Calling for ex-con community support
November 8, 2010 —
Students attended a lecture on Nov. 2 based on life for prisoners while incarcerated and after being released. Henrie M. Treadwell, senior social scientist and associate director of development at the National Center for Primary Care at the Morehouse School of Medicine, was the speaker.
Treadwell said that the policies currently in place for newly released prisoners are in essence treating them as disposable people.
“We are not giving them opportunities to come back to communities, to take care of themselves and their family,” Treadwell said. “Is that our intent?”
She also stated that because health insurance is often not available to those of low income, many health problems can arise, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease. In many cases, there becomes a need for emergency care, which is paid for by taxpayers.
“And I am not going to say that I am for or against health reform, but I am against paying for people to get emergency care when in fact we might be better to pay for primary prevention,” Treadwell said. “We are paying. It is not free care. We are paying.”
Treadwell also mentioned that 75 percent of prisoners released in 2007 had a substance abuse problem. The prisoners are often not treated and are sent home.
“Do we have enough care in our communities for them in order for them to rid themselves of the habit?” Treadwell asked.
Some prisoners, when released, have mental health problems. Treadwell said that while there are some medications and treatment available to prisoners with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, prisoners with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder often are overlooked.
Treadwell said, “But communities respond to mental illness a lot more quickly than they respond to substance abuse. Both go to prison, but there’s less response to the substance abuse issue.”
When released, prisoners are often not given help by the government to try to get back on their feet.
“When you come home, in some states… you have a lifetime ban on food stamps, so you cannot get food stamps,” Treadwell said. “So imagine yourself coming home from prison, not having a job, not being able to live in public housing, not able to get a Pell grant to go to school, and you have diabetes.”
Treadwell also said that “we take the right to vote away from people even after they have paid their debt to society. How are released prisoners supposed to help change some of the policies if they’re not allowed to vote?”
She also mentioned that billions of dollars are spent each year by the federal government to keep current policies in place, when the money could be spent on replacing or revamping the policies.
“I don’t know what the right policy is, but the one that we have isn’t working,” Treadwell said. “We need education and training programs, we certainly need to do something about restoring civil rights, and we need to engage the spiritual community.”
The lecture was followed by a short Q and A session with Dr. Treadwell, where students could receive more information on the topic.