In American Prisons, You’re Nothing More Than a Number

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Keri Blakinger. Photo courtesy of guest

Often overlooked, ignored and damned, the cycle that throws people in the prison system and spits them out is a calamitous yet integral part of the American experience. People who find themselves at the short end of the stick—usually poor, uneducated and of a minority race—find themselves worse off, excommunicated from society and filled with more trauma and neglect. Keri Blakinger was not poor, was highly educated and white, yet found herself in the same spot and was treated in the same cold and dehumanized fashion. In prison, as Blakinger points out, “You become a number.”

Blakinger joins host Robert Scheer on this week’s Scheer Intelligence episode to paint a picture of a first hand experience of the American prison system. Her book, Corrections in Ink: A Memoir details her time behind bars and her remarkable resurgence after the fact. This resurgence, however, is usually not the case for people coming out of the prison cycle and Blakinger attempts to use her knowledge to garner compassion and empathy for those who ended up like her. “If you put someone in prison and cut them off from any support network they have, put them in a position where they're going to lose any sort of job or housing that they have… put them in a position where they're exposed to violence and routinely dehumanized and traumatized. That's just not a recipe for creating successful community members afterwards,” she says.

Blakinger understands that feeling of being a number, an object in such an intimidating environment. Through her book, she reveals the inadequacies of prison and how rehabilitation is never the goal, so people never fully heal or understand their wrongs. They cannot become productive members of society after their due time because they are not guided towards being one. “I hope that people walk away from my book not only understanding that people in prison can be of value and can be successful after incarceration, but also understanding why it is that more of them do not have these outcomes,” Blakinger says.



Joshua Scheer