Choosing treatment over prison
“I’m always doomed. My record is always going to be there.”
In West Virginia, Shauna is a second class citizen under the law—one of an estimated 100,000+ people in our state with a felony conviction. Shauna has completed her sentence and paid her debt. She can vote. But her life remains restricted, by law, in hundreds of different ways. By restricting her access to work, to services, and to transportation, we make it difficult for her to recover — something she fights hard to do everyday.
Like the majority of people in our prisons, Shauna’s crime was related to her substance abuse. Substance use disorder is not a moral failing. It is a disease. In 50 years we will look back on this era with embarrassment—horrified that we stood by as our government imprisoned a higher percentage of our citizens than any other country in the world–by far. Horrified that most of those behind bars ended up there because they were poor, or Black, or sick.
We can choose treatment, not prison. We can invest more in schools and less in jails. We can direct the state police to focus more on the corrupt politicians and corporate criminals who are profiting off our pain (and less on the people suffering from it). We can invest in re-entry programs and mental health services that are more merciful and more cost-effective than prison.
But we have to fight for it.
See some of our plans to address these issues here: