Windowless, the classroom was in a little known corner of the university library. But that classroom was the place he first heard of the movement to abolish prisons. Yep, that’s a movement among some circles in this world. Just in passing, think how you felt as you read those words: abolish prison.
As if a starter’s gun, this concept set his mind racing. He began to develop perfect reasoning explaining why it would be a big mistake. First, it didn’t make sense logistically. Where would all the prisoners go? What would we do with the bad people? Then, the abstract problems began to attract his attention. He wondered what the point of prison actually was? Why were there prisons? To protect the un-imprisoned? To punish? To rehabilitate? All three? Were there other reasons? Were prisons an illusion of safety, or did they actually facilitate a more safe and civilized world?
Passing the start-finish line which signaled the end of lap one, his mind continued on. What was he to do with all that data that says American prisons are filled mostly with drug offenders? This mention of “drugs” acted like a shot of adrenaline. He couldn’t help but think about all the people he knew who had broken drug laws, yet never been caught.
As his mind rounded the turn marking the race’s midpoint, he lost focus and was unable to tell if it faltered or sped up. You see, he wouldn’t ever turn in a family member for a drug offense. He also wouldn’t enable a family member, that is to say he would cut off all contact with, and support of, any family member who he determined actually had a drug abuse problem. Acknowledging this act of cutting off led him to ask myself why? Why did he think that was the best solution? Was it simply out-of-sight-out-of-mind? And if so, is that what prison was? Was prison simply the macro-level version of what he would do on a personal level? Were all the relatives of the prison population happy they didn’t have to deal with their family member’s bullshit drama any more while simultaneously hoping they’ll get a clue and mature before they were released? In his mind, he would use ‘tough love’ on a relative, because he believed the individual must recognize he has a problem before any progress could be made. Integral to his theory working, of course, is that he’d help the minute he was asked. Having never been tested, he had his doubts as to his ability to actually follow through, though.
Finding his mind alone on the home stretch, he was unsure whether this was because it was in last place or first place. Himself selfish and vain beyond belief, he’d be the first to confess that he rarely admitted that he made mistakes. He wondered what it would take for him to admit he needed help. Certainly, he didn’t want any strangers to think he had flaws.
The race drawing to a close, he found his mind standing where the starting blocks were. The big question of the day was still unanswered. What would the world look like if we didn’t push our problems out of sight? Or as he was first asked in that industrial windowless classroom, what do you think the world would look like if we abolished prison?