This week is National Prison Visiting Week, a new initiative led by the VERA Institute of Justice to open up prison facilities to local community members to come in and interact with inmates and correctional officers. The “opening” of the prisons provides the public an opportunity to see the effect that a local institution has on people, many who eventually reenter society (studies estimate 95% nationwide). It also seeks, I predict, to demonstrate that mass incarceration is not an abstract phenomenon but a condition that is as local as state prisons and county jails, which make up the bulk of the nation’s incarcerated. VERA’s president points out that it is in a community’s interest to know the people it sends behind bars, for they will not be hidden forever:
Prisons and jails, and the 2.2 million people in them, have been literally walled off from what was previously a deeply neglectful public. But no more.