In Massachusetts, over half of young adult men released from jails and prisons go back within three years. The state's largest county wants to disrupt that cycle by teaching responsibility.You know what I thought of when I read that? The ridiculing of rehabilitation in jail that used to turn up on the (Adam West) Batman TV series. I didn't understand it as such when I first saw it as a 7 or 8 year old, but then I watched a bit again as a adult many years ago and recognised the satire of "bleeding heart liberals" in the way they portrayed some villain or other having a great time in jail. A couple of decades later and it had all turned around with (mainly Republican inspired) tough on crime, three strikes you're out, attitudes, and now it seems the circle might be turning again?
In Billerica, a suburb northwest of Boston, a select group of inmates at the Middlesex House of Correction and Jail are at this effort's forefront. They're part of the People Achieving Change Together, or P.A.C.T. unit — a program designed specifically for 18- to 24-year-olds who want to make sure that this period of incarceration is their last, like 22-year-old Eric Darden.
"I just kinda want to break the cycle and try to be better instead of coming back," said Darden, who is finishing up a two-year sentence for armed robbery and assault and battery.
Inmates in the P.A.C.T. program reside in the prison's top floor, where the unspoken rules of jail politics fall by the wayside. Inmates and corrections officers have more relaxed, friendly relationships. The floor has a barber shop, a library and a meditation room, and its cell doors stay open all day until 9 p.m. or later.
Besides having a cell all to himself, Darden says the atmosphere in the P.A.C.T unit is distinctly different from the rest of the jail. In his last cell block, he'd always been on guard. Here, he says, "you don't have to worry about looking over your back. If you have a situation, you can talk about it instead of someone trying to hype it up."
I also find it a bit wryly amusing to see it's Germany that's apparently an example of soft touch rehabilitation as the best model for young prisoners.