This I Believe

Jonathan - Gainesville, Florida
Entered on March 26, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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“This I believe”

Working in a medium-security prison for the last ten years as a wellness education specialist, I have a special appreciation for the needs of people both inside and outside the walls. I believe that if our society is to survive over the long hall we must not remove programs from prison inmates, but enhance them. We currently have over 2,000,000 people behind bars in the United States and the numbers keep growing. Our prison budgets are also growing by very large amounts to the detriment of other essential programs for society. What many people don’t know is that the vast majority of these men and women will eventually be released from prison. When they return to our society, do we want them to be contributors to society or do we want them to continue to prey on society in some fashion?

Years ago, it was possible for inmates in a number of states to take college courses while in prison though this is far less likely today. Many of these individuals went on to complete undergraduate degrees and eventually became successful in professions deemed both honorable and legal. These men and women helped prove over and over again that money invested in education gives back far more than the initial investment.

I believe that educational programs are not the only essential type of program for inmates. Sports participation programs are also essential. So essential in fact, that I believe that inmates who don’t regularly participate in one of more of them are more likely to get re-incarcerated after reentering society. They are also more likely to behave better while incarcerated and learn many valuable lessons that they can use for the rest of their lives.

Some listeners might have a quick, gut reaction that rumbles that inmates should not be provided with any sports programs while they are doing time. Perhaps that they should be breaking rocks, digging trenches or other jobs that might need to be done. My belief is that sports programs do many positive things for the inmates that will ultimately better prepare them for a life in free society and that would ultimately be a win/win proposition.

Among other things, inmates can learn from sports participation are things such as respect, patience, tolerance, skill development, fairness, responsibility, rule memorization, and teamwork. Listen while I repeat that… respect, patience, tolerance, skill development, fairness, responsibility, rule memorization, and teamwork. All these are important things to master by all members of all societies, not just those who are incarcerated.

If we make sure that prisons have sufficient funds to provide for sports equipment, then we will be making an investment in these individuals and thus in the short and long-term future of our own society. Recreation and sports is a privilege that truly should be for all people.