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Recidivism: What Does It Tell Us?

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by Karima Amin

While America incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world, it is also a fact that recidivism rates among the states are among the highest in the world. These numbers indicate that the US prison system is a failure. Major prison mandates are five: care custody, control, deterrence, and rehabilitation. When it comes to care, it seems that this mandate is frequently NOT fulfilled as I receive letters weekly from people who share stories of their incarcerated loved ones being physically and verbally abused by officers. This nation’s criminal justice system fails again when data demonstrates that deterrence seems to be of low priority and rehabilitation is practically non-existent. Both are factors that support high rates of recidivism. The kind of custody and control that ignore the humanity of persons confined, generally means that those who are released often return to society with the negative mindsets and behaviors that defined them in the past. When we see two-thirds of those released ultimately return to prison within three years, something is wrong.

Recently, a student from Canisius College produced a short documentary film entitled “The Very Same House: Recidivism in Buffalo.” This film will be screened at the next monthly meeting of PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. and its producer, David Goodwin, will be our guest speaker. With the assistance of Canisius College’s Video Institute and its director, Dr. Barbara Irwin, Mr. Goodwin has produced a work that clearly defines “recidivism,” its causes and cures. Our Program Director, BaBa Eng, is interviewed in this film. Following 36 years of incarceration and years of research, his words ring with authority.

In the past, PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. has always devoted its August meeting to “Black August.” We have highlighted COINTELPRO,– a counterintelligence program of the US government, operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Agency (NSA) designed to surveil, infiltrate, discredit, and disrupt domestic political organizations. COINTELPRO was especially aimed at Black leadership in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. In August, we have lifted the names of fallen Freedom Fighters and the names of men and women still confined and incarcerated for decades. If you want to see what has been highlighted in previous August programs, go to our website www.PRP2.ORG. Click on “Programs.” A brief segment of our meeting will be devoted to remembering those prisoners who stood up and stand up for justice.

I just found out last night that all C.A.O. (Community Action Organization) community centers will be closed on Monday (Today), August 31 to celebrate “Staff Appreciation Day.” As a result, we can NOT hold our monthly meeting at the Pratt-Willert site. Therefore, we will be meeting at The Golden Cup which is located at 883 Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14204. The phone number there is 716-883-7770. Our cell numbers are as follows:


We regret the inconvenience this may cause for some of you. There is parking in the small lot in front of The Golden Cup and in the larger lot across the street in front of Mr. Bones’ Restaurant (893 Jefferson Avenue). You can also park in the lot between The Golden Cup and Carl-Jeff Barber Shop (859 Jefferson Avenue). There is street parking on Cayuga Street. I will not be allowed to bring in my usual fruit, snacks, and drinks. Food and drinks there are moderately priced. I hope to see you there, 7:00-9:00pm. -ka

“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)

Karima Amin is a longtime Buffalo Activist, Educator, and Storyteller as well as founder and director of Prisoners Are People Too (PRP2).

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