Prison Radio
Charles Karim Diggs

My name is Charles Karim Diggs. I’m calling from Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania. The title of my little, uh, speech, is “Are We Willing to Imagine?”

Try to imagine a prison system that uses its resources to cure, heal, and build human values and character. Every state and federal prison system has one common denominator, and that is security. They also have programs, school, trade, and organizational activities.

Nothing trumps security. Most prisons conduct body counts three and four times each day. They also count numerous times while you asleep. There was not much rehabilitation under that design. Meals take up the rest of your time.

Can we imagine a prison system reflecting modern technology, neuroscience, and returning human beings back to society with more values and a sense of belonging?

American prison system is a failure. First, the priority is everything is about security. Prisons are counted and counted and counted. The visitors are counted. This fear is ingrained in the entire system.

Secondly, the type of stress associated with counting bodies expresses a level of fear and anxiety. There is no imagination for change. A healthy design for prisons is lost in the very construction of the prison with two prisons in a small cell and limiting number of toilet flushes every 15 minutes is a waste of talent. To save water and to maximize space seems to be the reasons to spend between $200 and $400 million to build one prison.

The governors and prison commissioners need courage to imagine a prison system built to develop the moral and social skills needed to function in society. Criminologists and prison experts need to take on a new imagination that represents a wholesome strategy that will return missing women and men back to society a balanced person.

After the prisons are built, it takes another $50 to $70 million to operate with staff. The banks provide the bonds, and the taxpayers to pay it off. Whatever city or county that a person is sentenced from, that is the county that pays the state to house you. It has become a business model for containing citizens for long periods of time.

In this 21st century with the advancement in science and the human brain, I believe we could design a prison system that helps the prison develop a positive, law-abiding place in society. With 3 million people in prisons, suffocating in prison, we may want to take another look at try imagining a system that will create the type of person who will return to society: a secure mental person.

This- this imagination requires that we remove the obsession with security as a tool for managing human beings. Human beings living inside of buildings don’t need more layers of domination over them. And finally, the beginning of healing: it comes from our imagination that these people in prison have somehow become flawed in their moral values. Intelligent prison managers and governors have the resources to change the dehumanizing systems.

We don’t need more money. We need human beings to imagine a different world inside of prison. Thank you.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan.