Aug. 2018, web.archive.org/web/20180804043832/www.weednews.co/.https://web.archive.org/web/20180804043832/https://www.weednews.co/
greeniswhite August 1, Miguel Miggy, and Greeniswhite. “Home.” Green Is White, 1 Aug. 2018, greeniswhite.com/cannabis-activist-activate-thomas-landreth-needs-your-help/?fbclid=IwAR1Sdg6vukBsALcWUkOAede4T2OPCEVn-qiEZfMwx5ikedz4Gh4M2oosgEo.https://greeniswhite.com/cannabis-activist-activate-thomas-landreth-needs-your-help/?fbclid=IwAR1Sdg6vukBsALcWUkOAede4T2OPCEVn-qiEZfMwx5ikedz4Gh4M2oosgEo
Vegas Cannabis Magazine, Miguel Miggy. “Vegas Cannabis Magazine.” Issuu, 2017, issuu.com/vegascannabismagazine/docs/vegas_cannabis_magazine_july_2015.https://issuu.com/vegascannabismagazine/docs/vegas_cannabis_magazine_july_2015
Northwest Leaf / Oregon Leaf / Alaska Leaf / Maryland Leaf, Miguel Miggy. “July 2015 – Issue #61.” Issuu, 2018, issue. com/new leaf/docs/northwestleafjuly2015/20.https://issuu.com/nwleaf/docs/northwestleafjuly2015/20?https://www.facebook.com/FreeThomasLandreth/Alvarado, Monsy, et al. “’These People Are Profitable’: Under Trump, Private Prisons Are Cashing in on ICE Detainees.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 23 Apr. 2020, www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/nation/2019/12/19/ice-detention-private-prisons-expands-under-trump-administration/4393366002/.
Amberly Taylor is a 35yr old human rights activist. She volunteers for various non profits Like FreedomGrowForever.org and stands FIRM on SUPPORTING BLM and Civil Rights Movements